Via Twin Peaks By Markus Ebner
Published June 27, 2012
“The most obvious thing they have in common is that both Simons and Slimane started in menswear and are 44 years old. I have been going to their shows since the beginning of their careers. To say that one has copied or followed the other seems wrong. In 1999, when I was fashion director of Details, Slimane was still a low-profile designer. For a short article we did on him, we sent the local WWD staff photographer rather than some superstar lensman to his studio.
Simons was not even on the radar of the American men’s press during my time at Details, and so when I went for a studio visit to Antwerp, it was Raf who picked me up from the train station in his beat-up Mercedes station wagon. He gave me a tour of his city with stops at the Ann Demeulemeester store. He was very approachable and down-to-earth and part of the Antwerp community.
Another thing the two men have in common is that they can be very sensitive to criticism by people whose opinion matters to them. Whereas Karl Lagerfeld is a thick-skinned pro who can laugh off a bad article, Slimane and Simons can be rather thin-skinned when it comes to reviews.
Far from rivals then, they are fellow travelers linked now more than ever by a shared career timeline. The new millennium was the moment they both burst onto the scene, and both have preferred to use teenagers plucked from the street versus real models for their shows. This helped them to get an unfiltered and immediate response to their creations, as these young kids would only put something on if they were really into it, unlike a professional model who is used to keeping his mouth shut no matter how garish the outfit. Hence, whoever slashed the sleeve from a jacket first is not really the question here. Both designers mine youth culture for energy and inspiration to fuel their creative process.
If they are in any competition, it’s against the fashion establishment, not each other. Slimane elevated his shows to live concert experiences by creating an entire world around a défilé that encompassed his high-gloss minimalist invites, custom-made soundtracks by Europe’s leading DJs and bands, rock hero light shows, and culturally diverse show spaces—from the Palais de Tokyo to Frank Gehry’s one Paris building. Simons went to the suburbs of Paris to show in defunct soundstages and school basements, staging his agitprop message shows like mock antiglobalization riots. All of this was light-years away from the gilded chairs of a couture salon.
I believe that the upcoming Dior Haute Couture and Saint Laurent shows are most of all a testament to the fashion industry turning a new page and giving its best positions to designers who are not cut from the same old cloth. Rather, they are informed by modern pop culture, the zeitgeist, and most importantly, their own lives and not old-fashioned ideals. And talking about rivalries: Perhaps the real one is at the New York Times company between Suzy Menkes and Cathy Horyn, as to who is the more scoop-producing fashion critic.”