Raf Simons

Catwalk models Raf Simons, wearing red shirt, black tie and slacks, and red lipstick

As creative director for diverse international fashion houses, Raf Simons has left an indelible mark on the fashion of recent decades. In addition to his iconic women’s silhouettes, the MoMu collection also includes a representative overview of the men’s fashions that he continued to design under his own name.

Left mannequin wearing black hat, dress vest, white shirt and black shorts; right mannequin doll with blue shirt and black shorts
Raf Simons, Autumn-Winter 2012-13
MoMu Collection inv. X200 & X201, Photo: Stany Dederen
Gray invitation with rose blue lettering for Raf Simons spring/summer show 1997
Raf Simons, Spring-Summer 1997 invitation
MoMu Collection
Mannequin in crocheted, translucent longsleeve and matching pants
Raf Simons, Autumn-Winter 1998-99
MoMu Collection inv. X1560, Photo: Stany Dederen
Color image of young skater in shirt with caption "teenage summer camp"
Raf Simons, Spring-Summer 1997
MoMu Collection inv. T12/824, Photo: Ronald Stoops
Mannequin in black bomber, gray pants and black sneaker
Raf Simons, Autumn-Winter 2000-01
MoMu Collection inv. X1561, Photo: Stany Dederen
Mannequin in red and gray turtleneck and long white painted vest
Raf Simons, Autumn-Winter 2015-16
MoMu Collection inv. X216, Photo: Stany Dederen
Invitation Raf Simons autumn/winter 1997-98
Raf Simons, Autumn-Winter 1997-98 invitation
MoMu Collection inv. T18/510, Graphic design: Franky Claeys; Photo: Bert Houbrechts / Etienne Tordoir
Mannequin in black oversized poncho and pants
Raf Simons, Autumn-Winter 1999-2000
MoMu Collection inv. X1563, Photo: Stany Dederen
Mannequin in red oversized coat and white shirt
Raf Simons, Spring-Summer 2017
MoMu Collection inv. X38, Photo: Stany Dederen
Mannequin in piece, consisting of wool knit top and T-shirt with photograph of a young woman
Raf Simons, Autumn-Winter 2018-19
MoMu Collection inv. X160, Photo: Stany Dederen
Mannequin with translucent umbrella, brown headpiece and multicolored top
Raf Simons, Spring-Summer 2018
MoMu Collection inv. X157, Photo: Stany Dederen

As an industrial design student in Genk, Raf Simons was intrigued by the Antwerp Six and decided to apprentice with Walter Van Beirendonck. Linda Loppa, then head of the Antwerp fashion academy, encouraged him to make the leap into fashion without having studied fashion. Simons launched his own label in 1995, and his first show in Paris followed in 1997. His narrow silhouettes in classic fabrics and his combination of traditional tailoring elements with references to diverse youth cultures and music sparked radical innovation in men’s fashion. From 2005, he has also designed for women, first as creative director for Jil Sander and for Dior from 2012 to 2015. Following a brief intermezzo with the American Calvin Klein label, in 2020 he became one of the creative co-directors for Prada, at Miuccia Prada’s side, in a unique collaboration that further confirms Simons’s long-lasting influence on the world of fashion.

Revolutionary visual language

Catwalk models Raf Simons - spring/summer 1999 runway show
Raf Simons, Spring-Summer 1999 show
Photo: Bert Houbrechts / Marleen Daniëls
Invitation Raf Simons - "Isolated Heroes," 2002 - model with red-black hair
Raf Simons, 'Isolated Heroes' invitation, 2002
MoMu Collection, Photo: David Sims

Raf Simons sees clothing as a medium for creating dialogue and for visualizing an attitude. His models, whom he initially sought out himself in the streets of Antwerp, strengthen his revolutionary aesthetic. Video also has an important role in the presentation of his work. In the lookbook for his Woe Onto Those Who Spit on the Fear GenerationThe Wind Will Blow It Back collection, for example, he used stills from a video created by Willy Vanderperre.

