Calvin Klein F/W 2017.18 New York - Page 7 - the Fashion Spot
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Vanessa Friedman

New York Fashion Week blew into the city on Thursday amid a blizzard and a brouhaha (the Trump vs. Nordstrom uproar), but it wasn’t until Friday that it really began.

Did you hear the whoosh?

That was the sound of the fashion industry finally releasing the breath that had been bated since August, when it was announced that Raf Simons, beloved for resetting the dial on Jil Sander and Christian Dior, had been named chief creative officer of Calvin Klein and suddenly the hope that sportswear could once again exert a magnetic pull on the world seemed within reach.

Because in his debut he took that bet head-on, and raised it one.

If he did not reshape the relationship of clothing and identity, or rewrite the description of what New York fashion meant as originally laid down in part by Calvin Klein-the-designer, he did provide a crystal clear argument for the relevancy of the American idea — and a way forward.

It’s worth noting (sotto voce, nudge nudge) that it took a Belgian to do it.

Held in the brand’s headquarters, the show took place under a permanent installation by Mr. Simons’s frequent collaborator, the artist Sterling Ruby, entitled “Sterling Ruby Imagined America,” all colorful yarn mop-heads and industrial detritus conveying the optimism of the everyday, and before a crowd that stretched from Calvin past to present (Lauren Hutton, Brooke Shields, Millie Bobby Brown) to celebrity royalty (Gwyneth Paltrow, Julianne Moore) to Friends of Raf (Cindy Sherman, Rachel Feinstein, ASAP Rocky). And it represented, read the show notes, “the coming together of different characters and different individuals, just like America itself.”

That’s a big claim, but it was largely justified.

Both men and women were on the runway, and Mr. Simons (working with his creative director, Pieter Mulier, whom he also included in his final runway bow) dressed them in almost identical looks, emphasizing the fact that ease, action and modernity are not gender-specific concepts. It wasn’t so much about confronting stereotype — the men didn’t wear the skirts, or the dresses — but rather nodding to equal opportunity across genres.

In sportswear, for example, via slouchy trousers that hung on the hip, with athletic stripes up the side, paired with buttoned-up Western-pocket shirts over turtlenecks, all in contrasting shades. For the power set, with Prince of Wales double-breasted trouser suiting paired with sheer nylon muscle shirts. Via a rethinking of past classics and familiar iconography: thick varsity rib-knit sleeves severed from their sweaters and layered over jackets; an updated classic denim in a dark wash and a 1970s vibe; black leather biker jackets embossed in silver roses; draped asymmetric stars-and-stripes skirts; and bedquilts-cum-Crombie coats.

Also with a slipdress, floral print or feather-covered, slipcovered in turn with clear vinyl, a synthetic overlay likewise applied to gold faux-fur grandma bathrobe coats and tailored overcoats, the better to provide both protection and luminescence. And a much smarter alternative to ye olde paillette.

The slice of rib underneath the breast may prove a challenging proposition as an erogenous zone, but these were clothes that wore their concept lightly, sketching out a no-fuss melting pot of the mind without hesitation and making you think twice about your own preconceptions.

It was about time.

As Norma Desmond said in “Sunset Boulevard,” “I am big; it was the pictures that got small.” In New York, it often seems this could apply to many designers’ ambitions.

Case in point were the few shows that came before: Brock Collection, where Laura Vassar and Kristopher Brock send out an ode to uptown prairie chic in cashmere and mink, gingham and micropleating; Adam Selman, where the eponymous designer embraced a Streetwear of the Roses shtick with funky embroidered denim, billowing gingham shirtdresses unbuttoned to the hot pants and disco slips; and Thakoon, which got a bit hung up on its arty video presentation, a frame that didn’t really equate with the cute mash-up of bandannas, striped shirting and trench coats that formed the clothes.

While they were perfectly fine, they were also politely familiar, without any sense of urgency. Like many collections, they have gotten so predictable and safe. Mr. Simons could probably have shown a line of coherently designed Calvin Klein paper bags and the audience would have fallen into a collective swoon and screamed “genius.” That he did not — that he dared to try to live up to the founder’s legacy and say something bigger and more visceral with his clothes — could make all the difference.

Nicole Phelps

After months of buildup and weeks of teasing what his Calvin Klein will look like via advertising campaigns and a newly created couture-ish collection called By Appointment, Raf Simons made his debut this morning on the ground floor of the company’s 39th Street headquarters before a small crowd of fashion insiders and a glittering group of celebrities. Brooke “nothing comes between me and my Calvins” Shields was in a mix that included Gwyneth Paltrow, Julianne Moore, A$AP Rocky, Naomie Harris, and the young stars of Moonlight. Millie Bobby Brown, a new face of Calvin, also sat front row.

