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Checking In on
Prada & Raf Simons

By Taylor M, Mar 18, 2021

Prada Tessuto Camera Bag

Raf Simons has been growing a dedicated following years past

his initial introduction to fashion design back in 1990. The recent announcement of Raf Simons’ joining Prada was met with much anticipation as the brand has recently gained traction in the luxury trend scope. Looking at his contributions thus far in alliance with the brand’s pioneer, Miuccia, we look forward to exciting interpretations of Prada’s long-standing heritage.


Raf Simons’ Rise to Fame

Long before Raf Simons found his place in the fashion industry, he was born in a small town in Belgium called Neerpelt. Later on in his life in Genk, he studied industrial design and furniture design, interning under Walter Van Beirendonck. Beirendonck introduced Simons to the idea of fashion shows during that internship, beginning with Margiela SS 1990. This particular show is said to have been a significant turning point for the young designer, changing his entire perspective on fashion and inspiring him to take that path in his career. Simons’ school days were also impactful on his professional development in that he met most of his friends and many of his current colleagues there. The crowd he surrounded himself with consisted of stylists, designers, and photographers that he still often works with. Not long after the Margiela show, Simons graduated in 1991, and by 1995 he launched a menswear brand. His initial show debuted on 8mm film and starred one of his muses, Veronique Branquinho.

After gaining some traction through iconic photos taken of pieces in his subsequent lines that appeared on a magazine cover and in a photography book by David Sims, Simons went on to teach for five years in Vienna at the University of Applied Arts. His designs showed immense regard for youth, and the themes were always highly relevant to global and social issues. In response to recent terrorist attacks around the world, Simons released a soul-stirring show in which young models carried flaming torches to signify the gravity of said events. This show took place two months before the attacks of 9/11. 

In 2005, Simons was given the role of Men’s and Womenswear designer at Jil Sander. The brand, known for its minimalism, was given a vibrant dose of seductiveness through his immense skills in craftsmanship which brought in new shape – adding fringe cutouts to sexy dresses as well as easy-to-wear t-shirts. His memorable impact on the brand not only added to his reputation, but brought the brand into the spotlight – Miranda Kerr is one such celebrity example, after she wore Jil Sander to the Met Gala in 2009. Simons presented his final Jil Sander show to an audience sprinkled with tears in 2012.

After Simons took on his role at Dior in 2012, he launched his world-famous 2013 collaboration with Adidas Stan Smith sneakers. Simons added bright colors and subtle branding to the footwear, and they were immediately sought after by all. In 2016 he was given the title of Chief Creative Officer at Calvin Klein – granting him reign over everything from Calvin Klein Collection to homewares and all things marketing and creative visuals. Though Simons’ reputation at Jil Sander and Dior notes his regard for femininity, he began to output fresh takes on American design at Calvin Klein that garnered critical acclaim. Simons then won CFDA’s Designer of the Year award, even though he didn’t meet the eligibility requirement of showing two full collections (because he makes up his own show rules). Simons and Calvin Klein are the only two designers to ever win this award for men’s and womenswear in the same year. After about two years of influential work at Calvin Klein that was adored by celebrities from the Kardashians to Saoirse Ronan and Odell Beckham Junior, Simons left in 2018 and has continued to work on his namesake brand.

Raf Simons
Interview Magazine photo of Simons

Prada and Simons: The Sharing of Power 

So what was Raf Simons up to in 2020? To add to the resume marked by his exciting roles among some of the largest names in the industry, Simons has moved on to his next big endeavor – Prada. Miuccia and Raf Simons announced in February 2020 that they would partner on creative direction for the house. Prada’s brand image, carefully determined by Miuccia throughout her popularization of the brand in the 80s and 90s, is somewhat aligned with the design philosophies that Simons has been developing in his young career. The two share regard for youth and current events through their work, as well as having a knack for highlighting femininity and sexuality. With that in mind, Simons’ eye for streetwear could be a trend-oriented update to the brand’s aesthetic, and may blend in a new way with the well-known tessuto nylon and structured materials that the brand is known for. Prada seems like the perfect stepping stone for Simons’ career, which may help him cross the line into becoming a household name. 

