New York Fashion Week

New York Fashion Week: Calvin Klein show is all about American dream meets American nightmare

Belgian designer Raf Simons went all out American for Calvin Klein, with Cindy Crawford’s teenage daughter making her catwalk debut for the label. Brooke Shields who modelled for the brand as a teen in the ’80s was also there

PUBLISHED : Friday, 08 September, 2017, 4:32pm
UPDATED : Friday, 08 September, 2017, 4:32pm

American dream met American nightmare at the hottest fashion ticket in New York on Thursday as Raf Simons soaked up the love for his second outing at Calvin Klein.

In a nod to past and present, Cindy Crawford’s 16-year-old daughter Kaia Gerber, treading in the footsteps of her supermodel mother, made her catwalk debut for the 2018 collection, watched from the front row by Brooke Shields, the label’s most famous teen model of the 1980s.

Also watching was Paris Jackson and Oscar-winning actor Mahershala Ali.

“There are no words to describe how I feel ... I love you endlessly Raf!” tweeted Gerber.

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

Calvin Klein was the most eagerly awaited event at New York Fashion Week, which kicked off on Thursday, but which critics worry is losing its lustre as top talent defects to join what are considered more creative and avant-garde juices flowing in Paris or London.

“It’s about American horror and American beauty,” says Simons, who in June became the first person since Klein himself to be honoured by the Council of Fashion Designers of America as best women’s and menswear designer in one year.

“Fashion tries to hide the horror and embrace only beauty. But they are both a part of life. This collection is a celebration of that: a celebration of American life,” he says.

The inspiration came from cinema – or more precisely – “the dream-factory of Hollywood and its depictions of an American nightmare and the all-powerful American dream.”

Considered one of the finest designers of his generation, the 49-year-old has managed to preserve the DNA of Calvin Klein – its androgynous suiting in particular – while making it fresh.

Simons again hosted the show at Calvin Klein’s headquarters in the Garment District in Manhattan.

The room was decked out in artwork by Ruby Sterling this time entitled “Sophomore” – conjuring up “the idealised American teenager” and Americana. Carved pumpkins pickaxes and cheerleading pom-poms dangled from the ceiling.

It was naughty and nice; sexy and demure; dramatic and innocent; feminine and androgynous while remaining minimalist and urban.

Full-skirted, 1950s-style silhouettes were reimagined in nylon, rubber from Ohio – part of the decaying manufacturing heartland that voted for Donald Trump last year – and hand-painted leather.

There was plenty of orange, yellow, black and red, and a selection of prints from Andy Warhol.

There were red patent leather cowboy boots, and matching trousers and shirts worn together that created an elongated, seamless silhouette.

A red and white coat almost appeared almost bloodstained, a prom dress was fashioned from a black bin liner and demure tight pencil skirts were sexed up with long burgundy latex gloves.

For the evening there were cheerleader’s tassel dresses that flounced with abandon, and exaggerated pom-pom style drooping bags.

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Simons, who also has his own label, previously breathed new life into Dior after John Galliano was fired in 2012 following anti-Semitic insults he made in a Paris bar.

A silhouette of Shields, who modelled for Calvin Klein in the 1980s and famously uttered: “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvin’s? Nothing” is stamped on the back of the label’s new jeans.

“It’s quite extraordinary,” she says. “I’m a fan.”

The other highlight of the day was rag & bone, the label co-founded by Britain’s Marcus Wainwright which was inspired this season by music festivals such as Glastonbury.

Eschewing the traditional catwalk show, the label unveiled its collection with photographic portraits as the clothes hung on coat hangers.

“I don’t believe in the runway show any more,” say Wainwright.

“If I want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to show you guys clothes, the question is ‘is the catwalk the best way?’ You see it but does the customer see it? Does it mean anything any more?”