Despite being one of the undisputed kings of men's fashion, Raf Simons, has never followed a fashion course. He studied industrial design in Belgium. As he followed his studies, he carried out an internship at the Walter Van Beirendonck's studio, who asked him to carry some items to present his collection in Paris. During the trip, Raf Simons had the opportunity to attend his first fashion show: the one of a young Martin Margiela in its third collection. For Raf Simons the impact is devastating, and only at that time included the meaning that fashion can assume: free, creative, anti conventional and outside of any predetermined pattern.
Simons became a self-trained menswear designer and launched his Raf Simons label in 1995, encouraged by Linda Loppa, head of the fashion department at the Antwerp Royal Academy at the time and now director of the prestigious italian fashion school Polimoda.
His first collection was in Fall-Winter 1995, and featured two street models in a video presentation.
Fall-Winter 1997 saw his first runway show in Paris, France with a look of American college students and English schoolboys with a background of New Wave and Punk. Subculture contemporaneous and tailoring of the past were the two elements only apparently in contrast from which Raf Simons drawn for his creations, merging the rebellious spirit of youth with the precision of cuts and lines. Art and writing are cultural basins that inspired it. Proportions modern, a constant search for advanced materials, and especially the combination of the purity of garment construction and testing of new lines that represent the contemporary man's body and clothes from casting his psyche.
Simons' early aesthetic incorporated youth culture from divergent sources, such as the Spring-Summer 2000 collection taking inspiration from both Mensa students and the Gabba youth subculture. But is the Music the one who is an integral part of Simons’ work, with references to musical figures such as the Manic Street Preachers's Richey Edwards and Joy Division’s Ian Curtis and his Fall-Winter 1998 collection, featuring members of German electro band Kraftwerk as models.
In March 2000, Simons shut down his company to take a sabbatical after his Fall-Winter 2000 collection. Following a new deal with Belgian manufacturer, Gysemans Clothing Industry, the company was started back up again for Fall-Winter 2001. During this time, Simons' international prominence grew with the collection for Spring-Summer 2002 becoming one of his most influential due to its “layered, hooded, sinister image of the urban guerrilla”.
The aesthetic of the Raf Simons brand has changed since 2005, when the obsessive youth culture codes of his past were turned into clothes that were purely about shape and form. In the same year, Raf by Raf Simons was launched, which was sold at a lower price point.
In 2008, two flagship Raf Simons stand-alone stores opened in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan, in collaboration with the artists Sterling Ruby and Roger Hiorns. Autumn-Winter 2009 saw the first Raf Simons advertising campaign, photographed by Willy Vanderperre.
In 2011, Raf by Raf Simons was replaced by Raf Simons 1995, a diffusion line incorporating elements from Simons' early collections, that also includes homeware, namely blankets and cushions. The designer and creative director, in 2022 announced the closure of the brand that bears his name.