The Belgian designer’s vision has always taken cues from music’s counterculture icons – so what should he be checking out now?
In a Dazed interview last year, Dior creative director and fashion auteur Raf Simons spoke of a youth spent sewing Kraftwerk, Black Flag and Sonic Youth patches onto his clothes. Like many of us, music and its reference points has lived with Simons from an early age; the youth, the cultures and the fashion. This fascination with music fed into his designs, the most poignant example of his affection a homage collection to Richey Edwards, the missing Manics’ guitarist. Simons also worked closely with Factory Records’ in-house graphic designer Peter Saville, remixing some of Saville’s images for his AW03 collection.
Simons once said: "When I ask young kids today, ‘What’s your favourite music? What are you listening to?’ – I’m not kidding you – eight out of ten will say: ‘Everything. I like everything. All genres.’ I’m not even sure if I should say this because I don’t want them to think that it’s strange. I mean, it’s not that I even find it strange, but I just wonder and question why it is. Maybe it’s because people don’t want to be specific any more – we really wanted to be specific."
We’re going to flip his inquisitiveness on its head and inform him what music he should be checking out, taking cues from the anarchic aesthetics and counter-cultural styles that course through his collections. Raf, if you’re reading, you need to be listening too.
Austria-based trio Shampoo Boy released their second record in April 2015 on the seminal industrial-noise label Blackest Ever Black. In lead track "Spalt", the clanging of industry and rumble of earth is reminiscent of open wastelands and the silent ferocity of barren space. It’s unmistakably dark, not just in its emotional content, but its colour. "Spalt" captures the same exciting sense of the alien unknown that Simons does.
Now defunct Belgian band Linear Movement, led by Peter Bonne and Geert Coppens, also recorded under other names – notably Autumn and then later Twilight On The Wall – all bands who were part of the cult cold-wave scene that bubbled underground in 1980s Europe. This track gets a shout because of the name of the band – could "linear movement" help to describe Simons’ clothes any better? – and also because "Night In June" encapsulates a perfect marriage between icyness and overwhelming emotion, another trait shared with the Belgian designer’s work. Oh yeah, they’re Belgian too.
Simons has always dealt a wink and a nod to the world of sci-fi, such as in last season’s Dior couture show with its space odyssey-inspired set. UK producer Perc hints at the same realms, not in a cosmic sense à la Jeff Mills, but because his music often sounds like slogs through some tortuous, unforgiving part of the universe, the way that space travel actually would be; foraging and just fucking surviving, rather than floating and posing for photographs.
Collage artist Elysia Crampton, formerly known as E+E, releases her debut record at the end of July. Described as "a concept study that follows Virginian American history, exploring brownness as more than culture or othering, as geology. As mud, dirt and mineral, enmeshed in lithic, vast time scales."
Crampton’s desire to absorb everything around her and reinterpret it in her work is reminiscent of Simons’ Sterling Ruby collection, an obsessive yet erratic display of teen influences, merged into one fanatic and frenetic world.
Gobstopper label boss Mr Mitch released Parallel Memories on Planet Mu last year. The frosty production and sparse drums of "Don’t Leave" create a minimal, spiky atmosphere. Mr Mitch’s tracks possess a certain stillness – never rushing – perfect for Raf, who describes himself as having "a huge disinterest in technologies that accelerate cultural speed", preferring to focus on "mystique and romance". The repeated, forlorn vocal refrain in this production ticks both of those boxes.