Kevin Carrigan on breaking down denim

The Calvin Klein creative director talks relaxed style and artistic ambition

Fashion Q+A
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Photography Davide Maestri

Whilst Italo Zucchelli and Francisco Costa head up men's and women's Calvin Klein Collection runway workouts, Kevin Carrigan holds the reins as global creative director for Calvin Klein, Calvin Klein Jeans, ck Calvin Klein. Spending the past thirteen years directing the iconic bloodlines of the American powerhouse, which anyone with style inclination has their own memories of, we caught up with the British designer during a rare trip to London – and got recommended American Horror Story: Asylum.

Dazed Digital: What does Calvin Klein mean to you?

Kevin Carrigan: I first started looking at Calvin Klein in the early 90’s, when you could buy CK One fragrance at Tower Records – as a young guy in London that spoke to me. I loved the imagery, I loved what it stood for, I loved the fact that it was clean, paired down. It wasn’t about ostentatious clothes. It was the way I wanted to live and dress by – almost like the Bauhaus, my design aesthetic from when I was at the Royal College. So when Calvin called to come work for him it was obviously a ‘yes’! It was like I’d won the lottery, living in New York.

DD: What do you enjoy about working with denim in particular?
Kevin Carrigan: I always wear jeans so that’s a given. Then there’s the cultural value, looking at the way we launched denim with Brooke [Shields] in 1978, reaching a wider audience, almost like Coca Cola. Denim originating from Nîmes in France, is a worker fabric that suddenly became a rebel fabric in the 50s when James Dean wore it. Later Johnny Rotten wore it to meet the Queen. That’s a side of denim I like.

DD: Imagery has always been so important to Calvin Klein. Do you have any favourite moments?
Kevin Carrigan: That’s a really hard question! We talk about the future, you know. So it was really interesting to do this movie, Provocations. Fabien Baron was the art director, and it’s a film with all our brands in it, featuring Alexander Skarsgård and Suvi [Koponen]. It actually promotes denim into film noir. One of my key phrases for spring was ‘light movement’, and those were the two words I wanted to get into the denim; the palest, lightest blues. It’s not a commercial, I think it’s a very intense moment. Have you seen the movie Drive? There’s a moment in it where it elevates the jean to part of the movie, like Rebel Without A Cause.

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Photography Davide Maestri

DD: What else have you done for summer?
Kevin Carrigan: Well for winter we’d done liquid metal, a lot of coating, almost like a leather jean. The ad campaign referenced factory girls, the 60s and I just wanted to strip everything away and make pure American denim: denim on denim on denim. I wanted it to be broken back down and I think that’s what’s happening a little bit in fashion. People will be wearing more slouchy skinnies, oversized denim shirts rolled up, denim jackets, I think that outfit will become a new signature this summer. Anyway that’s what I’m hoping [laughs]. It's what the clairvoyant in me sees.

DD: Beyond clothes, what else are you into?
Kevin Carrigan: I’m loving American Horror Story, I’m obsessed with Jessica Lange in series 2, Asylum. It’s like The ShiningCarrieThe OmenRosemary’s Baby all rolled into one episode. All the horror references I love. There’s a religious overtone, it’s got poltergeist clairvoyance in there. It is the most fucked up piece of TV at the moment, really cracked out.

DD: Will it influence your work?
Kevin Carrigan: I’m not so sure about that, but we’ll see! I like True Blood and I did a collection that was shot in a car park at night and it was a bit vampire-esque. I read an article recently about how creative American TV is getting from a writing point of view. I think that in lots of other mediums such as art, theatre, movies, music, there are a lot of things that are breaking through – and I do think it’s time the fashion industry steps it up a bit, the art side of our world.


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