"For one season, the brand 'Raf Simons' will not exist."
That's fashion designer Raf Simons' latest declaration. The designer is collaborating with artist Sterling Ruby on the upcoming men's collection showing on January 15 in Paris.
Though Simons is generally a purist (sometimes downright minimalist) in his designs and Ruby's work is undeniably messy, the word is that this collection is equal parts designer and artist. "There is not one shirt, one shoe, one sock that is not from our mutual thinking process," Simons has said about the collection.
It's no secret that Simons hugely admires Ruby. His debut couture collection for Dior was inspired by the artist as is the interior of the Raf Simons boutique in Tokyo. But, fashion is no different from any other industry when it comes to brands. Traditionally, your brand is sacrosanct (remember the buzz around Slimane's brand decisions at Dior Homme and most recenty at Saint Laurent Paris). So, there's more than a designer collaboration going on this time.
Simons is making a conscious decision to "unbrand," to allow an external aesthetic authority to make decisions inside his visual kingdom. The risk? That it's a complete flop and the label bleeds loyalists worse than when Ungaro experimented with La Lohan. The reward? The ever-elusive "freshness" that established names and brands are always striving for. Brands in every industry should take a careful look at how this plays out. Maybe everyone could do with a little "unbranding" every once in a while. - Court Williams