Americana: what went down at Raf Simon’s debut for Calvin Klein

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 12 February, 2017, 7:13am
UPDATED : Sunday, 12 February, 2017, 7:17am

As America struggles with it’s own identity, this show was an ode to the many facets of America, from the Western culture to Art Deco styles and the urban city.

Sitting front row were some of the countries biggest Hollywood stars: Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Bosworth A$AP Rocky, Amber Valetta, Julianne Moore and Sarah Jessica Parker, who along with the fashion world, have waited with bated breath to see what Chief Creative Officer Raf Simons would do at the iconic American brand. Brooke Shields was also there, you’ll recall that a coy teenage Sheild’s in just a pair of jeans starred in one of the Calvin Klein’s most XXX ads in the 1990s.

“Not one era, not one thing, not one look. It is the coming together of different characters and different individuals, just like America itself. It is the unique beauty and emotion of America,” says Simon’s in the show notes.

The setting inside the venue was a colourful, specially commissioned installation artwork by Sterling Ruby - an American artist using mixed materials from painting to sculpture and video to explore themes that range from subcultures to American dominance and decline.

What came on the runway was a celebration of American diversity and youth manifest into an Autumn-Winter 2017 show with both mens and womenswear showing off various styles and codes that borrow from influences as diverse as marching band uniforms, utility workwear, and big shouldered power suits.

Simons, who is known for his pure lines and poetic minimalism, this time created outfits that had an essence of functionality but rebelled from what we’ve come to know as a typical Calvin Klein minimalism. The silhouette might have been quite consistent; but it was a beautiful but coherent mash up of materials, from soft feathers, subtle knits to the hard shiny leather, clear plastic and stiff suiting. The most Instagrammed items included flamboyant ostrich feather evening dresses had clear plastic covers as if they just came back from the dry cleaners.

There was a sense of youthful positivity in all these bold hues: just see those colourful parkas and ultra confident colour blocking. And since things were inspired by an outsider’s romantic ideas of American fashion and culture, it’s no surprise that there was plenty of sporty elegance to the line (see those stripes running down trouser legs). But Simon’s pulled back and brought some strictness in style with a disciplined shape and silhouette. Sharp 70s collars and buttoned up workwear jumpsuits in black vinyl, or boxy double denims were quirky enough to be interesting. Amongst our favourite outfits where colourful slouchey knits contrasted with masculine tailoring.

A new chapter indeed for the Calvin Klein brand under the Belgian Simons; but they were clear that this was not just a solo effort and Simons took the finale bow with the Creative Director of the brand, Pieter Mulier. Their debut was a fascinating one, setting a new tone for the iconic American brand. The journey has just started and we’ll expect development and evolution - it doesn’t seem that Simons and Mulier are giving away everything just yet.