Deconstructing Calvin

Even before the Calvin Klein men’s and women’s fall 2017 show began, it was obvious that Raf Simons was intent on unveiling a completely new vision for Calvin Klein. Mission Accomplished! The 10 AM show (which began at 10:30 AM to the strains of Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams”) might have been held in a familiar venue: the sprawling loft-like space on the ground floor of 205 West 39th Street (where the Calvin Klein showrooms are), but it bore absolutely no resemblance at all to the venue as it had been used most recently by Francisco Costa (before he started showing at Spring Studios).

In place of what had usually been a chic if not coldly spare, bare, minimal  setting, there were now aluminum pots and pans (and watering cans?) hanging from the ceiling, along with bolts of colorful fringed fabric, and what appeared to be dried red paint streaming to the floor. It looked like an impromptu, spontaneous, chaotic art installation; which makes sense given that these elements happen to be hallmarks of the work of Raf’s good friend, American artist Sterling Ruby with whom he has been collaborating for quite some time.

Ruby is of course, known for his “densely packed installations”, his work often seems to have been scratched, defaced, camouflaged, dirty, or splattered and in the past, has been aptly referred to as “something beautiful, simultaneously minimal, and chaotically expressive”. I suppose the same can be said about the collection which followed.

It was not at all what I expected, though I can’t really say what I did expect other than the fact that I knew it would have a completely new look from what came before; it would be interesting; and of course, that it would include strong menswear (stellar coats, jackets, suits), which has always been a Calvin Klein signature and are in the company’s DNA.

And naturally, I did expect that Raf would put his strengths to good use, and he did. On view was his amazing color sense (there was almost no black used except for a few coats and sturdy jackets and sometimes odd colors were used together); his love affair with abstract art (the graphic knitwear and t shirts shown on their own or beneath the coats and jackets); his obsession with techno fabrics (as exemplified by the laminated plasticized glen plaid coats and sheath dresses strewn with feathers);

his blurring of the lines between men’s and women’s; his love affair with America (the Western inspired shirts and cowboy boots, the sturdy denim jackets and jeans, the American flag skirt shown beneath the printed coat, the use of patchwork and classic American quilts); his commitment to freedom and believing in standing up for social causes (he ended the show with the song, “This is not America” by jazz fusion band Pat Metheny Group and David Bowie).

When Raf took his bow at the end, he came out wearing a deconstructed jacket and sweater. Do you think he was driving the point home about deconstructing/reconstruction Calvin Klein? What remains to be seen is how ‘mass’ American will respond.

– Marilyn Kirschner

Marilyn Kirschner

I am a long time fashion editor with 40+ years of experience. As senior market of Harper's Bazaar for 21 years I met and worked with every major fashion designer in the world and covered all of the collections in Paris, London, Milan and New York. I was responsible for overall content, finding and pulling in the best clothes out there, and for formulating ideas and stories.

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