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Aug 02, 2016
By Jian DeLeon
It’s just been announced that after a summer of rumours, plagued with the question: will he? won’t he? Raf Simons is finally confirmed as the Creative Director of Calvin Klein. Here’s a piece our menswear editor crafted (published first back in April) about what Simons will bring to the quintessential American luxury label.
“There is a complicity between the very young and the very old,” writes Tim Blanks in his review of Raf Simons’ Spring/Summer 2016 menswear collection. Simons, who stepped down from a prestigious position at Dior last year, left a culturally profound and financially quantifiable impact on the label, no doubt the feather in LVMH’s cap—increasing sales by 60% since 2011. Since the fashion announcement that Calvin Klein’s creative team, women’s creative director Francisco Costa and men’s creative director of Calvin Klein Collection Italo Zucchelli, departed the label, the rumour mill is swirling with whispers that none other than Raf Simons is waiting in the wings.
“It makes perfect sense that a brand’s men’s and women’s collection would be created under the same creative vision. The moves follow similar steps by brands like Gucci and Burberry, who both announced plans to combine their women’s and men’s shows earlier this year,” says WGSN’s Senior Editor of Retail Intelligence, Petah Marian in a previous post. “There is increasing cross pollination between men’s and womenswear, with styles and themes running across both collections, and from a cost perspective it makes sense to amalgamate the two.”
Indeed, Alessandro Michele is creating waves at Gucci for his ability to tap into the brand’s rich heritage and reinterpret it into a new, whimsical menswear universe where intricate souvenir jackets, embroidered tracksuits, and fur-lined takes on Gucci’s inimitable bit loafer co-exist. Recently, it was announced that Gucci would be the latest label to combine its men’s and women’s shows. It isn’t farfetched to imagine Calvin Klein doing the same should the Raf Simons news turn out to be true. But what could Simons’ possible appointment mean for Calvin Klein’s menswear offerings?
As one of the most prolific designers to take inspiration from underground youth subcultures, some of Simons’ best known collections have become cult items among elevated streetwear enthusiasts and longtime fans of men’s fashion alike. He was tapping the rich aesthetic archives of artists like Peter Savile and Peter De Potter before brands like Supreme similarly sampled Savile’s New Order album art, or De Potter designed the art for Kanye West’s latest album: The Life of Pablo. That is to say, Simons’ subcultural prescience predicted the blurring lines between street culture, high fashion, and men’s lifestyle long before it came into fruition.
Simons could very well inject his own kind of young fetishistic energy into Calvin Klein Collection, re-aligning the label with the subtle, naive sexuality that made it so culturally relevant in the ’90s, when several of its commercials were deemed too racy for the airwaves. His current collection features images of young men as photographed by David Sims, an aesthetic style not too far removed from Justin Bieber’s latest concert merch, featuring a portrait of the fresh-faced singer in a similar light. Bieber also happens to be one of Calvin Klein’s underwear models, alongside other famous names like Kendall Jenner, Kendrick Lamar, FKA Twigs, and Fetty Wap.
While Italo Zucchelli collaborated with another superstar, Drake, on his tour wardrobe in 2014,
“the Raf Simons-era of Calvin Klein could take these strategic partnerships to a new level, making them into historic pop cultural moments.”
As a designer who has always referenced the symbiotic relationship between music, fashion, and its resulting style tribes, there couldn’t be a more perfect candidate for the position.
In a fashion paradigm inundated with so many brands and collaborations, and a consumer that is willing to accept a Vetements hoodie as a viable status symbol, what Simons offers Calvin Klein is his adeptness at cohesive universe-building. Instead of trying to ever earn a seat at the cool kids’ table, Simons has always made you want to sit at his.
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