The month of September is in full swing, and there’s nothing to start off the festive calendar than with something refreshing – in a visionary sense. Newly appointed Creative Director Raf Simons isn’t one to stray far from what he knows best – from previously helming himself at the house of Jil Sander to Dior, and even managing his own eponymous line, Simons has always followed through with similar silhouettes, colour palettes and context of his interest in fashion and art. This was always a given.
So while the venue ran bare with white walls for NYFW S/S 2018, Cigarettes After Sex as the accompanying music made up for the lack of engagement entering, and one could appreciate the unique feature of the ceiling installation by artist and long-time Simons muse, Sterling Ruby. Consisting of cheerleader pom-poms, bold coloured tassels and flags and even axes hanging amongst the seated guests, it was clear that Simons was very invested in the typical American archetypes in film. It was a rather subtle art-meets-fashion touch from the designer, and a touch done nicely.
“It’s all about American horror and American beauty,” Simons had described of this collection, with a nod to such classic cult favourites in the visual reformation of runway looks, as well as Andy Warhol prints embedded on tops and skirts. From influences of the American West to pop art and a touch from Ruby’s artistry, there was everything needed to present the house of Calvin Klein as an American institution, from the humble roots it had once begun. Of course, given that Simons aims to provoke thought and consider fashion in a more critically cultural vertical, anyone should have been ready for the unsettling onset of rubber and leather looks, aiming to reflect suggested body bags (or even raincoats for a hunt job), or the use of Warhol’s images from his Death and Disasters series to embrace the American horror (film) genre.
The colour palette was mild – typical in Raf Simons manner of dark and murky plaid prints, but it all became a bit more abysmal from the typical cowboy-cut shirts and trousers to iconic film smocks usually worn by unsuspecting female victims in pastel colours. Then came the violently splattered long coats and skirts that really could have resembled one thing – but that’s up to anyone’s interpretation, really. There were full a-line skirts and silhouettes that would have been immediate to anyone’s attention if they had been following Simons since his time at Jil Sanders and Dior – and even through the deigns of the menswear tops, a complete mash-up of the Westerns, the 70s and sartorial fluidity. A familiarity re-designed for a different purpose.
There was also a nice selection of relatively sound ballgowns for the daring – in colours of anguish (red, black) and in the material of mock plastic or heavy leather.
Either way, you really had to look at each piece that came down the runway to really see the references that were made to particular films, and/or how it reflected today’s (America’s) society and unusual interest in trauma, disaster or chaos. There was Kill Bill (2003) in the yellow full body gown, complete with cleaning gloves, or the two-piece raincoat top and blue skirt, reminisce of The Shining’s (1980) Wendy. You just had to look, or you had to be a true film fanatic to connect the dots. There was even footwear that gave ode to the iconic ski mask from Friday the 13th (1984) – perhaps in time for Halloween?
“Fashion is about escaping reality,” Simons had said after the show ended, so true to his word that he was interested in exploring the industry in a different angle to both fascinate and terrify is guests.
Unsettlement and fear was instilled in the atmosphere, but it was done in a rather confident, beautiful and uniquely Simons way. So far, so good for Calvin Klein.