After tri­umphs at Jil Sander, Chris­tian Dior and his own epony­mous la­bel, Raf Si­mons has been handed the cre­ative helm of the Calvin Klein em­pire. Bob Co­la­cello dis­cov­ers how Si­mons is re­an­i­mat­ing the spirit of an all-Amer­i­can style le­gend. Pho­tographed b

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After tri­umphs at Jil Sander, Chris­tian Dior and his own la­bel, Raf Si­mons is re­an­i­mat­ing the spirit of all-Amer­i­can style le­gend Calvin Klein.

Ac­tu­ally, noth­ing ever started with me in re­la­tion to fash­ion. Things started in re­la­tion to art and de­sign and film and mu­sic. Fash­ion is the last thing that came in. It’s what I do now … but if some­body would ask what is it that you breathe that’s not air, but that’s what you need, it’s art. I have to see art con­stantly. It’s not even like: ‘Okay, I’m go­ing to look at art in the evening’; it’s all day long.” Thus spoke fash­ion de­signer Raf Si­mons, in his first ma­jor in­ter­view since his tri­umphant de­but at Calvin Klein dur­ing New York Fash­ion Week in Fe­bru­ary. The Bel­gian-born, 49-year-old Si­mons (pro­nounced as in “per­sim­mons”; “Raf” rhymes with “gaffe”) was named chief cre­ative of­fi­cer of the sprawl­ing but stag­nant US$8.4 bil­lion Calvin Klein em­pire last Au­gust, over­see­ing the women’s and men’s lines, jeans, un­der­wear, home goods and fra­grances, as well as all as­pects of ad­ver­tis­ing, mar­ket­ing and com­mu­ni­ca­tions, a de­gree of con­trol not in the hands of a sin­gle de­signer since Calvin him­self left the com­pany, a year after it was bought by Phillips–Van Heusen in 2002. Si­mons has long been the dar­ling of the in­ter­na­tional fash­ion press, both for the avant-garde men’s line he has been de­sign­ing un­der his own name out of An­twerp since 1995 and for the high-style re­vivals he pulled off at Jil Sander (2005–12) and Chris­tian Dior (2012–15), so it was not sur­pris­ing that his as­cen­sion at Calvin Klein was greeted like the Sec­ond Com­ing of the found­ing mas­ter him­self.

The most an­tic­i­pated fash­ion show in decades turned out to be bril­liant, ran the head­line over Cathy Ho­ryn’s post-show re­view in New York mag­a­zine. “Calvin Klein is re­newed,” pro­claimed the

Wash­ing­ton Post’s Robin Givhan. The col­lec­tion, which com­bined women’s and men’s fash­ions, played with the brand’s two most es­sen­tial el­e­ments: min­i­mal­ism and the Amer­i­can spirit, up­dat­ing both with ironic dec­o­ra­tive twists. That trans­lated into black leather biker’s jack­ets em­broi­dered with sil­very roses; ba­sic-black jersey dresses slit open along the bot­tom of the bo­som; well-cut grey men’s suits worn with­out shirts; cock­tail shifts made of feath­ers en­cased in plas­tic. A woman’s bright yel­low rain slicker and a man’s glen-plaid dou­ble-breasted over­coat were over­laid in clear plas­tic, too, hark­ing back to the 1950s, when newly af­flu­ent Amer­i­can sub­ur­ban­ites pro­tected their so­fas the same way.

Among those ap­plaud­ing from the front row were two of Calvin’s orig­i­nal mod­els, Brooke Shields and Lauren Hut­ton, along with Ju­lianne Moore and Gwyneth Pal­trow, artists Cindy Sher­man and Rachel Fe­in­stein, rap­per A$AP Rocky, and Diane von Fursten­berg, who later

told me: “I loved what he did for Dior, but I think for him to do Calvin is even a bet­ter idea.”

Tommy Hil­figer, whose com­pany is also owned by PVH, called to con­grat­u­late him. “I watched it on­line,” he said. “It was a great show, and what it told me was that Raf un­der­stands the con­sumer and fash­ion at the same time.”

