January 28, 2017 update: Without saying anything in direct response to Raf Simons negative comments, designer Virgil Abloh seem to provide an indirect commentary on Twitter the following day. Announcing his the title for his Off-White women’s runway show, he wrote “upcoming fw17 women’s Off-White™ collection titled “NOTHING NEW” showing in paris, france march 2nd at 9 pm palais de tokyo. youth invited.”
upcoming fw17 women’s Off-White™ collection titled “NOTHING NEW” showing in paris, france march 2nd at 9 pm palais de tokyo. youth invited.— virgil abloh (@virgilabloh) January 28, 2017
Written all in caps, it’s hard not to conclude that the title of the show is a reference to the recycled nature of design wherein everything is inspired by something that came before it, even for a designer as talented as Simons. Abloh added the subtle dig, “youth invited,” a statement reflecting the open-to-the-public activations Abloh often holds in connection with his presentations, but also a dig at Simons’ own concession that the youth own the future.
Read the original story below.
Newly-installed at Calvin Klein, Belgian-born designer Raf Simons came out swinging in an interview with GQ today (January 27, 2017), in which he was asked to comment on up and coming designers, specifically Virgil Abloh and his label, Off White.
The Bourgeoisie versus The Youth
After discussing how he’s adjusting as a new resident of New York and providing a view on the impact of a Donald Trump presidency, Simons then proceeded to push back on the concept of high fashion as a democratic platform, open to all.
“I was actually someone who was very often saying that fashion keeps thinking that it can serve everybody, that it can be there for everybody, high fashion. I’m sorry, but high fashion was always for a small environment,” Simons noted. “High fashion by nature used to be extreme. Right now we define a lot of things as high fashion, but they’re not high fashion. They’re clothes. They’re clothes on the runway with a nice little twist of styling and coloration. Everybody thinks it’s high fashion. Bullshit. There is very little high fashion. Now, the high fashion world used to have, for many decades, almost all through the 20th century, a bourgeoisie. But bourgeoisie is not necessarily a bad word.”
Conceding the future of fashion belongs to the youth, he added, “Because the bourgeoisie, they really still think it’s all for them. They spit on the youth. Nobody dares to say it, but it’s like that. They spit on the youth. They don’t even realize that they are going to lose the game.”
When asked directly about whether he was a fan of Abloh and Off-White, which is known for its connection with young people, Simons said, “Not Off-White. He’s a sweet guy. I like him a lot actually. But I’m inspired by people who bring something that I think has not been seen, that is original.”
Simons went on to describe himself and peers including Miuccia Prada, Phoebe Philo, Marc Jacobs and Demna Gvasalia as “activators,” and added, “Fashion doesn’t exist if we don’t exist. But it’s possible that the ones who talk will not exist. So I find that it’s a very difficult thing to talk about.”
A$AP Rocky Enters the Fray…
Known to big a big fan of Simons, fashion plate and rapper A$AP Rocky responded to the comment on Twitter, where he wrote, “OFF WHITE ALL YEAR!” He then went on to retweet posts by his followers writing the same statement and also added, “OFF WHITE DEFENSE SQUAD !!! FAK U MEAN, WHEN I SEE RAF IMMA HAVE A COUPLE WORDS 4 HIM.”
Less than an hour later, Rocky deleted his pro Off-White Tweet and wrote, “RAF IS OUR FASHION GOD , THE WHOLE GAME BITES HIM , I BARELY WEAR OFF WHITE BUT I FEEL BAD FOR VIRGIL , I HOPE THIS INSPIRES HIM 2 TURN UP!”
Rocky not only withdrew from chiding Simons, but did a complete 180, posting a song snippet on Twitter with the lyrics, “Please don’t touch my Raf.”
— LORD FLACKO JODYE II (@asvpxrocky) January 27, 2017
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back
All the Rocky kerfuffle aside, the debate over who is a real designer versus a copycat are as old as the hills and very similar to ongoing debates over who has the right to attend fashion shows and critique designs. Like so many industries, the very exclusionary club of fashion critics and designers came crashing down with the rise of the internet, a dynamic that many members of the old guard to this day have have trouble adjusting to.
What’s surprising is that such a well-respected designer as Simons would want to enter into a debate on such a lose-lose discussion. That said, in the same GQ interview, Simons referenced a June 2016 System interview with Prada, in which he said he was fed up with being polite. “While I have no problem with negative response towards me, I do have a problem that I cannot be negative myself,” said Simons.
The sad part is that Abloh has not only met Simons, but openly cited him as an inspiration in a 2014 interview with Vogue, in which he revealed he’s been collecting Simons pieces for many years and is an unabashed fan of his work.
Commenting on what makes Simons special, Abloh said, “There’s culture, there’s trends, and it can be superficial in a way. Like, ‘Oh, this print is in.’ Or, you can take an approach to the art of fashion and tie it into the culture, music, and the real artistry of the time. Raf is connected to all of that, but his outlet is fashion.”
In addition to collecting pieces, Abloh has created Off White garments that are straight tributes to Simons, including the Nebraska t-shirt he made for his spring 2015 collection, inspired by a design first shown by Simons in 2002.
It’s hard to imagine the laid-back Abloh responding to this dust up. If anything, he can take it as a sign of encouragement that Simons would have such a strong reaction to his work. If haters are an inevitable part of success, having Simons as a certified member can’t be viewed as a bad thing.