In one of the relatively few interviews Raf Simons has granted since he left his position as creative director of Christian Dior in October 2015, the notoriously press-averse designer sat down with The Telegraph’s Talib Choudhry to talk about “the relentless pace of fashion is killing creativity and the joy of his fabric design sideline.” Here are some of the most interesting excerpts from their discussion …
On his ongoing collaboration with Danish textile manufacturer, Kvadrat: Having the timeline of a year is like heaven for me because at Christian Dior I used to do eight collections a year and each collection could contain up to 150 fabrics. I’ve done three fabrics this year for Kvadrat and I really, really pay attention to it. It’s beautiful to be able to give a project substantial incubation time. When I did fabrics at Dior I had to choose them within a couple of hours sometimes – seeing everything, deciding, making colour palettes… then hoopla – launch.
On how culture is consumed now vs. when he was growing up: These days it’s a different way of consuming [culture]. It’s now looking and then swiping to the next thing – looking, next; looking, next; looking, next; next, next, next, next – there’s less dialogue and engagement with it in general. There weren’t that many things reaching us, so that when we picked up on something, we went in-depth. We would investigate, we’d follow, try to understand… whether we liked it or hated it we would still have a conversation about it.
On how fashion has changed: When I started out it was a time when you could do that kind of thing without a structure but it’s not possible any more. Fashion has become such a big thing. When you are just a kid from the streets somewhere you start slowly, maybe with just two people watching and then 10 and 50 and 100. These days that can grow really fast. Suddenly millions of people are watching.
On how the increasing focus on the disrupting runway calendar and See Now-Buy Now is “Bullshit”: Everyone is paying attention to the wrong thing in my opinion. There’s this huge debate about ‘Oh my God, should we sell the garments the day after the show or three days after the show or should we tweet it in this way or Instagram it in that way?’… You know, all that kind of bullshit. Will all that stuff still be relevant 30 years from now? I don’t think so. What we should ask is will we have enough creative people who are strong enough and willing to do what is necessary right now to follow that madhouse. Lots of people are starting to question it. My generation especially is shifting now… like me and Phoebe [Philo], Nicolas [Ghesquière] and Marc [Jacobs]. We’ve been around for 20 or more years. We know what fashion was and where it’s heading to. Now it’s a question of what we are willing to do and how we are going to do it.
On Christian Dior: It is a very beautiful house and it was incredible to be able to take part in that heritage, but in the end it was just too much for me. Do I think now it was a mistake to go there? No, no. It was a fantastic experience and a fantastic time. I wasn’t planning to go there for such a short period, but I was also not willing to sign up there for a long period. So it became complicated and I decided to get out. That is partly due to the system that fashion has adopted. It is speeding up and up. Every season I see so many things evolving at such a speed that I think certain creative people, including myself, are just not willing to do it any more. I don’t want to. If you work on that level, you miss out on a lot of things.