Today at 10 AM local time, Raf Simons and Creative Director Pieter Mulier introduced us to the new Calvin Klein Collection at New York Fashion Week, in a mixed-gender AW17 runway show at Calvin Klein’s headquarters. This preface is me remaining calm while violently screaming internally. The show invite, featuring orange-red colouring reminiscent of Richard Prince’s 2007 painting “Untitled (Orange Joke)”, hinted at something streamlined and inspired by Simons’ love affair with art and respect for the brand’s heritage (by mentioning its year of establishment). Invites were also accompanied by branded white bandanas, the symbol of Business of Fashion’s new initiative #TiedTogether, a project in support of the ACLU and UNHCR beseeching fashion week revellers and designers to add a statement of ‘solidarity, human unity and inclusiveness’ to their clothing in times of political turmoil and divisiveness. It’s time for fashion to speak up. And as we mentioned before, Raf is here to #resist. All of this messaging turned out to be the ultimate harbinger for what was to come. The show, complimented from above by a specially commissioned Sterling Ruby ceiling installation named ‘Sterling Ruby imagined America’, was an exquisite display of the multiplicity that typifies the U.S. of A and its style.
In the show notes, Raf Simons described his first collection as an homage to America. “It reflects the environment. All of these different people with different styles and dress codes. It’s the future, the past, Art Deco, the city, the American West… all of these things and none of these things. Not one era, not one thing, not one look.” This was evident as looks ran the gamut from marching band stripes, banker tailoring, modern showgirls, traditional quilting to clean western-wear. From the city to the sprawling plains. Truly an outlander’s romantic view of what America is made of. This sounds like it should have been a ragtag, incoherent jumble but the whole was held together so beautifully by that ruthless eye and hand combo of Simons and Mulier. Harking back to Raf Simons’ tenure at Jil Sander and Dior, what we saw here was the pinpointed identification of a brand’s DNA transposed onto something of the future, something staunchly fresh. As Simons notes: “Not the old, not the new, but the necessary”. Guests including Moonlight’s Naomie Harris, ‘By Appointment’ face Millie Bobby Brown, artist Cindy Sherman, A$AP Rocky, iconic CK face Brooke Shields and longtime collaborators Willy Vanderperre, Mark Colle and Sterling Ruby enjoyed the stream of monogram collar turtlenecks peaking out over starched colour-blocked shirts, exquisitely-tailored peak-lapel long coats, doctor’s bags matched with cowboy boots, slinky tricot pencil skirts, vinyl coating on trenches as well as feather-studded shift dresses and a gold faux fur cinched with a diamanté strap (I audibly gasped), translucent body-con men's tees, aviator silver-embossed leather jackets, the New Calvin Jeans (Canadian tuxedo-style) featuring miniature vintage ads on the back labels and Jonas Gloeer in a full black leather get-up. Turned-over collars and cut-outs hinted at a grown-up sensuality that only Americana-by-a-Euro could approximate. With David Bowie’s “This Is Not America” blaring through the speakers at the beginning and ending of the show, Simons made clear - even as he blithely ran out from backstage with Pieter Mulier - that the political messaging that filtered into the Raf Simons AW17 menswear collection shown last week, thankfully beared repeating. We are all stronger and more beautiful together, our diversity is what creates a unique but cohesive patchwork that should not let itself be torn asunder by carrot-hued megalomaniacs pulling at the fabric of society. A new dawn in American fashion has broken. It’s supernova bright and speaks with a Neerpelt lilt. And we’re more keen than ever to walk with you down this star-spangled, vinyl-coated path, Raf.
CALVIN KLEIN AW17 SHOW SOUNDTRACK