At the core of CK is a very sensual and minimal style. Nothing epitomises the brand more than their iconic underwear collection. Introducing Raf Simons to the brand resulted in a tide of shock across the fashion world. It indicated the direction Calvin Klein desired to evolve into. The house of CK is known for commercial fashion. Bringing Raf in shows clear intent to transition into high fashion.
Raf certainly did not disappoint with his seasonably spectacular runway shows. Simons created an American aesthetic with his designs including cowboy boots and stock broker suits for his Fall 2017 collection. (swipe for looks)
His attempt to rebirth Calvin Klein did not go unnoticed. CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers in America) presented Raf with the designer of the year award for both menswear and for womenswear. He is the first designer to win both accolades since Calvin Klein himself in 1993.
Kardashians x Klein
At the start of 2018 Raf Simons called upon the Kardashians to be the new face of Calvin Klein. A bold move to drive sales and further entice the American consumer. He followed suit for the 2018 Ready-To-Wear collection by truly embracing Americanism. The collection featured a prominent use of leather that would ordinarily border on the excessive but was seemingly appropriate for this American audience. (swipe for looks)
Once again Simons had produced an inspiring collection that had people talking about Calvin Klein in a completely new vein. He mixed colours up in a tie dye manner creating what I can only describe to be ‘American Horror Story’ inspired looks. The icing on a extravagantly layered cake were his Andy Warhol inspired prints of Dennis Hopper.
CK’s resort 2019 collection showcased Raf’s ability to satisfy both the commercial fans and those who enjoy the conceptual side of fashion. Fashion critics across the globe spewed their thoughts on the remaining two collections: Ready-To-Wear (and Menswear) 2019 and Pre-Fall 2019. Both collections lacklustre and devoid of the emblematic Raf Simons look. Even the greatest of designers can have poor collections.
Soon after, PVH corporation who owns Calvin Klein as well as the likes of Tommy Hilfiger began to criticise CK’s sales revenue. What was seen on the runway shows did not transfer into tangible sales for Calvin Klein. Tension grew further until Raf Simons “amicably” parted ways with Calvin Klein at the tail end of 2018, with 8 months remaining on his contract. Calvin Klein released a statement expressing their desire to return back to commercial fashion and focus their ambitions solely on this.
So what went wrong in the two years Raf was at Calvin Klein?
Raf is a revered fashion designer who had just come off the back of designing several haute couture shows. Calvin Klein is underwear and sex appeal. To put it bluntly, though I dare say I need to make it any more blunt, Raf was seemingly out of touch. Let me swiftly amend this statement. CALVIN KLEIN* were out of touch. CK knew the book Raf Simon’s had delicately written to this point. They knew his story and they knew what he brings. For them to express a retrospect on how their brand and Raf Simons don’t match is quite laughable.
Raf Simons did what Raf Simons does best. Creating jaw dropping collections that has fashion journalists across the globe searching for new ways to say “he’s done it again”.
Calvin Klein tried kicking it with the big boys and the people said no. You cannot steer in the direction of aspiring to transform into a luxury fashion house to then immediately charge those extravagant prices. Calvin Klein’s aspirations to become high end were failed by their lack of judgment, forbidding their core consumer base to adapt to such a stark change in a timely manner.
It is worth saying Raf’s approach to American fashion was very similar to his approach to high European fashion. In Europe Raf was judged more heavily on the intricacies of his design whereas America has a more minimal and commercially viable approach to fashion.
I’m not saying Americans are basic. I’m not.
As of April 2020, Raf Simons is the co-creative director of Prada alongside fellow fashion titan Miuccia Prada. Miuccia Prada has sat on the throne of Prada since 1978. It will be interesting to see how Raf’s new creative energy will influence future collections. Prada are known for their amazing womenswear collections. Their menswear collections are comparatively below par. I would love to see what Raf does to re-inspire the menswear collections at Prada.
If you made it this far I APPRECIATE YOU. Hopefully you guys like this new content. I was feeling stagnant with the styling content and whilst I won’t stop making content teaching you guys the latest trends, I do want to experiment with the more technical side of fashion. From analysing runways to exploring even more fashion designers. Stay tuned and subscribe!