Upon first impression, viewers of Raf Simons’ Fall/Winter ‘18 collection for Calvin Klein may have thought they took a wrong turn into unmarked territory. Taking in the intimidating setting was the first stop on the tour. Located in the American Stock Exchange building in lower Manhattan, already a place of maligned emotions and turbulent hours, Simons had erected blood red barn facades covered in Andy Warhol references, dotted by exposed scaffolding and topped off with a floor completely covered with popcorn. There is a lot to take in here and we haven’t even gotten to the collection yet.
Simons has always had a sort of dystopian view of Americana, and this collection was no different; sending his first model out in an reworked orange hazmat suit, followed by other safety inspired garments compete with reflective tape and metallic gloves. Yet as the collection progressed it was clear that his is not a hopeless vision, one that only foresees the distruction of society and the aftermath, but also the delicate beauty of times gone by with breezy floor length prairie skirts and patchwork dresses with cut outs exposing the underside of the model’s breasts, not in a gratuitous manner, just enough to still be deemed tasteful and interesting.
Of course this being a Fall/Winter collection the concept of warmth and layers comes into play and Simons started at the top, adorning each model with a knit head cap leaving just the face exposed. Oversized coats were prevelant for both men and women, as is on trend at the moment, following the “ugly beautiful” concept closely with plaid trench coats and a color palette of browns, greys and yellows. Simons use of shiny mylar in dresses and coats brought the collection back to its post apocalyptic roots. There were also hints of a sense of humor dotted throughout the runway with welcome winks of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner appearing amidst garments with quilted starbursts, as if your grandmother had been repairing a hole in your favorite sweater.
As Simons third show under the Calvin Klein label, it is a privilege to be able to watch such a talented designer completely reinvite a brand and see the evolution as the name changes hands. This is the new CK, a brand so ingrained in American fashion that we all feel a right to have an emotional stake in it. It is refreshing to see a designer challenge our notions and what we think we want. Beauty is easy, but it is constantly changing and evolving, much like the world’s view on American, and we are lucky to have Raf Simons there to navigate us through.
Written by Elizabeth Kramsky
Visuals by Olga Sorokina
Photo by Julia Chesky