Raf Simons at Calvin Klein: A Reflection, and What To Expect

By Michael Sachen, Men’s Writer

On the eve of Raf Simons’ debut collection as the Chief Creative Officer for Calvin Klein, the world is split in two between those who know— and those who do not.

Not since the 90’s has this amount of excitement surrounded Calvin Klein, as the world is eagerly waiting to see Simons’ vision for the American label. Photos by longtime Simons collaborator, Willy Vanderperre, appeared earlier this week on Calvin Klein’s Instagram. They presented us with something unmistakably minimal, and unmistakably Raf. This was only to be expected.

Images from Calvin Klein's spring 2017 campaign.
Images from Calvin Klein’s spring 2017 campaign.

Tenured as creative director for Jil Sander and Dior respectively, Simons has, if nothing else, shown that he can balance his brand of minimalism while preserving the spirit of the house he is designing for. This proves to be no easy feat, as we have seen countless creative directors fail to make this translation (Balenciaga being a prime example.) While Simons’ appointment at Dior may have come as a surprise due to his (at the time) small following, and lack of experience in couture, it had turned out to be a breath of fresh air that was much needed since the departure of Hedi Slimane. Simons had used his power at Dior to protest stuffy couture culture, and has paved the way for the democratization of an art form almost exclusively for the bourgeois. And before that, his aesthetic was an all too perfect fit at Jil Sander, one of the houses who established minimalism throughout the 90’s, along with the likes of Helmut Lang and Martin Margiela.

In the same regard, Simon’s appeared to be the perfect candidate to reestablish Calvin Klein’s relevance, which has slowly waned since the minimalist Kate Moss glory days. For the majority of readers, Calvin Klein is remembered in one of two ways. Either as a department store jeans brand, or as a branded underwear set worn by Instagram girls due in part to the resurgence of 90’s culture and the mass celebrating marketing endeavors as of late. But herein lies the problem. From the teasers released earlier this week, the iconic Calvin Klein logo normally found around the waistband is nowhere to be seen. While this in itself is only a very minor aesthetic adjustment, the consequences of this are huge.

Is there a place for minimalism? 

The rise of Instagram has undeniably marked a cultural shift toward narcissism. This is something the fashion industry has cashed in on, as the market floods with pieces designed to show how fashionable one can be at a fleeting glance.

In some ways this is heartbreaking, as a byproduct of this has been the reduction of Raf Simons to a “cooler” version of Supreme. In many young minds today, Simons exists as adidas sneakers and printed pieces from his earlier seasons, which had certainly helped to contextualize his work, but were by no means his focus. Raf was sold short, as the disconnect between the designer and the wearer is wider than ever, and his ideals have been lost for the sake of looking cool.

Images from Calvin Klein's spring 2017 campaign.
Images from Calvin Klein’s spring 2017 campaign.


What’s to come?

Since his complete creative takeover of the label, we have seen several things to suggest a subversive way forward. Simons recently revealed his redesign of the Calvin Klein logo along his muse for the project— the androgynous star of the pop-television series, Stranger Things. He has also announced that he will be showing Men’s and Women’s lines together. While this is nothing new in the industry, it is most definitely a sign of a progressive standard.

For years, H&M’s collaborations with luxury houses such as Balmain have caused quite a stir for consumers. Often marketed as an entry-level way to obtain designer clothing, it tends to expose us for our weakness to buy something that primarily serves as a status symbol. I think this is a fundamental misunderstanding of designer clothing. As we tend to use what we wear as an identity rather than an extension of our beliefs. H&M exploits the masses for wanting something that it can not have.

In contrast, Calvin Klein has recently announced their bespoke service. “A different departure for Calvin Klein: No longer solely for celebrities, rather an open made-to-measure service” How American to disrupt the ideals of  traditional couture, by providing made to measure for all! Unlike H&M which provides all look without substance, Simons will offer us substance without the look. This is a very sophisticated middle finger to consumer fashion, and an energy from Simons that is sorely missed.

As mentioned at the beginning, the world is split on their knowledge of Raf Simons. For those out there who like Raf without understanding what he stands for, you may not recognize what is to come. With his position at Calvin Klein, Simons’ voice can be heard by those who don’t care about fashion. It allows Simons to speak through a label with major roots at every level of the American Identity. A label carried nationwide in department stores, in Urban Outfitters and in high-end boutiques. This is a unique opportunity as it is something that we are all exposed to. With his runway debut in 1997, he marched local boys down the runway to represent his definition of masculinity. With his role at Calvin Klein, he will once again play philosopher, and present us with his lens of truth, beauty, and the modern American identity.


Check out a few more images from the tease below.



Images: Hypebeast, Buro 24/7

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