Simons has a lot going for him: 20-plus years’ experience designing arguably the most influential men’s label around (see: Off-White, et al.), and a pristine womenswear CV that includes Jil Sander and Christian Dior, sui generis pioneers of their day whose oeuvres he studied and approached with huge respect. But what stands out as his unique selling proposition and what puts him in a class almost all his own—he has been heralded as the savior of American fashion, a more pressing assignment than ever, given the imminent exodus of Proenza Schouler and Rodarte for Paris—is Simons’s earnest sincerity. It’s what brought the show “home” to 39th Street, rather than a Chelsea gallery; it’s what prompted him to add “Established 1968” on the show’s invitations; and it’s why he had tears in his eyes, as he has so often in the past, as he took his runway bow with his right-hand man and creative director Pieter Mulier. His sincerity has endeared him to a crowd more familiar with froideur.

Fashion has lately witnessed many a house revival with such mixed results that the rule book has all but exploded. Arguably the most successful creative director of recent years—Hedi Slimane at Saint Laurent—was a disruptor, not a reverer. “What will Raf do?” has been the refrain since he signed on the dotted line last August. The house of Calvin has its own codes: primarily American minimalism and a provocative sort of sensuality (with the sensuality bit being the harder element to nail for Simons’s predecessor, Francisco Costa). Simons clarified his own approach in the program notes: “You are sat in an artwork by Sterling Ruby . . . . It is part of Simons’s curatorial approach to the brand.”

With outsiders’ perspectives, Simons and Mulier riffed on Americanisms, including brightly colored band uniforms, Wall Street suits, sheriff’s jackets, quilting on some terrific men’s parka--make those for women, too, please!--and metal-tipped cowboy boots. They devoted a fair bit of attention to the great American plastic couch cover, slipping transparent plastic over everything from plaid tailoring to a sensational yellow-gold fur coat and feathered cocktail numbers. Strange. But it’s such a weird idea, it just may catch on. Calvinisms got their attention, too. Male and female models wore varsity sweaters with sheer torsos in a technical knit that looked lifted from the world of shapewear, a tricky look for both genders. Brooke Shields’s famous silhouette was stamped on the leather label on the back waistband of jeans.

Denim represents a huge opportunity for Simons and co., a fact he must be well aware of as a longtime fan of Helmut Lang, whose own denim game was so strong. Jeans may be a huge part of the Calvin Klein business, but they haven’t registered with the fashion crowd for years. That may soon be changing. Within this insular world, if not necessarily outside of it, interest in suiting is surging, and the precision tailoring here, both in the banker plaids and band-leader brights, will be alluring. It could help lift the label out of the realm of “smoke and mirrors” posturing so often talked about, into real retail viability. As for the collection’s dresses baring the bottom curve of breasts, only the bravest members of today’s celebrity contingent will give them a go.
Citing his own icons (James Dean and Barack Obama) backstage, Mulier said, “The first time I visited America I was 22, and it’s always been my dream to come here.” He and Simons have picked a complicated, contentious moment to put down roots. They’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly, and with all sincerity they’re embracing it. That’s a smart way to start the brand’s new era—it gives them a lot of room to move around. This wasn’t a home run, to use another Americanism, but it gave some of us a well-timed jolt of hope and optimism.

we are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams. wandering by lone sea breakers and sitting by desolate streams. world losers and world forsakers, on whom the pale moon gleams. yet we are the movers and shakers of the world for ever it seems
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I like this, this is the suitable proposition from Raf and Pieter for CK and for fashion now in general. I feel there is a pressure to "reinventing the wheel" for him from some (actually a lot) of you here, but this is not the case. If this would be someone's graduation collection, probably we don't have discussion like this. But this is a big house and this is Raf, end of story. Fashion still believe in him after his dark late-dior days and I'm happy that his voice is still relevant. What you see is what you desired (for me at least). Those editorial pieces are lovely, very insgaram-friendly I would say, but the best pieces here are those simple looks. For example, I wasn't that excited about the whole jeans look for a long time. The suits are so well done. I like this prada/helmut-lang'y mood, the idea of showing both men and women collections, the casting and music was awesome. My only problem is about their predictable and a bit pretentious advertising system, we get it you love art Raf!

pardon my english
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All props to them for getting music royalty right.
This light mood makes me feel 90s Perry Ellis. Mass market appropriate.

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