Raf Simons Corpo: Revealing the Furniture that Came Before the Clothing (Part 2)
The words ‘Raf Simons’ can often spark a wide range of emotions across the luxury fashion scene and youth culture as a whole. The legendary designer has shifted the paradigm of fashion forever, as Raf was one of the pioneers of mixing high quality tailoring with rebellious messages and designs. He established timeless designs in a seemingly effortless manner. From his humble beginnings apprenticing under legendary Walter Van Beirendonck, to his shifting of fashion hierarchical thrones from Jil Sander to Dior to Calvin Klein to now Prada, it is no wonder that so many people have been influenced by his work. Now at the upper echelons of fashion and culture, Raf’s legacy in the archive fashion community remains unmatched, with some of his most iconic garments reaching over $40,000. But despite his unbelievable levels of fame and success, only a small group of people know of Raf’s work before his clothing ever came into existence. Even the legend himself has been extremely private about this part of his past, but sooner or later the curtains have to be raised. Enter Raf Simons Corpo.
Before his namesake label became a global phenomenon, Raf Simons began his industrial design studies at SHIVKV in Genk, known today as the Luca School of Arts. This was where his creative energy truly began to blossom. One of his key projects, that was pivotal in shaping his creative spirit, was Raf Simons Corpo: an extremely small line of seven unique furniture pieces, each representing different aspects of the human form and anatomy. As the furniture were being brainstormed, Raf worked alone in his personal atelier to create the pieces in private. Only small shards of information about these pieces are available in the world today, but with the help of Max Reynders, we can bring these pieces together and unveil the mystery that is Raf Simons Corpo. During the 1990s, Max’s father was close friends with Raf and was gifted with 5 of the 7 RSC pieces. Now passed down to Max, he and his team aim to preserve these pieces of fashion and furniture history, all the while sharing this unknown part of Raf’s career to the world at large.
Max’s team and ARCHIVE.pdf have joined forces to provide you with an exclusive 2-part feature conversation to delve into the world of Raf Simons Corpo. From an interview with Max Reynders himself, to the unveiling of Raf’s history with furniture design, a deep dive into each RSC piece, and more, we hope that this feature can help share this hidden gem with both yourself and the world that isn’t aware of such greatness. Yet.
Raf Simons featured in the SHIVKV, Genk Graduation Projects Catalogue, 1991.
Raf Simons and Furniture Design
From 1986 to 1991 Raf Simons studied Industrial Design at SHIVKV in Genk, Belgium. The classes were very small, mostly between 10 to 20 people, so anyone who stood out could easily been seen.
The academy of Genk back then was for most students a big step towards a bigger city. Most of the students came from a small town in the province of Limburg. This step created for every student a new inspiration and a development of their persona.
As a student, Raf had interest in a lot of cultural scenes: art, music, fashion, etc, which is still seen in his fashion collections later on. As his passion for music has always been there, he was an alternative guy at school. Raf always had a passion and interest for fashion, and even at school it was already visible.
In his third year at the design academy (1989), Raf did an internship at Walter van Beirendonck’s studio. The fact that Raf did an internship at Walter was a new sign he wanted to see more of that world of fashion. At that time ‘The Antwerp Six’ were growing, and those six showed to a lot of young Belgium creatives that there was a possibility to become known around the world for creating something unique and personal. This inspired Raf and many others from his generation, to keep on pushing and creating, and that everything is possible in the worlds of design and fashion.
Raf was a mystery at school and still is. He was very protective when creating. For example, in their final year, each student had a private atelier and Raf’s atelier was stickily forbidden area for colleague students. In 1991 Raf graduated with this personal project named CORPO, which means body in Latin.
Raf explains that Corpo was made to actualize a furniture accessory with a twist of his own personal way of developing this. He worked in a way of collecting multiple aspects; cultures, ideologies, texts, products, materials, theories, philosophy, imagery and visions. He used these elements to create a combination which led him to a new product. He states, “I start from Disorder to design in to Order”. Research and development come together during this process. The key to making these elements come in harmony is to find the right balance between them.
