With his long awaited first collection for Calvin Klein, Raf Simons brought a ray of hope to the murky American landscape yesterday morning in New York.
There has been much discussion about New York Fashion Week this season. With the departure of Proenza Schouler and Rodarte for Paris, many commentators feel the event is losing its identity. It seemed Raf Simons and his creative director Pieter Mulier had been appointed as chief-saviours of American fashion as they debuted their collection to a small yet star-studded group of celebrities and the fashion elite. Millie Bobby Brown, who is a new fresh face of Calvin Klein, sat in the front row. Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker and Naomie Harris were also in attendance.
The show had been much anticipated as speculation grew over how Simons would approach his attempt to rejuvenate this all-American label. With his choice to bring the show ‘home’ to the label’s 39th street headquarters, and the addition of ‘established 1968’ on the invitations, he showed a sincerity of purpose to stay true to the brand’s roots that endeared him to those who came to watch. A set designed by artist Sterling Ruby set the scene, referencing both art and the label’s all-American aesthetic with white walls, paint splattered denim and fabric painted with American flags.
The show opened with mod looks accompanied by David Bowie’s ‘This is not America’ to set the tone. Then came a swift transition into some sharp tailored combinations for both men and women that were reminiscent of ‘80s Wall Street bankers. Continuing the American references, a Sheriff’s jacket and black leather biker jacker also made appearances. One model even wore the American flag as an asymmetric skirt. Varsity sweaters were reimagined with sheer technical-knit bodies; a striking and resoundingly uncommercial look. The shoes were metal tipped cowboy boots that caught the light as the models moved through the brightly lit room.
Transparent plastic was used in abundance; Simons slipped the high shine material over plaid tailoring, feathery cocktail dresses and most impactfully over a yellow-gold fur coat.
Denim was also incorporated into the show, taking the form of straight leg jeans with matching button up shirts and jackets for both men and women. In the ‘90s, denim was a word synonymous with the Calvin Klein brand, which represents a potentially huge opportunity for Simons as he re-ignites interest in the iconic label that has dropped off the radar in recent years.
At the end of the show Raf Simons took to the runway with Mulier, blowing kisses before disappearing backstage. Simons and Mulier have chosen a very turbulent time to stake their claim in American culture, but it seems they are embracing the challenge. The overall message was heartwarming and optimistic, and maybe just what American fashion needs right now.