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The Belgian designer Raf Simons arrived at Calvin Klein in August 2016. As Chief Creative Officer, he’s been revamping the traditional American brand. The brand’s luxury ready-to-wear line, the former Calvin Klein Collection and now renamed Calvin Klein 205W39NYC, continues to celebrate the American life, but now, with Simons’ vision of the New Americana. To prepare us, he reopened the New York city minimalistic flagship with an installation artwork from floor to ceiling in electric yellow by sculptor Sterling Ruby who said: ”I’m taking the Calvin Klein flagship store from minimal to maximal (…) representing a new day for Calvin Klein.” And indeed, a new day for Calvin Klein is what we have been seeing!
Raf Simons was born and raised in Belgium and has a vast experience in fashion. In 1995 he launched his eponymous brand. Ten years later the designer became creative director of Jil Sanders. In 2012, he was appointed the Creative Director at Dior, where he worked until 2015.
In June this year, the Council of Fashion Designers of America named Raf Simons “Best Women’s and Best Men’s Designer”, this happened only once before, in 1993, coincidentally or not, to Calvin Klein!
Simon’s vision for Calvin Klein is a celebration of the classic American casual fashion, and diversity. The Belgian designer explains: “All of these different people with different styles and dress codes. It’s the future, the past, Art Deco, the city, the American West…all of these things and none of these things. Not one era, not one thing, not one look. It is the coming together of different characters and different individuals, just like America itself. It is the unique beauty and emotion of America."
For his fall 2018 collection, Raf Simons presented firemen’s jackets with reflective stripes, for both men and women. Silver dresses that seemed made of Mylar survival blankets, embellished with white lace and worn with thigh-high rubber hazmat boots, sheer flowing dresses layered over fitted ones, patchwork chiffon gowns, romantic floor-sweeping skirts combined with oversized sweaters with the Coyote and Road-Runner, and long silver gloves. It was Little House in the Prairie meets astronauts and firefighters, mixed with Andy Warhol Pop-Art and Looney Tunes!
With his pre-fall 2018, Raf Simons showed continuity in his collections; reflecting the same key motifs of his Americana vision. He presented a simpler version of the patchwork and slip foil with lace dresses, which by the way, we loved. The collaboration with the Andy Warhol Foundation was still present with pop florals printed on leather boots.
Raf Simon is definitely renewing the iconic American brand, giving it new relevance and bringing Calvin Klein back into the fashion conversation. Raf Simons’ impact could already be felt in a report in March 2018: Calvin Klein revenues soared 23 percent and the brand preference was twice as high as for the competitors
Title photo: Willy Vanderperre/Courtesy of Calvin Klein Featuring artwork by Andy Warhol ©/®/™ The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc.. Runway via WSGN