Corpo is a relation about the human body. Raf talks about the inside structure and outside supplement know as skin. He refines this by talking about the dressing up, body ornaments and body decoration. The central idea is the relation between the human body on one side and the incarnation of the product on the other. Every product can be seen as a body with an inside and an outside. His final study Corpo has been 7 different pieces in total.
Raf Simons Corpo Collection
Corpo 1 _ Protection
En-Garde which is made of a stainless steel harness that refers to the coat of mail from middle ages used to protect the warriors, but also seen on butchers to protect themselves from knives. Artificial outside to protect the inside.
Corpo 2 _ Beauty
Lesson one in anatomy. An X-Ray analysis of cultural beauty definitions. The secrets of beauty in different cultures which lays underneath a hidden beauty.
Corpo 3 _ Female Body
Obsession is all about the skin and body transformation, mutation and malformation. Corsets in particular which creates the perfect artificial female body. The Cabinet is wrapped with a corset so this literally is a reference to female beauty and how it was manipulated throughout time.
Corpo 4 _ Male
An accessory cabinet which is multifunctional, and highlights the packing and functionality that men need in their clothes. This corset can be switched to both sides. Leather outside and a cloth inside with multiple pockets.
Corpo 5 _ X-Ray
Body Structure, outside transparent protection, artificial metallic skin. A more see-through material is used here to complete the illusion.
Corpo 6 _ Ornament
A sacred accessory, religious beauties. A definition of multi-religious accessories which show piercings, chains that refers to religions worldwide.
Corpo 7 _ Skin Second
Skin to protect your insides like a snake. He refers to packaging as a second skin to protect the inside. New skin could be seen as a new image. This cabinet is wrapped with snakeskin and leather on the inside. Reversible as Raf wanted to show that skin can change the image.
The explanations of the Corpos are all made clear by a video from Raf Simons. After his studies the video was multiplied on VHS and made public by Raf's former agent Linda Loppa. That video isn’t exposed yet on the world wide web. We are still gathering more and more documentation around Raf’s time at school, so we can add more to the RafSimonsCorpo Instagam Page and make a great documentation around this period. Below are some unseen screenshots of the infamous Graduation video.
The People Behind the RSC Collection
The owner of the pieces is Antwerp-based Max Reynders, a young designer who says he acquired the items through his dad.
“My father graduated in the same class with Raf in 1991, both as furniture designers. (My dad still designs and makes furniture @casimir.be). When Raf had plans to move to NYC in 1999 he gave them to my father. In 2010 the pieces were given to me, my brothers and my sister. As they will be 30 years old in 2021 we want to share them with the world.”
Raf Simons with his furniture work 'AGENA 2', featured in 'Nieuw en Anders', early 1990s.
Max Reynders is the owner of the RafSimonsCorpo Instagram page together with one of his closest friends, also a Raf fanatic. They both have the urge to show these Raf Simons furniture pieces to the world/people. They want to spread awareness to these pieces as these are the foundation of Raf Simons' later transition towards fashion.
As they have both seen the pieces and documentation about it, they want to shed light into these masterworks of Raf. People always have a lot of interest in Raf Simons' life and way of thinking. As Raf Simons is a mysterious designer with many secrets to discover, this looked like the perfect opportunity since the pieces have become 30 years old. Small details like his usage of cultures, music and fashion ideals show that Raf already had a passion for fashion at an early stage of his life. For us this is like looking at the purest form of Raf's philosophy about beauty and how he wants to change it, and be a part of it.
One of the Corpo cabinets and Agena 2 which was also one Raf's early creations are both on Grailed. Putting a high price tag to the pieces was/is a way to spread awareness. As we succeeded last year by publishing the first Raf furniture piece on Grailed: Corpo Protection. The piece received a lot of attention in 2020.
Raf Simons 'AGENA 2' furniture work, courtesy of Max Reynders.