Interview with RAF SIMONS ARCHIVES
The spirit of the ‘Archive’, unraveled from the work of RAF SIMONS.
There is a medium called ‘RAF SIMONS ARCHIVES; the Instagram account placed its first post in January of 2015. It shares the full width of past items by RAF SIMONS, detailed cuts as well as art books and fashion magazines featuring them, showing their creations from various angles and introducing us to their charm. Their high-quality contributions have passed over 700 posts and they have approximately 280.000 followers; they are said to own over 500 items themselves. This account, overflowing with love and respect for RAF SIMONS, has grown so much that it is gaining attention from fashion creators from all over the world.
OR NOT has had the honor of having RAF SIMONS ARCHIVES select and present some of their personal favorite items for a new project, for which we’ve worked with several other fashion people as well as creators in the field. While also selling some of their precious items, we took this chance to interview the people behind the channel as well. We were able to gain information about not only the history of some of their RAF SIMONS items, but also the recent archive boom and the way they define this boom as well.
--- First, could you tell us what lead you to start gathering items from RAF SIMONS?
I started being interesting and buying items from the brand around 2001 and have been collecting their items ever since.
--- How many items do you actually own at the moment?
I keep on buying and selling items, but I think I own about 500 items at the moment.
--- This is probably a difficult question, but if you had to select the best three items, which ones would you choose?
There’s several items I consider the best, but all of those are from the nineties. If I mention them here they will probably become harder to get your hand on in the end, so I’ll refrain from mentioning any specific items. But none of those best pieces are included in the group of items with graphics designed on them that are already jumping in price in the moment.
--- Among RAF SIMONS’s long career, can you tell us three seasons that you especially like and the reasons why?
It’s difficult to raise a specific season, but I feel that the nineties were his best period. The form and references to music, the collections that created a big wave in the history of men’s fashion were definitely from the nineties.
--- Where do you think lies the charm of RAF SIMONS?
This slightly overlaps with the previous question, but I think it’s not an overstatement to say that they started the history of men’s fashion in itself; I am thoroughly impressed by the collections from the nineties, presenting new ideas to the world of men’s wear.
--- In what way do you think the fashion world changed before and after the appearance of RAF SIMONS?
I think just like Vaslav Nijinski’s actions lead to the rise of status of the male dancer in classic ballet, RAF SIMONS helped contribute to the status of men’s wear in the fashion world.
--- What’s your take on the reason the word ‘archive’ has started being used frequently in the fashion industry these days?
I think the name of this account, ‘RAF SIMONS ARCHIVES’ has been one of the sources to spread the word archive in the fashion world, but I haven’t come so far as to be able to say exactly why it has done so.
--- There’s also a trend of people using the word ‘archive’ as an excuse to overselling designer’s vintage wear but beautifying it in a way; what do you think about this trend?
I’m personally neither for or against that kind of trend, but you can definitely say that items from the nineties are generally seen as the ‘archive’, while items before that are referred to as vintage, which to me is okay. But it does feel weird to me that a lot of people who haven’t really consider its meaning just started overusing the word all of a sudden.
--- In a single sentence, what is the definition of ‘archive’ to you?
I think it’s something that is built up from a single specific theme and that has value that carries into the future.
--- Do you think it’s suitable for people to call items from only several seasons earlier ‘archive’ as well?
It’s not suitable, but you do see a lot of brands doing it either way.
--- What do you think of the widening of the secondary market that is happening these days?
I think that a rise of people looking at clothes from the past instead of just creating more and more new clothes without thinking about it much is a good thing and probably the right thing to do as well.
--- In the secondary market, the word ‘masterpiece’ is often used as a commonplace adjective. What do you feel the word ‘masterpiece’ was supposed to mean originally? Who is actually responsible for making something into a ‘masterpiece’?
I feel a lot of people think that anything a celebrity wears is a ‘masterpiece’. I can’t really say they’re wrong, but I do think it’s something everyone should be able to decide for themselves.
--- Do you think that the Calvin Klein 205W39NYC, designed by RAF SIMONS has the potential to become part of the archive?
I definitely think it will become so in several decades.
--- How do you think Raf Simons himself feels about the current situation in which items he made himself in the past are currently being sold for more than ten times the original price?
I feel a similar phenomenon is currently occurring in the world of art business, so I think the man himself doesn’t feel that bad about it, really.
--- If you could ask Raf Simons himself one question, what would you ask?
I don’t really have anything in specific, but if I had to choose, I’d ask ‘If you had ended up making a collection for the 2001 spring/summer season, what would it have looked like?’
--- Is there any brand outside RAF SIMONS you’re currently collecting or want to collect? Could you also tell us why?
Of course I’m also collecting outside RAF SIMONS, but that’s a secret.
--- Items by RAF SIMONS, Maison Martin Margiela and Comme des Garcons are these days often praised as ‘pieces of art’. Do you think yourself that fashion items can be seen as art?
I definitely think they can.
--- The COVID-19 virus is leaving its mark on the fashion world as well, but do you think the value system of the ‘archive’ will be impacted by this as well?
The fashion world is definitely used to presenting new collections every seasons, which is becoming more difficult, so I feel the values common to the zone that is being categorized as the ‘archive’ will also change in response to that.
RAF SIMONS ARCHIVES
Interview & Text_ SOHEI OSHIRO