Raf Simons
Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada, courtesy of Business of Fashion


Prada’s first collection that the two co-creative directors worked on together was for women’s Spring/Summer 2021. The initial collaborative line was received with varying opinions, with some critics such as Eliot Hasworth of Fantastic Man summarizing the collection as a “mashup” of the two designers than a team effort. That being said, Simons’ track record has shown him coming out of his shell and into his own more gradually as he enters a new label.

Raf Simons
Prada SS21 Women’s, courtesy of CR Fashion Book

The women’s SS21 show featured easy tailoring and silhouettes that featured Prada’s original logo, but at the same time had Simons’ edge with cutouts and uncommon branding placements, such as on the neck a turtleneck. The campaign that went along with this season asked viewers to define what is new and what is unique, and asked whether the two were the same. The implied answer – no – was to be expected in the next few collections as Simons geared up to mesh his own taste with the foundational elements of Prada’s construction.

Raf Simons
Prada FW21 Men’s, courtesy of Raf Simons & Prada
Raf Simons
Prada FW21 Women’s, courtesy of Raf Simons & Vogue

For the men’s Autumn/Winter collection that aired this past January, Raf Simons and Miuccia Prada created a line that made warm-weather dressing unique (but not new) for men, just as critics predicted in lieu of the women’s line. These fittings took simple concepts including suiting and gave them unlikely partners, such as a matching printed knit cardigan and trousers set. The knitted patterns were spacey, futuristic, and richly colored. Outerwear featured Prada’s usual bright statement hues like pinks, purples, and yellows. The co-creative pair mixed prints over contrasting silhouettes, pairing a blue fitted knit trouser with a bright saffron oversized pullover. Coats were giant and tapered out against the knit jumpsuits that came in at the ankle. The two designers also rethought the suit jacket, rolling up the sleeves into a shoulder cap and giving them a lightly shredded texture, layered over printed skin-tight shirt sleeves. For accessories, leather gloves were given built-in coin purses. The line took what we already had for winter wardrobes, and rearranged it in a fresh way.  

The women’s line that came out this past February piggy-backed on the original idea debuting Simons’ addition to the team of unique sameness. The collection bears an uncanny resemblance to the men’s Fall collection, showing the exact same suit jackets (but with pencil skirts this time) only adding in a bit of fur, shine, and some oversized handbags to set it apart from the opposite sex. This is possibly a nod to Simons’ androgynous tendencies, but the two are presented seperately to show both masculine and feminine energies can look the same. When you think back, unisex looks have walked the stage at the same time in recent years – maybe showing them separately but having them be almost identical is Simons’ meaningful tweak to the way things have been done in the recent past.


Future of Prada x Raf Simons 

Overall, from Raf’s position with Miuccia at Prada, we expect to see a lot more down the line. That is, in terms of shock and wow-factor. Simons is known to test the waters when it comes to innovation, sprinkling in his own concepts gradually season-by-season while incorporating fresh takes on the brand’s DNA. Prada has been one of the key players in fashion in the past five years, so Raf’s introduction isn’t exactly indicative of a need for a facelift. 

On the accessories side of things, the re-edition of the nylon hobo was a recent success, which stemmed from vintage bags from the 90s and early aughts coming back into the resale market. Raf’s ideas around taking old concepts and making them more upbeat should pair quite nicely with Prada’s nostalgic comeback, and we can’t wait to see what bags are born out of this pairing next! Especially with the vintage 90’s accessories coming to the forefront of current trends, Prada has been on the up as of late. Perhaps this is why Raf entered the scene stating that what is to be seen from Prada now will not be anything defined as “new.” With the disclaimer out that flat-out “newness” is not on the horizon, we look forward to seeing what aspects of Prada that Simons and Miuccia Prada reimagine next.

Elsa Hosk & Prada
Elsa Hosk and Prada Re-Edition Bag, courtesy of Elsa Hosk & Popsugar