Opening Ceremony co-founder Humberto Leon spoke to ubiquitous designer Raf Simons on the eve of his label’s debut on the store’s carefully curated racks. Leon confesses a lengthy history of supporting Simons throughout his various career pursuits including his eponymous menswear label launched in 1995, seven year stint at Jil Sander, and now, as creative director of Dior. Discussing his background, and how where he lived influenced him, check out the brief excerpt below of Raf Simons’s interview below.
You’ve spoken about growing up in a small town with only one record store. I feel like all of your collections, especially the early ones, use youth codes as a starting point. Growing up, how connected were you to those subcultures?
The weird thing is that I was raised on a street where there were farms and cows and animals, and there was a complete disconnect from culture. Complete. I went to a very Catholic college—we took Latin, Greek, and mathematics—it was the kind of place where, when you reach eighteen, you’re supposed to become a doctor or a lawyer. But I knew very, very early on that this was not what I was interested in.
What was going out in Antwerp like back then? I hear about Antwerp having this really amazing nightlife moment. Does that still scene still exist?
The best moment ever, ever, ever for me was when New Beat hit. I’ve never experienced anything else like that in my life. Imagine three or four thousand kids coming together at a discotheque in the middle of nowhere. Everything you saw was fashion. Whether it was self-made, or second-hand, or high fashion like Gaultier. We had a very specific way of dancing, and a very specific sound. There were a lot of lasers and a lot of drugs. It was sublime.
That sounds pretty cool.
But the problem with New Beat was that it became mainstream. It started to hit the news every weekend on television, and then very quickly it became commercial. So we said that’s enough.
I feel like that’s what happens when all of these underground movements begin: more people find out about them, then this weird commercialization happens and it kills them.
When I started the label it was all over already. New Beat was happening when I was eighteen or nineteen. After that I went to a lot of gigs: early Manics, early Suede, early Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth. And when Kraftwerk was in Belgium I would be there. I’ve seen them twelve times.
You can read the interview in its entirety here. Raf Simons clothing will be available at Opening Ceremony stores in New York, Los Angeles and London as well as online. Part 2 of the interview is expected to arrive soon so keep an eye out.