EYE: A Bold Calvin Klein Reboot Goes For American Brand Gold In The Shadow Of Charlotte's White Nationalism

The artistic reboot by artistic director Raf Simons of the Calvin Klein brand is notable in Willy Vanderperre's Fall 2017 ad campaign featuring Julia Nobis, Kiki Willems and Jonas Glöer are joined by new faces Blesnya Minher, Elibeidy Dani, Luc Defont-Saviard, Dylan Christensen, Lulu, Sara Grace Wallerstedt and more. The large gaggle of style setters is dressed by Olivier Rizzo in the Mojave Desert, 3000 miles from Calvin Klein's Madison Avenue flagship makeover in New York.

"The campaign is a study in art and artifice, of the real and the imagined, the mannered world of high fashion combined with a sense of the everyday," Calvin Klein explains in a press release. "Ultimately, the campaign explores the cinematic and romantic outsider’s view of America, something of a dream world that has become concrete for chief creative officer Raf Simons and creative director Pieter Mulier."

The campaign also marks the formal introduction of Simons' new designer denim line, Calvin Klein Jeans Established 1978, which will exist under the 205W39NYC umbrella. Each piece from the line is embossed with a leather patch featuring Richard Avedon’s controversial image of Brooke Shields as the face of Calvin Klein Jeans in 1981.

It's the new store design that delivers the real thunder bolt of change at Calvin Klein, as the brand moves away from a cool, pristine, zen detachment into full frontal visual engagement. With the flagship redesigned in a collaboration between Belgian-born Raf Simons and German-born artist Sterling Ruby, the bold yellow backdrop delivers an explosive power punch that says 'engage with life'. 

Ruby told Business of Fashion that the language of the Calvin Klein brand is now forward, still simple, but emotionally-engaged with today. "I’m taking the Calvin Klein flagship store from minimal to maximal; my design should be seen as a marker to celebrate the future of the brand. I wanted the store to glow from within, representing a new day for Calvin Klein."

Without a doubt, this is the most dramatic 180-degree turn in the history of a great luxury brand. Ironically, in deciding to stock a collection of home wares, displayed in the context of Ruby's celebration of the American vintage quilts, Homer Laughlin coffee mugs and Rose Cabat's ceramic "Feelies" sold alongside Calvin Klein bedding, Simons enters Ralph Lauren territory.

Raf Simons assumed creative control of Calvin Klein in 2016, the number of retailers stocking the brand has increased tenfold, as stressed-out retailers strive for enticing relevance in the age of Amazon. It's interesting to watch the evolution of Calvin Klein in the age of Trump.

It's good that people of intelligence and vision are trying to understand America at the very moment America is trying to understand itself. In a country blinded with the golden glow of torches held high by white nationalists in Charlottesville last week, the color of optimism is under assault. Still, an estimated 40,000 people showed up in Boston Saturday to protest white nationalism and the resurgence of a bold racism under Trump. As Trump follows unlimited gold for his family financial coffers, we will follow the future of bold yellow optimism. America is doing much soul-searching at this moment.  ~ Anne