Then the lights turned off. Born from the silence, the song “This is not America” by David Bowie played setting the emotional tone for the show- an appropriate song at current times, however in terms of this new collection, it was as “America” as it gets.
When commissioned in August, the task for Raf Simons was plain and simple: Make Calvin Klein Great Again. Friday, after tremendous anticipation on which direction Simons would select, Calvin Klein found its relevance again (outside of the underwear market) and positioned itself comfortably between Ralph Lauren and the block colour comic spreads of Roy Lichtenstein.
Within the heart of the Calvin Klein headquarters in the Garment District sitting beneath an installation by Sterling Ruby the audience eagerly waited for the unveiling of the new collection. The Sterling Ruby installation showed layers of denim, pop-colour fringes, flags, and one or two bras hanging from the ceiling, reinforcing the legacy of underwear within the house – “Nothing gets between me and my Calvins!” The creative collaboration was a “Flashback Friday” moment, as Ruby and Simons have coincidentally worked together for Simon’s first Dior collection in 2012 (depicted wonderfully in the Dior and I (2015) documentary). Remember those beautiful graffitied dresses from the AW12 Dior Haute Couture show?
Then the lights turned off. Born from the silence, the song “This is not America” by David Bowie played setting the emotional tone for the show- an appropriate song at current times, however in terms of this new collection, it was as “America” as it gets. And it was a home-run: A clever passing of the baton for Klein’s new look.
The collection oozed home-grown Americana thanks to the mash-up of USA’s greatest sartorial hits. You had your cowboy shirts, your brightly coloured band costumes, sheriff’s jackets, leather biker jackets, metal-tipped cowboy boots -the red ones were particularly funky- and even a faded American flag peaking out from a printed guard’s coat. The bright military pants reinforced Simon’s renowned masculine tailoring, a notion equally successful for the fairer sex. Crisp minimalism played well with addressing Calvin Klien’s roots again but made it relevant for the Gen Y and Zers due to bold plastic encased tailored coats and dresses. Stranger Things’ Millie Bobby Brown was in the crowd representing this new hopeful generation. Simon’s took classic references and transformed “basics” for today’s consumers to stand out and celebrate individuality.
The POP! in the collection was in the juicy, tangy colours which leaned on Raf’s aesthetic of block colouring and pulsed much needed energy into a commercial collection. The pop art was prominent with Helmut Lang references, especially Hanne Gaby Odiele’s Look 27 of wafting feathers sprouting from transparent plastic.
Simons turned up the voltage for Calvin Klein and welcomed us to a new exhilarating era of American fashion. Within hours after Mr Simons and his right hand man Pieter Mulier took their final bows (met with ecstatic applause – from those not snap chatting the moment), PVH shares shot up as much as 3 per cent. When both high-fashion editors and Wall Street are cheering, its safe to say you’ve got a winner.