Raf Simons, lookbook, Spring-Summer 2002
Raf Simons, lookbook 'Woe Onto Those Who Spit on the Fear Generation… The Wind Will Blow it Back', Spring-Summer 2002
MoMu Collection inv. 71253, Photo object: Monica Ho


Raf Simons, Autumn-Winter 2014-15 show

I am interested in creative collaboration, because dialogue is the best way to evolve. Collaboration is challenging, but in a good way. It can pull you out of your own comfort zone and lead you to something new.

Raf Simons for the MoMu exhibition, 'E/Motion: Fashion in Transition', 2021

The Leap to Women’s Fashion

Mannequin in dark blue knee length dress and black pumps
Raf Simons for Jil Sander, Autumn-Winter 2009-10
MoMu Collection inv. X1569, Photo: Stany Dederen

Ceramics as Inspiration

The work of the French ceramicist Pol Chambost was the inspiration for sculptural curves, modelled volumes and surprising touches of colour.

Raf Simons for Jil Sander, Autumn-Winter 2009-10
MoMu Collection inv. X1570, Photo: Stany Dederen
Mannequin in white top with long orange skirt
Raf Simons for Jil Sander, Spring-Summer 2011
MoMu Collection inv. X1419, Photo: Stany Dederen

After ten years of designing menswear, as creative director for Jil Sander, Simons added women’s fashion to his repertoire in 2005. While remaining faithful to the minimalist aesthetic of its founder, he infused the brand with new energy in the form of streamlined silhouettes and references to visual art and music.


Mannequin in black tailored suit by Raf Simons for Dior
Raf Simons for Dior, Spring-Summer 2013
MoMu Collection inv. nr. X1572, Photo: Stany Dederen

Reinventing the Hourglass

Simons’ first collection for Dior for Autumn-Winter of 2012 was followed by the ready-to-wear Spring-Summer collection for 2013, in which he streamlined the late Christian Dior’s world-famous ‘Bar’ hourglass silhouette in black tuxedos and short-skirted formal suits. He closed out the show with a number of ensembles with close-fitting, short bodices in fine knits and voluminous skirts in silk with printed floral motifs, finished with a layer of iridescent organza.

Raf Simons for Dior, Spring-Summer 2013
MoMu Collection inv. X924, Photo: Stany Dederen
Mannequin in pink top, black shorts and silver heels
Raf Simons for Dior, Spring-Summer 2013
MoMu Collection inv. X1420, Photo: Stany Dederen

In 2012, Simons became creative director for Dior. He modernized the codes of the French couture house by highlighting Christian Dior's iconic legacy and innovating with bold use of materials and colours.


Mannequin in colorful feather dress
Zoom in on Raf Simons for Calvin Klein By Appointment, Autumn-Winter 2017-18
MoMu Collection inv. X622, Photo: Stany Dederen

This dress in organza, decorated with polychrome hand-painted feathers, was one of the first of Raf Simons’ creations for the American label, Calvin Klein. The Belgian designer was appointed creative director in August of 2016, and the following January, he launched the Calvin Klein by Appointment line, with designs made to measure. Actress Julianne Moore wore the dress for the Costume Institute Benefit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. A reworked version of the dress appeared in the Autumn-Winter collection of 2017-18, which highlighted references to Americana, with sheriff’s jackets and brightly-coloured marching band uniforms. A year later, Simons explored safety and protection, incorporating fire-fighting gear, knitted balaclavas and Mylar survival blankets transformed into dresses, finished with lace.

Runway model in Road Runner print sweater, long silver gloves and long matching plaid skirt
Raf Simons for Calvin Klein, Autumn-Winter 2018-19 show
Photo: Giovanni Giannoni
Mannequin in purple-pink hat, silver robe and white gloves
Raf Simons for Calvin Klein, Autumn-Winter 2018-19
MoMu Collection inv. X180, Photo: Stany Dederen

Author: Romy Cockx
Photo above: Bert Houbrechts / Marleen Daniëls