Girl, he literally just made an American horror-inspired collection
First Lady Melania Trump stepped off the Marine One helicopter yesterday, Hermès Birkin in hand and wearing a pretty familiar shirt. Red with camel pockets and epaulets, it formed part of the third look in Raf Simons’ Calvin Klein debut, held back in February. And when you think about it, it’s a pretty interesting choice.
Since arriving at CK, Simons and design partner Pieter Mulier have been faced with how to translate the most American of American fashion houses for a time when the country is in chaos. He hasn’t been explicit about politics, but the subtext has been there – “Raf’s America mirrors the one that Lynch has long mastered, where a fascinating darkness brews beneath the splendor of our polished, sweet surfaces,” wrote Patrik Sandberg, reporting last season on the plastic-covered coats and collegiate sleeves that made up that first collection.
Last week’s show took things a step further, distorting familiar American codes with a horrific edge. The prom dress made of shiny nylon like the bin-bags you might wrap a body in, the Andy Warhol Electric Chair prints, the cowboy boots which were violently splattered with red paint and the shoe that quite literally resembled Jason’s mask from Friday the 13th. The inspiration? American horror.
“Since arriving at CK, Simons and design partner Pieter Mulier have been faced with how to translate the most American of American fashion houses for a time when the country is in chaos”
No surprises there, really – because you know what horror movies do? Reflect the fears of society, turning a mirror on our own hysteria. And American horrors are particularly good at it: Night of the Living Dead explores a nightmarish endgame scenario that might have felt all-too possible in a world facing Cold War mutually assured destruction, while the Texas Chainsaw Massacre tells a twisted tale about the end of counterculture idealism and consequences of capitalism. Then there’s Carrie, which takes the rising Religious Right fears of the 70s about teenage sexuality and moral decay to the grossly violent conclusion of a prom night apocalypse. With axes hanging above the audience’s heads, Raf’s collection was a story of these anxieties and the state of America under Donald Trump.
Meanwhile, Melania’s outfits (the Gucci pussybow blouse, those not exactly hurricane-ready high heels, a $51,000 Dolce & Gabbana jacket, a FLOTUS baseball cap) have drawn a considerable amount of attention and ire. People aren’t happy that news outlets are reporting on (and seemingly validating) her wardrobe decisions, and designers have been faced with the controversial question of whether or not to dress her for formal events. Unsurprisingly considering how our industry is thankfully politically progressive, many prominent figures have voiced opinions. “I have no interest whatsoever in dressing Melania Trump," said Marc Jacobs, and Tom Ford agreed. “Even had Hillary won, she shouldn't be wearing my clothes,” he said back in November. “They're too expensive. And I don't mean this in a bad way… (She needs) to relate to everybody.”
Of all her fashion choices so far, this one is definitely the most interesting. And ironic.