Among the most anticipated shows at New York Fashion Week was the debut of new Calvin Klein designer Raf Simons. The Belgian designer abruptly left Dior after only three-and-a-half years at the fabled French fashion house and unexpectedly ended up at Calvin Klein, where he has been given complete creative control to revitalize the venerable American brand.
Calvin Klein is known mainly for underwear, jeans, and fragrances, and that's where the bulk of profits come from. With Simons in charge, the brand is hoping to be a player in high fashion circles again.
His first show, completed with creative director Pieter Mulier, who was his No. 2 at Dior, is an homage to America, Simons said. “It reflects the environment. 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.”
Showing 65 styles for women and men in one show amid artwork by Sterling Ruby, Simons has a Europeanized view of America. Half of the looks features unisex clothing, as Simons showcased colorblock shirts with flap pockets inspired by marching band uniforms, double breasted power suits with wide lapels, transparent sweaters with chunky wool sleeves, denim jackets, and black leather shirts with pearl buttons — all worn by men and women.
Amid some mundane looks — the last three models wore run-of-the-mill double-breasted overcoats — were several standouts. Feminine feathered dresses and plaid raincoats — both covered in clear plastic like grandma's sofa — have a fresh feel, as do some interesting coats for both women and men that incorporate patchwork quilt designs that look like they came straight out of Houston's International Quilt Festival.
Simon's first-time effort for Calving Klein produced a hit-and-miss collection, both optimistic and head-scratching at the same time. But it certainly left observers wanting to see more of the direction the brand will take under his direction.