The show was held on the ground floor of the Calvin Klein head­quar­ters, in mid­town Man­hat­tan, which had been turned into an in­stal­la­tion art­work by Si­mons’s close friend and fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor, Ster­ling Ruby, a Los An­ge­les–based painter, sculp­tor and ce­ramist. Dan­gling from the ceil­ing was an as­sort­ment of Amer­i­can cliches and sym­bols – base­ball bats, pom-poms, mops, tin pails, blue denim sheets, ragged flags – some Ruby’s trade­mark soft sculp­tures, oth­ers un­adorned found ob­jects (in­clud­ing the artist’s own used black Calvin Klein briefs). Ruby had also painted the façade of the first three floors of the 17-storey art deco build­ing black and re­designed the 12th-floor show­room, with shiny chrome ta­bles and chairs and walls clad in red-white-and-blue splat­tered can­vas that Si­mons refers to as “an ab­strac­tion of the Amer­i­can flag”.

“I brought Ster­ling in im­me­di­ately when we were talk­ing about the space,” Si­mons says. “I have an on­go­ing di­a­logue with him that goes be­yond.” Two big Ster­ling Ruby works and a very large Cindy Sher­man pho­to­graph dom­i­nate Si­mons’s 10th-floor of­fice, a square white room with a high ceil­ing. The cur­va­ceous red plush sofa is by the mid-cen­tury French de­signer Jean Royère. There are two match­ing arm­chairs and a 1950s Gio Ponti glass-and-wood cof­fee ta­ble, hold­ing two vases, one filled with crim­son pe­onies, the other blue hy­drangeas. The ce­ramic pitch­ers on Si­mons’s desk, he says when I ask, are by Pi­casso.

“I’m a huge Pi­casso and Warhol fan,” he tells me. “I love Balthus. I have a small edi­tion of Balthus down­stairs, which I’m ob­sessed with, the one with the cats and the two lit­tle girls.” He ex­plains that he started col­lect­ing with artists of his own gen­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing Ruby, Mark Man­ders and Anne Col­lier. “But what ac­ti­vated my in­ter­est was the ear­lier gen­er­a­tion, mainly the women, all of [whom] I col­lect now that I have pros­per­ity: Cady Noland, Cindy Sher­man, Rose­marie Trockel, Isa Gen­zken. I have a big ob­ses­sion with them, and with the male part of that gen­er­a­tion: Charles Ray, Richard Prince, Christo­pher Wool.” He has­tens to add Ge­orge Condo and the late Mike Kel­ley.

Al­though all this art talk might seem pre­ten­tious, it is leav­ened by Si­mons’s pleas­antly earnest de­meanour and un­af­fected Flem­ish ac­cent. There is an av­er­age-guy qual­ity about him that con­trasts with his ob­vi­ous in­tel­li­gence and so­phis­ti­ca­tion: at 49 years old, he is nei­ther tall nor short, nei­ther heavy nor slim, and his cropped brown hair is combed for­ward, clas­si­cal-Ro­man-style. His most strik­ing fea­tures are his large, cobalt blue eyes, and the fact that he looks straight at you when he speaks re­in­forces the sense of sin­cer­ity and se­cu­rity he projects. He is dressed sim­ply but fash­ion­ably in black gabar­dine Prada pants, black Ba­len­ci­aga mo­tor­cy­cle boots, and an over­size light-blue cot­ton shirt with a Robert Map­plethorpe im­age silkscreened at the bot­tom, one of sev­eral pieces from his spring 2017 men’s col­lec­tion made in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Map­plethorpe Foun­da­tion. Even the dog bed just out­side his of­fice door, for his Beauceron, named Luka, is a work of art, cov­ered in the same Ster­ling Ruby splat­tered can­vas as the show­room walls.

