TOLD BY TOSHIKO TAGUCHI RECALL: RAF SIMONS 2
When Raf became the creative director of Jil Sander, I was part of “High Fashion”, which at the time shifted to a magazine that focused on both women's and men's fashion, and lead me to switch from going to the men's collections to the women's collections instead. It was very hard for me to go to both collections in January and March, since they are only two months apart.
The renewed issue of "High Fashion" (June 2005), which Taguchi took over as editor-in-chief, was titled "Individual White”. In this issue, there was a story titled "Portraits in White" where portraits of 12 actors, actresses, musicians, and producers were all dressed in white and there was a rare portrait of Raf Simons, who at the time rarely showed his face in public.
One day, Tsuyoshi Nimura, who did the styling for this page, told me that Raf was visiting Japan for the "Isolated Heroes" exhibition in collaboration with photographer David Sims, and that I should offer him to appear in the issue. I honestly thought there was a 99.9% chance he would say no. In the past, when I did the 7-page feature on Raf’s atelier for “MR”, which was in Antwerp, the only photos we were allowed to use were back shots and a fully body profile photo which barely showed his physique. He had never shown his face in any way. But when I sent him the request letter, he immediately responded with a yes.
One of the most important parts of "MR" is the introduction texts of the authors and performers. In this short interview-style profile passage, the author's origins and qualities are condensed into a limited amount of space and number of letters, but the words Raf spoke were directly implemented in to that introduction text. “I'm grateful to ‘Mr. High Fashion’ for supporting me for so long and publishing such great pages, and now the editor-in-chief of ‘High Fashion’ is going to try to relaunch it. My breaking the rules and appearing in this issue is a small gift from me as a way of saying thank you for everything.”
Although Taguchi was not able to make it to the shooting, she later visited Raf in a meeting room in Tokyo to greet him. Just before seeing him, photographer Katsuhide Morimoto brought her a close-up portrait of Raf's face he shot, and “I thought it looked like a Limoges doll," she said. “An antique doll of a boy. His eyebrows looked as if they were drawn in one by one with a face-painting brush, his skin like ceramic, and his blue eyes look as if they were carved and sculpted... This was the moment I saw Raf's true face for the first time, and it was also the moment I received the greatest encouragement to continue on with my mission of renewing the magazine.”
The second time we met was in Milan. “In March 2006, I saw the first Jil Sander women's show after Raf Simons became the creative director. I remember going to the venue with the public relations manager of Jil Sander's Japanese agency at the time, and the press officer, feeling both excited and worried about the new challenges that will come for our people. I had no idea what kind of Jil Sander he was going to express because Jil's clothing, the ones made by Jil, have almost no distinctive "pattern" or "design" that is neither easy to understand nor inherit. There are almost none really. But that's where Raf's unparalleled talent as a creator came into play with just one show.”
“Jil Sander, the founding designer of the brand, has been in my three mainstays for a long time, along with Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garçons. There are many things I would like to talk about, but that’s for another day…”, Taguchi said as she turned to the page of “High Fashion”, which featured Jil Sander's women's collection by Raf for Fall/Winter 2006.
“The characteristic of Jil Sander's clothing is that they begin from the development of original materials, high quality, and the integration of technology which no one else has ever accomplished yet, rather than simply designing first. We also believe in ‘silent and stoic luxury’. Luxury and elegance are not one-size-fits-all. She has changed the preconceived notion of ‘luxury’. Only a few people are able to understand that. However, from the first look to the very last look of the show, I could see his self-projection as the essence of the brand, with a clear insight, sympathy, and deep understanding. At the finale, I immediately wanted to express my joy and congratulate Raf for taking over this Jil Sander brand, so I headed backstage, a place I rarely visit even in Japanese designers’ shows.”
Born in 1949. Chief editor of MR High Fashion and High Fashion, now a freelance editor.
Text_ TATSUYA YAMAGUCHI