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Photography Lillie Eiger

Everything that happened at Raf’s first Calvin Klein show

With a soundtrack that borrowed from Blue Velvet and The Virgin Suicides, Simons presented his slightly twisted tribute to America

With his first show for the brand today in New York, Raf Simons officially debuted his chapter in Calvin Klein history. With a white bandana (part of the #tiedtogether campaign) serving as the invite, Simons hinted towards a show which would explore the mythic qualities and style signatures of America. Here’s what went down.


Though the new campaign released just a few days before the show seemed to take the brand away from its previous endorsement-heavy ad approach, Raf’s Calvin debut did feature some celebrity star power, with current face of the brand (and Dazed cover star) Millie Bobby Brown taking over their Snapchat account before the show. As a breakout Brit actress famous for playing a telekinetic teen in a hit US-set sci-fi show, she’s a good fit for a collection which examines an outsider’s POV on America.


The FROW arrangement was just as interesting. A$AP Rocky sat sandwiched between Millie and Sofia Coppola, and opposite Abbey Lee Kershaw. Unsurprisingly, longterm Simons collaborator Willy Vanderperre was present, as was artist Cindy Sherman, who Simons has cited as a personal inspiration. The two added to a line-up which included Brooke Shields, Gwyneth Paltrow, Greta Gerwig and Diane Von Furstenberg.   


“You are sat in an artwork by Sterling Ruby,” ran the opening of the show notes, discussing the space in which the audience were seated, on a floor of the brand’s West 39th Street headquarters. “Here, (Raf Simons) gave the artist Sterling Ruby free rein to imagine a work appropriate for Calvin Klein: Sterling Ruby imagined America.” The work wasn’t just temporarily erected for the show – it’s part of a trilogy by Ruby for CK, with part two set to be revealed later today on the 12th floor of the building (at the brand’s afterparty, we imagine) and part three unveiled later this year in May.


As a haunting voice declared “this is my America”, the first model opened the show. The theme of the collection was, unsurprisingly, the USA – a fixation which has long occupied Simons’ design. “It reflects the environment. All of these different people with different styles and dress codes. It’s the future, the past, Art Deco, the city, the American West...all of these things and none of these things,” said the show notes. In other words, instead of narrowing in on one American influence, the collection celebrated and explored the nuances of many, a blending of “the unique beauty and emotion of America.”


“It is a romantic and filmic outsiders’ eye view of the uniqueness of America,” ran the press release, and the music related to that. The song choices interpreted the USA through a distinctly and cinematic surreal lens. There was the lulling lyricism of Roy Orbison’s sombre rockabilly ballad “In Dreams” (which famously appeared on Simons’ favourite David Lynch’s Blue Velvet). Next came a slow, buzzing cover of The Ramones “I Wanna Be Sedated” by Mirel Wager from the upcoming A Cure for Wellness, and John Barry’s theme from Midnight Cowboy. The Flamingos’ “I Only Have Eyes For You”, which featured on American Graffiti was included, as was Air’s “Suicide Underground”, which was lifted from the soundtrack of The Virgin Suicides, Coppola’s modern day classic exploring teenage loneliness. For the finale? “This is not America” by David Bowie.


Featuring sporty tailoring, the collection opened with a red white and blue look (what else?). True to the eclectic inspiration, menswear and womenswear were mixed, with cowboy boots worn with skirt suits and power broker tailoring, and semi-sheer jumpers came with collegiate sleeves. There was classic denim, updated Western-style shirts featuring block coloured details, and one model walked with an American flag tied and draped around her waist. Another series of looks included Police-style jackets complete with badges and fur collars, while there was also a notable element of the fetishistic, with see-through plastic and shining leather two pieces, like motorcycle outfits that felt a little more Scorpio Rising than The Wild One. Ending the show, Simons came out with creative director Pieter Mulier, and to rapturous applause, the two waved to the crowd.