“You know, a lot of artists are scared of fash­ion,” Si­mons says. “Be­cause they think it’s go­ing to dam­age [their im­age]. I like it when an artist is not scared of fash­ion. The ul­ti­mate ex­am­ple of that is Ster­ling.”

Si­mons and Ruby, of course, are not the first de­signer and artist to work to­gether. Dalí de­signed a “lob­ster dress” with Schi­a­par­elli in the 1930s. Hal­ston made gowns based on Warhol’s Flow­ers paint­ings in the 1970s. Most re­cently, Jeff Koons cre­ated, con­tro­ver­sially, Vuit­ton hand­bags in­cor­po­rat­ing re­pro­duc­tions of old-mas­ter paint­ings.

But th­ese have mostly been oc­ca­sional ex­per­i­ments; the Raf-andSter­ling duet has been go­ing strong for a decade now. They met more than 10 years ago, when Ruby’s then dealer, Marc Foxx, took Si­mons to Ruby’s Los An­ge­les stu­dio. In 2008, Ruby helped de­sign the Raf Si­mons bou­tique in Tokyo. They co-pro­duced a small denim col­lec­tion to­gether the fol­low­ing year and the lim­ited-edi­tion Raf Si­mons/Ster­ling Ruby men’s-wear line in 2014, fea­tur­ing a US$30,500 hand-painted can­vas parka. Some of the most beau­ti­ful dresses in Si­mons’s first cou­ture col­lec­tion for Dior were made from fab­ric that du­pli­cated the sen­su­ous, blurred, green-and-pink stri­a­tions of an ab­stract Ruby paint­ing. (A sim­i­lar paint­ing sold for US$1.7 mil­lion at Christie’s in early 2013.)

“My old stu­dio man­ager called Raf my brother from an­other mother,” says Ruby, who is four years younger than the de­signer. “I grew up on a farm in Penn­syl­va­nia; he grew up in a very small town in a ru­ral area on the Flem­ish side of Bel­gium. We both wanted out … And now we’re both walk­ing on tightropes, try­ing to fig­ure out what we’re do­ing.”

Raf Si­mons was born on Jan­uary 12, 1968, the only child of Jacques Si­mons, an army night­watch­man, and Alda Beck­ers, a house­cleaner, in Neer­pelt, Bel­gium, near the Dutch and Ger­man bor­ders. “It was a vil­lage,” he says. “There was noth­ing – no bou­tique, no gallery, no cin­ema.” He at­tended a strict Catholic high school, where he stud­ied Greek and Latin, and was one of a hand­ful of boys who dressed all in black and idolised Bri­tish New Wave bands such as Depeche Mode and Ya­zoo. “You were sup­posed to be­come doc­tors or lawyers. For me, it was com­pletely alien.” His first aware­ness of fash­ion came from watch­ing Style with Elsa

Klen­sch, on CNN. “I was hooked on her pro­gram be­cause it had in­ter­na­tional fash­ion de­sign­ers: Mon­tana, Mu­gler and then the Ja­panese,” he re­calls. “I didn’t know you could study fash­ion. I also did not know you could study paint­ing or sculp­ture. No­body ever told me. My mom and dad, they were com­pletely in an­other world.” In 1986, al­most by chance, he found his way to the In­sti­tute of Vis­ual Com­mu­ni­ca­tion, in the nearby city of Genk, where he stud­ied in­dus­trial and fur­ni­ture de­sign for the next five years. Dur­ing his fourth year of uni­ver­sity, Si­mons in­terned at the stu­dio of Wal­ter Van Beiren­donck, one of the An­twerp Six, the group of Bel­gian avant-garde fash­ion de­sign­ers, in­clud­ing Dries Van Noten and Ann De­meule­meester, who had grad­u­ated from An­twerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts in the early 1980s and dur­ing that decade made the city into a mini-Mi­lan of the north. Van Beiren­donck took Si­mons to a Martin Margiela show in Paris, which their Bel­gian com­pa­triot staged in a play­ground with neigh­bour­hood chil­dren run­ning along­side the mod­els. It was the first fash­ion show Si­mons had seen, and he was sur­prised by the in­ten­sity of his emo­tional re­ac­tion.

