The fashion industry is among very few who, at least right now, are hungry for an outsider’s opinion on America. And when it came time for Raf Simons to continue that commentary via his collections for Calvin Klein 250W39NYC, their appetite was insatiable. At the surface of his fall 2018 show, onlookers could draw several connections to a dystopia that no longer seems so far off — a blackened barnyard (set atop a foot of popcorn), clothes reminiscent of the Great Depression, hazmat suits, and more — but, after his third collection for the American label, is Simons still in a dogged pursuit of commenting on our unconscious history? Or, like most of us, ready to move on from it?
It’s a lot to unpack, especially after a New York Fashion Week that felt more like a slow burn than the city that never sleeps. So, let’s start with the easy stuff: the clothes. On the outside, coats felt daunting, almost henchman-like, sweaters and button-ups seemed dissimilarly comfortable and utilitarian, and slacks were, again, slim yet slouchy. Add in a few looks that were more literal than others — Nepali quilts, survival blanket dresses (indeed, in their blinding splendor), knitted balaclava hats — and Simons rounded out a vision that may have felt dark, but was, nevertheless, assuredly optimistic. Good luck getting your hands into those astronaut gloves, too.
For what it’s worth, the show notes insist he was inspired by the “discovery of America,” that is, the ’60s: the Space Race era and the information age, only his version boasts a democracy that has no hierarchy. It’s a mood board he managed to sum up in one word, one that’s supposed to be synonymous with Calvin Klein, too: freedom.
Ahead, we take a deeper dive into a few other truths from Calvin Klein 250W39NYC’s latest show that we hold to be self evident. And yes, we think we may have even figured out that whole popcorn thing.
The history of workwear varies by country, but hazmat suits have been a signature look in American technical industries for decades. While we don’t often see them on firefighters or Air Force pilots, they are used in trainings, and are typically made of aluminized shells (remember: those dresses).
No word on whether or not this was a message that clothes can protect us from, or carry us through, toxic environments, but ahead of the next election season and with climate change worsening, it’s not a bad idea.
While some folks would consider the movie snack to be a point of distraction, say, from a boring film, it actually has deep roots in U.S. history. During the Great Depression, popcorn was one of the only industries that thrived while others sank. And during World War II, people ate more of it during sugar rations. Was this Simons’ way of pointing to success? Optimism? We can’t be so sure, but it went viral regardless.
Warhol’s Death & Disaster Series
We should have seen this one coming, after all, since Calvin Klein announced its partnership with the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. last year, which gave the label full access to the artist’s work.
Telling WWD, “[Warhol] captured all sides of the American experience, including sometimes its darker sides. [His] art tells more truths about his country than you can find almost anywhere else.” Perhaps Simons was hinting at the Electric Chair we’d eventually see on the facade of the barn at his latest show. This was one of several ominous vibes the presentation gave off.
The Great Depression
The American quilt motifs — a throwback to his first collection for the brand — was seen on chiffon dresses, a few blankets, and most of the knitwear, and those balaclava hats point to the dark era in fashion where creativity and innovation was a requirement, not a luxury. Now whether that’s all it’ll take for shoppers to reckon with the Calvin Klein 250W39NYC price tag is unclear, but hey, good marketing is good marketing.
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