Few designers make us feel the way Raf Simons does. He is fascinating. Completely. Mysterious. Totally. Genius. 100%. We are often talking/writing about the Emotion of Fashion saying that it means the world to us, Raf Simons is perhaps the one designer who, collection after collection, sustains this emotion, who satisfies this need for beauty & creation. Just look at what he has achieved at Jil Sander, Dior or for his eponymous brand! A lot of these collections are now part of our Fashion Pantheon. We could quote his last womenswear collection for Jil Sander [AW12], the runway show in a garden at Pitti Uomo [Jil Sander SS11], his collaboration with Adidas or artist Sterling Ruby [AW14] or his Twin Peaks inspired collection for AW16. And for Dior, this is simply too hard to choose; of course, we could talk about his first Couture show or his Cruise in Tokyo but everything was gorgeous in those days for the venerable French Fashion House (a House that is slowly but surely becoming "beau-ring").
His arrival at Calvin Klein was not a shock in itself, the rumors were so numerous & insistent that we knew something was happening but it would certainly be a euphemism to say that his first collection for the New York label is highly expected & already fantasized. It's much more than that! On February 10th, the day he will present his first Menswear & Womenswear collections, the whole world will be waiting with excitation & eagerness not fear, simply because the Fashion crowd trust Raf Simons and know what he can achieve.
Yesterday, while we were still recovering from Trump's inauguration, Calvin Klein released Raf Simons's beginnings for the label. In the form of both an ad campaign & a lookbook, an all star cast of models (Julia Nobis, Lineisy Montero, Jamie Bochert, Abbey Lee Kershaw, Natalie Westling, Kiki Willems to name a few) + Stranger Things star Millie Bobby Brown is wearing the first creations of the Belgian master. This is not properly speaking a first glimpse at Ready To Wear but more a Couture (unveiled the day before Couture begins in Paris) approach to the Calvin Klein designs. Entitled By Appointment, this made to measure service tends to give a more luxury approach to the NYC label. Starting April 1st, everyone (with a substantial budget) will be able to order bespoke Calvin Klein pieces (even underwear, the most iconic CK piece!). This initiative will reposition the brand on the market and will add something unique, something special to the clothes. Indeed, to be honest, if you'd asked me a few days ago, my definition of Calvin Klein, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have pronounced the word "luxury". Yet, it was but for a majority of people, Calvin Klein is about minimalism, 90's aesthetics, coolness, Mark Wahlberg & Kate Moss, celebrating an American attitude. As Raf Simons said, "Calvin Klein is much more than underwear and iconic jeans", with a brand new chapter about to be written, it had to be understood & assimilated.
On the Calvin Klein website, we learn more about this very first collection and the least we can say is that Raf Simons has strictly respected & protected the fundamental codes of the label i.e "this By Appointment collection is a way to celebrate the American Woman and American Fashion". The most Calvin Klein theme and perhaps the most in the spirit of the times we're experiencing. Photographed by Willy Vanderperre and styled by Olivier Rizzo, the pictures are featuring outfits inspired by US culture; thus, you'll find outfits inspired by Prom dresses (but not in a kitsch way don't worry!) or cheerleaders. Strong American "clichés" that are taken to another level thanks to Raf Simon's radicality & vision. This collection is an ode to women (something that needs to be celebrated these days), to strong women, to independent ones who "can be [themselves] in the clothes [they're] wearing". This collection celebrates women regardless of their age or color and most of all, it celebrates a craftsmanship, a savoir-faire, a technique; once again, something that was not necessarily associated with Calvin Klein (even though Francisco Costa's beautiful collections had a crafty side that cannot be ignored). You just have to take a look at the pictures above to see the insane work on embellishments, embroideries, fabrics & cuts. All the questions we could have regarding this Raf Simons's era are immediately answered with these photographs. Everything is already here, the whole picture seems already perfect; the black and white aesthetics, the sexy & languid models, this Americana thing but with the Raf Simons's touch, his own way of imagining/thinking clothes (in the proportions, the fabrics...), his faithful team of photographer, stylist & models (led by Julia Nobis, Raf's fav girl).
With only a few photographs featuring strong/spectacular pieces (these feather dresses & this Star Spangled Banner skirt are everything!), we already know Calvin Klein is in good hands with Raf Simons. His strike force is intact and completely in accordance with what we are experiencing right now. In only a few pictures, he has succeeded in uniting two things that seem quite irreconcilable these days; a bigger picture of America and the status of women in society. He seems to tell us that women are the key to the future greatness of America and this makes us completely obsessed!
Words by Charles Margueritte
Pictures via the Calvin Klein website