Five years after the 1995 launch of his brand, and three years on from his first runway show in Paris, Raf Simons was 'fed up' and 'wanted to get out' of fashion due to his young brand's rapid growth and the growing pressure of his eighteen-person creative operation.
The Belgian took a one-year sabbatical, but his return to the runway in 2001 didn't just announce a departure from his lanky silhouettes and suits of the 90s, it was a statement of political and cultural intent, offering a fresh perspective on youth culture, as Simons drew from the complexities of subcultures vastly written off as ignorant.
Raf's AW01 collection, 'Riot! Riot! Riot!', was as aggressive as it was reclusive, as arrogant as it was subtle. A collection full of unsettling ideological discussions projected through the exhibition of well-executed graphic appliqués; Simons proposed a calculated attack on globalism, taboos, and social phobias.
During an intimate interview with Fantastic Man magazine in 2011, Simons defined the subjective spaces he hoped to explore though his honest, individual lens: "I'm intrigued by the psychology of men and what happens on the edge of adolescence and maturity."
One of the key figures during the revival of Raf Simons was Belgian artist Peter De Potter. De Potter graduated from the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp, before Simons called upon the rising graphic artist in 2001, as the designer began using De Potter's grimy found images and provocative turns of phrase.
De Potter's “almost religious love for images” combined aspects of graphic design and collage, but the deconstructive nature of his work provided the recognizable visualization of youth culture that Simons sought to idealize and exemplify.
“My role in the team was to come up with examples and visual quotes from the more hidden layers of pop culture,” De Potter explained to Interview in 2011. “Not so much cult, more the unsung heroes, the little gestures, the B-sides, if you will.”
What began as a single-collection collaboration turned into a decade long creative relationship. In that time, De Potter would design graphic prints and provide art in the form of images and words alike, which have become some of the most lasting influences of Simons' career, while also designing and directing Simons' books, The Fourth Sex and Redux, along with Repeat, a 2005 film.
De Potter described the intentions behind the first book, hoping to provide a "little antidote, perhaps, for the barrage of 'youth' imagery that thinks big smiles, floppy hair, and some ironic tattoos are all it takes to portray a demographic of millions and millions of different people and different minds.”