After com­plet­ing his de­gree in Genk, he spent a cou­ple of years strug­gling to es­tab­lish him­self as a fur­ni­ture de­signer in An­twerp. The Raf Si­mons Men’s la­bel was launched in 1995, with a video star­ring two bonethin street kids. Around the same time, he met the woman he would live with for the next five years, Véronique Bran­quinho, who had just grad­u­ated from the Royal Academy and started her own women’s line.


The fol­low­ing year Si­mons pre­sented his first run­way show, in Paris, fea­tur­ing Bel­gian boys in slimmed-down, all-black ver­sions of An­gloAmer­i­can col­le­giate looks, with post-punk and New Wave mu­sic blast­ing in the back­ground. “It was an im­me­di­ate and in­flu­en­tial suc­cess,” Joan Juliet Buck, then edi­tor-in-chief of French Vogue, later wrote. “Where he led, oth­ers fol­lowed.”

While youth cul­ture and the dark mu­sic that was so much a part of it were the prin­ci­pal sources of in­spi­ra­tion for Si­mons, he was also avidly fol­low­ing the work of the min­i­mal­ist su­per­stars who dom­i­nated the 1990s: Hel­mut Lang, Mi­uc­cia Prada, Jil Sander and Calvin Klein. “For two years, I was ob­sessed with Hel­mut Lang,” Si­mons tells me. “And then I also em­braced the three oth­ers.” Al­though art was not yet as im­por­tant to Si­mons’s cre­ative vi­sion as it would be­come, there was a whiff of the 1960s Warhol Fac­tory in the open­door pol­icy and fam­ily at­mos­phere in the scene that co­a­lesced around Si­mons and Bran­quinho. The young French writer Christo­pher Ni­quet, now cre­ative di­rec­tor of Zac Posen in New York, in­ter­viewed Bran­quinho for Self

Service mag­a­zine in the late 1990s and soon after be­gan mod­el­ling for Si­mons at her sug­ges­tion. “There was a kind of syn­ergy in the way Raf and Véronique were de­sign­ing,” says Ni­quet. “They were like the lit­tle golden cou­ple of Bel­gian fash­ion.”

The Si­mons- Bran­quinho en­tourage hung out at the Wit­zliPoet­zli artists’ bar. That was where Si­mons first en­coun­tered Willy Van­der­perre, the photographer who would go on to shoot Si­mons’s ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns for Jil Sander, Dior and now Calvin Klein. Van­der­perre and his boyfriend, Olivier Rizzo, who would style those ads, were study­ing at the Royal Academy and were friends of Bran­quinho’s. “There was a huge crowd sit­ting on the ter­race, Raf be­ing the only one I didn’t re­ally know,” Van­der­perre re­calls. “I re­mem­ber he wore a black turtle­neck, which was strik­ing, as it was a warm sum­mer evening.”

It all came to a halt in 2000, when Si­mons broke up with Bran­quinho, closed his com­pany, after show­ing a col­lec­tion he called ‘Con­fu­sion’, and went off to Vi­enna to teach fash­ion at the Uni­ver­sity of Ap­plied Arts. But Si­mons soon was back in busi­ness, with new fi­nanc­ing from the Bel­gian man­u­fac­turer Gy­se­mans Cloth­ing Group. The col­lec­tion he showed in Paris in June 2001, how­ever, al­most turned his come­back into a swan­song. Por­ten­tously ti­tled ‘Woe onto Those Who Spit on the Fear Gen­er­a­tion … The Wind Will Blow It Back’, it fea­tured hooded and masked mod­els car­ry­ing burn­ing flares and wear­ing over­size sweat­shirts printed with edgy mes­sages. Three months later, when ter­ror­ists struck the United States on 9/11, what had been praised as in­no­va­tive and po­etic was

con­demned as in­sen­si­tive ter­ror­ist chic. The con­tro­versy died down, but Si­mons’s new di­rec­tion – bulky, rough-knit sweaters cut off halfway down the torso, worn over long, flow­ing black or white shirts – con­tin­ues to de­fine his sig­na­ture line.

