Fall 2017 Ready-to-Wear
February 10, 2017
“Sometimes, it takes an outsider.” Those were the words uttered by a spellbound Casey Spooner after Raf Simons’ hotly anticipated debut as the chief creative officer of Calvin Klein. I couldn’t have put it better myself.
The Belgian designer, who showed his eponymous menswear range in New York just last week, breathed new life and relevancy into Calvin Klein, the original American sportswear brand.
But that’s not to say he forgot the past—in fact, his classic Calvin denim jacket-and-trouser ensembles, of which there were a handful, came with leather patches that, instead of the brand’s logo, bore Brooke Shields’ silhouette from the iconic 1980 jeans campaign lensed by Richard Avedon. Shields sat front row.
Artist Sterling Ruby, a longtime Simons collaborator, transformed Calvin Klein’s 39th Street headquarters via a now permanent installation. Fringe, sheets of denim, American flag-print fabric, straps reading “Calvin Klein,” and silver buckets holding baseball bats all hung from the ceiling. As the show notes described, “Sterling Ruby imagined America.”
Titled “Parade,” the entire Fall 2017 men’s and women’s collection, which Simons designed alongside his righthand man and Calvin’s new creative director, Pieter Mulier, was an homage to America—a foreigner’s interpretation of our country’s history, evolution, and stereotypes.
“It reflects the environment,” said Simons of the lineup. “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.”
That’s a lot to pack into one collection, but if anyone can do it, it’s Simons. And he managed it quite well.
To the tune of Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” (you don’t get more American than that…), the first models walked out wearing brightly-hued two-tone Western shirts and sporty trousers with stripes up the side.
The collection in general—but particularly the initial section—was very androgynous. Suiting for him and her was oversized and boxy; boys and girls both donned sheer, nude-colored mesh tops with bunched-up, striped knit sleeves; and sharply-cut overcoats were roomy, exuding an effortless attitude.
Leather bags, carried under models’ arms, were rectangular and folded over. They resembled doctor’s bags, and were sometimes embossed with a Western floral pattern. Also on the Western front, cowboy boots. They were often capped with metal toes, engraved with 205, the company’s address on 39th Street.
Then things got really interesting—tweed coats, feather dresses, and a full-length golden fur, tied with a crystal belt, were shown trapped in clear plastic. Simons literally shrink-wrapped luxury, commodifying it, and readying it for consumption.
Quaker-style quilting lined oversized, hooded parkas, fusing craft and street.
Towards the end of the show, Simons sent out an American flag skirt, worn beneath an overcoat comprised of tweed and floral-flocked chiffon. David Bowie’s “This Is Not America” echoed throughout the space.
That was a loaded moment. This vibrant collection—at once diverse and cohesive—was representative of the melting pot that is our country, the very essence of which is currently under attack.
As Simons said backstage at his own show, those who have a voice need to use it. Today, Simons used Calvin Klein as a platform to celebrate America’s past, and to send a poignant, hopeful message about its future.
And speaking of, after this outing, Simons’ future at Calvin Klein looks pretty darn bright. He may not be an American, but today was an exciting day for American fashion.