The Nine Lives of Kevin Carrigan

Ahead of the SS14 show we celebrate a decade of muses and modernism at Calvin Klein

Fashion Feature
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Liu Wen wearing Calvin Klein Photography by Charlotte Wales, styling by Emma Wyman

Taken from the September issue of Dazed & Confused.

Kevin Carrigan began working for Calvin Klein in 1998, six years after the brand turned the 90s into the decade of the muse with images such as Kate Moss topless in the arms of Marky Mark. Carrigan's formative years were far from the minimalist world of Calvin Klein, however: during the 80s, while Richard Avedon was taking controversial pictures of Brooke Shields for the fashion house, he moved from the Lake District to London to study at the Royal College of Art and immersed himself in the city's flamboyant underground. To mark his tenth anniversary as a global creative director at Calvin Klein, where he heads up the platinum and white labels as well as the jeans and underwear divisions, we asked Carrigan to pinpoint nine decisive moments in his fashion career.

Teenage kicks 

Once a modernist, always a modernist

As a teenager, I was a real mod. My early fashion style was the neat, polished look of the 60s mixed with a bit of Bryan Ferry. Bryan was so cool, suave and good-looking -he inspired me. Coming from the Lake District in the UK, my sense of fashion was more related to music and London in my teen years.

A new direction 

Minimalism sweeps before it

The wave of minimalism in fashion was about to happen: the Japanese had just conquered Paris with their all-black designs and I was obsessed. At the time I had been a part of London's creative undercurrent and club scene, going to Leigh Bowery's night, Taboo, all of which I loved, but I felt that my design aesthetic was rooted elsewhere. From an art and design perspective, I was really interested in artists like Joseph Beuys, Richard Serra and Mark Rothko. I discovered them in my art-history classes and became deeply influenced by them. Thus there was this dichotomy of a pure and thoughtful yet functional design aesthetic rooted in simplicity and modernism, but also the eccentric club culture of London’s nightlife and the desire to express one's individuality.

Bauhaus 

The beauty of function

I have always been interested in the modernist design school of thought. I see myself as a modern, forward-looking designer, constantly striving for perfection in design that can influence a wider audience. Thus, the 20s design movement of the Bauhaus, which stood for the modern, the functional and the unadorned while enhancing our current and future lives, is always present when I design. I also always reference Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, who have had a huge influence on my design ethos. I almost consider myself an industrial designer or architect whose medium is cloth rather than metal or wood or concrete.

Casting 

Creating muses

Casting at Calvin Klein is an artform. It's about mood and emotion. There is also an element of risktaking, with a focus on finding new faces that stand out and feel relevant for the times. We have taken models and turned them into celebrities, and we have also used celebrities as models. For this shoot, working with Liu Wen and Matt Terry was another great fashion moment where all the stars aligned. Matt is a personal trainer who we discovered. There is nothing sexier than a guy in jeans - it is iconic Calvin.

Denim's social history 

The material that moves with the times

I love denim's expression of individuality - from James Dean in the 50s to San Francisco hippies in the 70s to punks in the 80s. I understand the cultural relevance of denim and the fact that it takes on this self-expression of our times, and believe it will continue to serve as that medium. The future of denim also interests me. Continued technological advancements will enable me to create a more innovative, complete denim offering. Evolution is a must.

Bruce Weber 

American male youth's photographer laureate

Bruce's photography means so much to me personally. I really connect to the way he shoots beauty. It feels intimate and sensual, sometimes irreverent, and he always captures the subtle moments. The images are slightly off, while steeped in beauty, the body and the classic. I have every book he has published and I am quite obsessed with all of his work. His photography for Calvin Klein defined an era and is always a reference for me.

Emotional design 

The poetry that leads to the clothes

I always start my design process with words and emotions. It is like writing poetry or a script - finding contrasts with words and emotions that contradict themselves but also sum up the mood of what I currently feel and believe is relevant for the season. I have made about 20 short films in my time at Calvin Klein and love producing them; some are two-minutes long, while my most recent, Memories, was 12 minutes. The moving image set to poetic words is hugely inspirational. Memories brought tears to some of the team, and was an emotional moment for me as my decade as a creative director for the company approached.

Sex sells 

The secret to Calvin Klein's imagery

I love provocative advertising because it can have multiple meanings and speak to a new generation. Calvin Klein launched its ck one fragrance at a Tower Records store and I was hooked by the Avedon-inspired advertising campaign, featuring Kate Moss and a multitude of eccentric and cool people. These images, shot by Steven Meisel, spoke to me: they were controversial and effortless, youthful and relevant, tapped into the zeitgeist of the moment. I have so many favourites, from the ones with Calvin himself, shot by Bruce Weber at Georgia O'Keeffe's Ghost Ranch in New Mexico (for AW84), to Brooke Shields in the now famous Calvin Klein jeans ad shot by Richard Avedon (1980), to every campaign featuring Kate Moss. Kate blew me away; she represented a new form of beauty that was effortless and slightly off. I also love the ads with Kate and Mark Wahlberg, which are so historical and have become embedded in our popular culture.

Working with Calvin 

Learning at the feet of the master

It was challenging and intimidating, yet phenomenal. He was always about the purity of fit, fabric and form, and editing. The hours spent on fittings and reducing the garment to its fundamental essence was amazing. He believed repetition is reputation and consistency, integrity and being in tune with the times you live in were fundamental to his modern, forward-looking business. He never really looked back - it was about today and the future.

CREDITS:

Photography: CHARLOTTE WALES

Styling: EMMA WYMAN

Hair: SHINGO SHIBATA

Make-up: KANAKO TAKASE using MAC

Models: LIU WEN at MARILYN, MATTHEW TERRY at FORD

Photographic assistants: SIGGY BODELAI

Styling assistant: ELLIE SIKES

Location: FAST ASHLEY'S

Casting: NOAH SHELLEY for AM CASTING

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Liu Wen, Kevin Carrigan and Matthew Terry wearing Calvin Klein Photography by Charlotte Wales, styling by Emma Wyman
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