“I don’t know why, but I al­ways need to do two things,” Si­mons told me about the art, pho­tog­ra­phy and pub­lish­ing projects he un­der­took dur­ing this pe­riod, all of which en­hanced his rep­u­ta­tion as an artis­tic, so­cially aware ob­server of his time and cul­ture. He pub­lished his first book,

Iso­lated He­roes, with Bri­tish fash­ion photographer David Sims, in 1999, a se­ries of stark close-ups of work­ing-class young men that Si­mons had cast from the streets of An­twerp. Not long after, Si­mons re­calls, Francesco Bon­ami, the Ital­ian cu­ra­tor and art writer, “reached out to me to help cre­ate this huge ex­hi­bi­tion in Florence, which would be not only about art but also about fash­ion”. The 2003 ex­hi­bi­tion at the Pitti Palace mu­seum, and ac­com­pa­ny­ing book from Charta, both ti­tled The Fourth Sex:

Ado­les­cent Ex­tremes, in­cluded works by Jake and Di­nos Chap­man, Tracey Emin and Gillian Wear­ing.

All through this time he con­tin­ued as a guest lec­turer in Vi­enna; he loved teach­ing. “I only stopped,” he says, “be­cause I got the po­si­tion at Jil and that was not so vi­able any­more.” The an­nounce­ment, in May 2005, that 37-year- old Raf Si­mons from An­twerp had been hired to de­sign the Jil Sander men’s and women’s col­lec­tions came as a sur­prise to most of the fash­ion in­dus­try. Sander had sold a con­trol­ling in­ter­est in her highly suc­cess­ful Ham­burg-based com­pany to Prada, in 1999, while stay­ing on as de­signer and chair­woman. She quit six months later, after clash­ing with Prada CEO Pa­trizio Bertelli; she re­turned in 2003 and quit again in 2004. Si­mons’s first women’s col­lec­tion, pre­sented in Mi­lan in early 2006, hewed to Sander’s pref­er­ence for black and neu­trals while soft­en­ing the Saxon sever­ity of her cut. By the time of his last col­lec­tion, in early 2012, he had com­pletely ro­man­ti­cised Sander’s min­i­mal­ism with an em­pha­sis on dresses, as op­posed to pants-suits, many in lus­cious shades of pink. He was let go shortly after by the la­bel’s new Ja­panese own­ers, to make way for the sec­ond re­turn of the founder.

Mean­while, ru­mours that Si­mons was among the de­sign­ers be­ing con­sid­ered to re­place the dis­graced John Gal­liano at the ven­er­a­ble house of Dior had been cir­cu­lat­ing for months. His ap­point­ment was fi­nally an­nounced in April 2012, and Si­mons made his anx­iously awaited haute cou­ture de­but be­fore an au­di­ence that in­cluded Pierre Cardin, Azze­dine Alaïa, Donatella Ver­sace and Marc Ja­cobs, as well as Char­lotte Ram­pling,

Jennifer Lawrence, Princess Char­lene of Monaco and the owner of Dior, LVMH chair­man Bernard Ar­nault. Si­mons had trans­formed Dior’s Av­enue Mon­taigne head­quar­ters into his high-fash­ion idea of in­stal­la­tion art, cov­er­ing the walls of the sa­lons through which the mod­els walked with more than a mil­lion or­chids, roses, del­phini­ums and mi­mosas. Aside from the wow fac­tor, Si­mons also in­tended this grandiose dis­play as a bow to Chris­tian Dior’s pas­sion for gar­dens and flow­ers. The col­lec­tion it­self was al­most uni­ver­sally ac­claimed for its in­tel­li­gent re-in­ven­tion of Dior’s fa­bled 1947 New Look for the 21st cen­tury. “Bravo, Raf,” wrote Brid­get Fo­ley in Women’s Wear Daily. “Con­grat­u­la­tions, Dior.”

