Few names in fashion are quite as coveted—or as cultish—as Raf Simons. Over the course of his career, the Belgian designer has managed to shake up the trajectory of menswear, while respectfully retuning labels like Jil Sander, Dior, and, most recently, Calvin Klein. He counts Kanye West as a disciple and artists like Sterling Ruby and Peter Saville as collaborators.
Since 2014, Simons—who was first trained as an industrial designer—has also partnered with the Danish textile brand Kvadrat. Last week, the designer and the company unveiled a new series of interior fabrics in a dramatic exhibition at the National Academy Museum in New York. The collection nods to Simons’ mastery of materials, as well as his passion for art.
“Weaving processes in fashion textiles don’t have the same limitations as those of furnishing textiles,” said Simons in a release. “Because of the dense weave that is needed for furniture, the coloration becomes even more interesting, with almost a painterly impact.”
Indeed, for the new Ria collection—with a texture reminiscent of boucle suiting—the designer drew inspiration from the stippled brushstrokes of Pointillists like Georges Seurat and Paul Signac. But where some color schemes nod to the subdued tints of Claude Monet’s water lilies, others are entirely Simons’ with a blaze of orange threads colliding with forest green ones, or electric blues swirling into inky blacks.
Some fabrics are more fanciful. A shaggy mohair textile called Argo recalls Jason’s sought-after Golden Fleece. (One version is, in fact, golden—others are pink, gray, and blue.) Meanwhile Harald 3, a sumptuous velour, and Vidar, a compact, large-grained weave, come in a palette of brights and neutrals.
All were on display at the National Academy in an artful installation that reinterpreted iconic furnishings with Kvadrat upholstery, while highlighting the mansion’s dramatic Beaux Arts interiors. Ria transformed Isamu Noguchi’s Freeform sofa and ottomans into smooth pebbles. An installation of a Vladimir Kagan’s floating curved sofa covered in a velvety red Harald 3 and set atop chevron parquet floors evoked the seductiveness of Twin Peaks’ Black Lodge. Clusters of deconstructed beanbag chairs by Zanotta, also clad in Ria, were presented like Claes Oldenburg’s playful soft sculptures.
But such materials are not just limited to furniture. The Kvadrat fabrics have had cameos on Simons’ runways, including at Christian Dior Couture and as a part of his eponymous menswear collection.
Such well-matched alliances prove that fashion and furnishings can be cut from the same cloth.