I've pondered this a couple of times: how does signing a longterm contract and moving to a new country feel if you made this decision during a legendary time when the first black president in said country's history (who happens to be an avid celebrator of the arts in all its forms) was finishing up a second term, while it looked like even more liberal history would be made with the upcoming election of the first female president ever. But, instead what happens is -against all expectations- you find yourself waking up to a reality tv-star cum president favouring racist, sexist and homophobic policies. To make matters worse, the founder and namesake of the company you are now creatively heading -who fortunately doesn't get to decide who you can or can't design for, since he sold the company in 2002- openly expresses his support for said president and even offers to design the new first lady's inauguration dress. This is exactly what happened to Raf Simons, brand new Chief Creative Officer of Calvin Klein and I've come to the conclusion that it must thoroughly suck. In his most recent interview with GQ, Raf admitted to thinking: "Oh my god. What did we decide here a half-year ago? And then you can go and sit there and [cry] or you can just say, I’m going to do my thing. I have things that I have to do. And I have not only a responsibility, but a challenge."
One of the first challenges to tackle was how he was going to communicate about his first true American collection that would be sold in an era governed by Donald Trump and his cabinet of criminal clowns. And there it is: a whole digital installation is up on CalvinKlein.com.
Raf enlisted a group of collaborators (including our favourite, Willy Vanderperre) known for their work grounded in fierce independency and subversiveness.
First up: Richard Prince who recently disowned a work bought by Ivanka Trump by declaring it "fake" and returning the fee she paid.
(above image: photographed by Willy Vanderperre in front of Richard Prince, Nuts, 2000 © Richard Prince)
Other artists whose works have been used as a backdrop include frequent RS-collaborator Sterling Ruby. His scattered and discombobulated interpretation of the Star-Spangled Banner being looked at in a detached/look-at-what-you've-done/this-pretty-much-sums-it-up- way is one of my favourite Willy Vanderperre images of this set. (Photographed by Willy Vanderperre. Backdrop Andy Warhol - 'Skull' (1976))
Shouts to Andy Warhol and his "Death and Disaster"-series from which these works are part of.
Double shouts to CalvinKlein.com pointing out slyly that Andy Warhol was "a supporter of Henry Wallace, a left-leaning New Dealer who was that moment's Bernie Sanders."
Raf Simons in his GQ interview: "I can just say that I know that I’m doing something that people are going to feel good about. I know that. Maybe some of them hate my stuff, and they can go somewhere else. But I’m not doing nothing."(Photographed by Willy Vanderperre; backdrop Andy Warhol - 'Ambulance Disaster' (1963-64))(Photographed by Willy Vanderperre; backdrop Andy Warhol - 'Elvis 11 Times' (1963))(Above image: Ernesto Cervantes photographed by Willy Vanderperre in front of an installation by Dan Flavin)
Shouts to the late artist Dan Flavin who famously said what my big brother and a big part of the world's population have been repeating for the past couple of months: "It is what it is and it ain't nothing else."
Now ain't that the truth and some bullshit at the same time.
Raf Simons is resisting in his own way, and I'm having a good time noticing.
For full credits go here.