Si­mons says: “Was Dior my favourite mid-cen­tury couturier? No, that was Ba­len­ci­aga. But his body of work was in­cred­i­ble. And maybe be­cause he’s not my ul­ti­mate hero, I thought I can go and add some­thing.” He lasted three years on Av­enue Mon­taigne, part­ing ways am­i­ca­bly in Oc­to­ber 2015. Ten months later, he moved on to New York, to take over the de­sign helm of an­other com­pany that was floun­der­ing with­out its founder.

There is al­ways a legacy,” Si­mons says of his progress over the last 12 years from Jil Sander to Chris­tian Dior to Calvin Klein. “I could not go to a house that did not have a ma­jor legacy. Why would I?” He is aware that Calvin Klein founded his com­pany in the same year that he, Raf, was born: 1968. But he is not overly in­tim­i­dated by that fact, or by the prob­lems he has in­her­ited with a blue-chip fash­ion brand that earns most of its rev­enues from un­der­wear and jeans.

After Klein and his busi­ness part­ner, Barry Schwartz, sold their com­pany to Phillips–Van Heusen, in 2002 (for a re­ported $430 mil­lion in cash and stock, plus roy­al­ties over the next 15 years), PVH di­vided his de­sign re­spon­si­bil­i­ties for the com­pany’s var­i­ous lines among sep­a­rate de­sign­ers and trans­ferred ad­ver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing de­ci­sion-mak­ing to cor­po­rate ex­ec­u­tives. So, upon as­sum­ing the newly cre­ated po­si­tion of chief cre­ative of­fi­cer, Si­mons re­placed four de­sign­ers: Fran­cisco Costa for women’s wear, Italo Zuc­chelli for men’s wear, Kevin Corrigan for jeans and un­der­wear, and Amy Mellen for home-prod­ucts de­sign. Like Klein, Si­mons is in charge of ev­ery­thing, and he’s ap­proach­ing the chal­lenge in his usual me­thod­i­cal, al­most philo­soph­i­cal way.

“What I want to say about Calvin’s her­itage and its mar­ket­ing power is that I need to ab­stract it in my head and then see how I’m go­ing to deal with it,” he tells me. “If you ask me about Calvin’s clothes, I’m not ac­tu­ally look­ing into that much right now. It’s not be­cause I don’t want to be re­spect­ful. It’s more to pro­tect my­self, be­cause I think I have a clear point of view of where I want to go with it. What I feel more im­por­tant for my­self is to take his guts. I think he was a man with a lot of guts. I’m fas­ci­nated by a man who takes some­thing like un­der­wear, that was al­ways pho­tographed and ad­ver­tised in a small for­mat, and de­cides it’s go­ing to be on a bill­board five me­ters high in the mid­dle of the city. That is what I like – some­body who dares.

Si­mons has been a very busy man since mov­ing to New York last sum­mer with his French boyfriend, Jean-Ge­orges d’Orazio, who has been named se­nior di­rec­tor of brand ex­pe­ri­ence at Calvin Klein. He has also brought his long­time de­sign as­so­ci­ate, Peter Mulier, into the com­pany as cre­ative di­rec­tor. Willy Van­der­perre and Olivier Rizzo col­lab­o­rated on the new un­der­wear ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign, fea­tur­ing scrawny boys of as­sorted races in not-so-tighty-whities stand­ing in front of works by Warhol, Dan Flavin, Richard Prince and Ster­ling Ruby. (The Times couldn’t re­sist not­ing: “Mr Klein’s mod­els were barely con­tained by their Calvins … Mr Si­mons’s … barely fill theirs out.”) For his part, Ruby was en­listed to re­design the flag­ship Calvin Klein store, on Madi­son Av­enue, to be un­veiled this sum­mer. Nine days be­fore show­ing his rap­tur­ously re­ceived first Calvin Klein Col­lec­tion, in Fe­bru­ary, Si­mons pre­sented his epony­mous men’s line at the Gagosian Gallery in Chelsea, to rave re­views hail­ing him as the saviour of an unin­spired Men’s Fash­ion Week in New York.

