I’m a big fan of Raf Simons. Honestly. I loved (most of) what he did for Dior and so was really looking forward to his Calvin Klein debut. But I really don’t know what to make of it.
My first reaction? Underwhelmed. A bit irritated, mainly due to the slightly scary skinniness/shapelessness of some of those models. Does nobody care about the size zero issue any more?
My second reaction? Ok, I’m warming to it but I still don’t think it deserves the almost-unanimous praise it has received. After reading quite a few reviews of the show in which Simons’ (and indispensable sidekick Pieter Mulier’s) first co-ed collection for Calvin Klein was likened to the second coming, it reminds me how universally uncritical fashion critics are these days.
Yet Suzy Menkes managed to bring some perspective. Her review was generally positive but she still said qualified that saying it “gave promise of much more”.
So I feel I should take a second look and ok, I don’t feel quite as ‘anti’ as I did at first glance. Does that mean I love it? No. Helmut Lang-style 90s looks and shiny clear plastic were never quite my cup of tea, so that’s no surprise.
But there were some cool Wall Street-style suits, an update on the tailored coats that characterised the brand’s early years, and a further nod to the wider shoulderline that several labels have been pushing in recent seasons, looking good on leather bomber jackets with appliqué roses.
It waved the flag for its own heritage (a jeans patch featuring the infamous Brooke Shields jeans ad visual), and waved the flag for Americana with dark wash jeans, western shirts, prairie-style patchwork/quilting, and even an American flag skirt, while adding in a few subtle anti-Trump digs (so thumbs-up there Raf).
Will it propel Calvin Klein back to the top rank of influencer labels? Well, Calvin Klein owner PVH saw its share price rising after the show if that’s anything to go by.
Yet we have to remember that Calvin Klein is more than just a designer label and creating great runway collections isn’t necessarily the first priority.
Unlike Dior, Prada, Burberry, Gucci, Chloé et al, the runway collection is less about shifting large volumes of product and more about setting an overall tone for a brand that primarily flogs jeans, T-shirts, vests, sunglasses, and perfumes rather than $2k coats, dresses and shoes.
Under Raf Simons, it’s certainly one to watch.