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It's no secret that Raf Simons has cultivated a serious fanbase, both for his work in menswear and womenswear, the latter at the house of Jil Sander and then Dior. A$AP Rocky and Kanye West are just a few big names that have made their admiration for the designer well-known. It turns out, Virgil Abloh, is also one hell of a collector of Simons' work.
Abloh's obsession started over a decade ago, after he saw the designer's work in a Japanese magazine. Vogue recently spoke to the designer and Ye's righthand man about his Simons collection—what his top three pieces are, how he finds them, how he kept up with Simons' collections when runway photos weren't as readily available, and more.
Read a few excerpts below.
On how he first learned about Raf Simons:
"I’m 33 now, so I’ve been studying Raf’s work for probably ten years. I think what drew me to his work was his intellectualized view of current culture. His approach is so reality-based. His early work is social commentary on being young, and that approach to fashion resonates with me the most. So, the 2003 collection is burned in my mind—and it’s burned a hole in my pocketbook. I’ve tried to find those pieces again after seeing early imagery. That’s been my hallmark Raf moment."
On how he kept up with Simons' collections when runway photos weren't as readily available then as they are now:
"I’ve been traveling to Japan for quite some time. They had Bible-like periodicals, and you could see collections and flat images of garments. When the Internet came into play, I went back and tried to find old pictures and editorials. I’ve tried to find every image I could. Fortunately in my design career I’ve gotten to meet Raf a number of times, at a birthday party or two, so being closer to that source of inspiration has been crazy rewarding."
On how he finds old Raf Simons pieces:
"There’s a culture of kids like me who are searching after old Raf pieces. It’s a smorgasbord. You have personal conversations with people close to him to find out about archive sales. They happen once a year or so. I’ve befriended the woman who runs those. And then, there have been samples that were loaned out and never returned. So you hear about these mysterious pieces that Raf doesn’t even have! I have an eBay alert on my phone for Raf pieces. And then there are Japanese proxy sites where I’ve gotten most of my key finds."
On what the top three Raf Simons pieces in his closet are:
"I have a fishtail parka from 2003 that was part of the Closer collection, which Peter Savilledid all of the graphics for. There’s a series of fishtail parkas in that, but there’s one that stands out, and that’s the one I found on a Japanese auction site. It’s this multicolored statue image with the Joy Division album artwork underneath it. I’d been seeing it online for so long. This piece is actually handmade. It was hand drawn. So that’s a very special piece to me. I feel like that 2003 collection is how people dress now! It’s graphics, it’s men’s silhouettes, but it has an edge to it. The Jil Sander collections are important to me as well. The marble print in the men’s collection—I want to say it was 2008 or so, too—but that is cool to see. When he did that marble print at Jil, it was graphic like his early work, but still tasteful, still very Jil Sander. I would even go all the way up to his most recent men’s collection. Being an avid Raf collector, anyone who has been collecting for a long time, his last collection with Sterling Ruby, you could see it when it came down the runway—I was there—it was the first time he had gone back to a 2003 feel. I heard from Raf’s team it was the first time he went back to his old collections. And Sterling looked at it. So it was the first time Raf referenced himself. Sterling painted this huge canvas, and they cut it up and made it into five jackets, and I bought all of them! So it has a special tag and you had to be selected."
Read the entire interview here.