In April, Si­mons in­tro­duced Calvin Klein by Ap­point­ment, a made-to­order service for pri­vate clients. “It’s cou­ture,” he says. “I just didn’t like to use an old French word.” In May he took Paris Jack­son to the Met Gala. A few days later, Page Six broke the news that she had signed a “mas­sive seven-fig­ure deal to be the new face of Calvin Klein”. Si­mons ob­serves: “I am fas­ci­nated to see how some­body with that kind of back­ground is go­ing to take an in­de­pen­dent po­si­tion, as a kind of per­sona. There is a beau­ti­ful kind of yin and yang in her; some­thing that’s very shy, like: ‘I want to stay away from too much hype’; the other is al­ready em­brac­ing it.”

In June, it was an­nounced that Brooke Shields was be­ing brought back to the brand, 37 years after the no­to­ri­ous TV ads in which she looks into the cam­era and asks: “You want to know what comes be­tween me and my Calvins? Noth­ing.” To cap it all off, that same month the Coun­cil of Fash­ion De­sign­ers of Amer­ica named Raf Si­mons best women’s and best men’s de­signer, an hon­our be­stowed only once be­fore, to Calvin Klein, in 1993. “It’s so crazy,” says Si­mons.

“I met Calvin for the first time this morn­ing,” Si­mons tells me. “We had break­fast at Sant Am­broeus, in the West Vil­lage. It was very nice, very easy.” Si­mons says they should have got­ten to­gether sooner, “but I started work­ing day and night, and he was trav­el­ling a lot. Now we met, and ev­ery­thing was fine.” (Klein de­clined to com­ment for this ar­ti­cle.)

Si­mons be­lieves that his pri­mary mis­sion is to re­store the kind of cus­tomer loy­alty that the brand en­joyed in Klein’s hey­day. “Back when I started to look at fash­ion, women and men would em­brace a house or houses, but usu­ally very few,” he notes. “And they would be very con­nected [to that brand]. When I started to go to some shows in Paris, I would see Comme des Garçons women, Martin Margiela women, Gaultier women. Now women might have a bag from one brand, shoes from an­other, and a skirt from a third. But all th­ese brands stand for com­pletely dif­fer­ent things … I’m very ded­i­cated to Coca-Cola Zero, you know what I mean? I don’t want some­thing else. I think when some­body con­nects to a fash­ion brand, it’s not only for the clothes. It’s two dif­fer­ent things, clothes and fash­ion.

“The big­gest sat­is­fac­tion for any de­signer should be,” he con­tin­ues, “is if I see some­body in my clothes – who­ever it is. It could be some kid in the street. It’s very in­spir­ing, be­cause it’s of­ten not the way you saw it your­self. It re-ac­ti­vates your own process of think­ing about how to dress peo­ple. For me, it’s ex­tremely rel­e­vant that fash­ion work in its mo­ment in time. I’m not ro­man­tic about the past. Once it’s done it’s done. I’m ro­man­tic about the fu­ture.” Does he dream of hav­ing a ret­ro­spec­tive of his work at the Metropoli­tan Mu­seum of Art, as Rei Kawakubo has this year? “No.” Does he think fash­ion should be in a mu­seum? “No.” Does he con­sider him­self an artist? “No. But maybe I would want to do art. I know peo­ple would crit­i­cise it once you’ve been de­fined as a fash­ion de­signer. But it would be a whole dif­fer­ent thing. It would be purely a com­ment that I needed to make and it would be out there. If I ever would want to do it, it would prob­a­bly be just be­cause I need to do things … I would go crazy if I didn’t do my things. The ideas, they have to go out, one way or an­other.”



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