Raf Simons has always designed with an eye on the culture in which he lives. His references aren’t past shows or fashion moments, but rather details of experiences, lived and noted, that have formed his vision. This season for Calvin Klein 205W39NYC, he went to the heart of a very dark, very American nightmare. Here, he examined current fears through pop art past, as expressed by Warhol, classic Hollywood cinema and made in collaboration with artist Sterling Ruby.
The show started out Western in theme: silk primary color-blocked cowboy shirts, studded blouses in mustard yellow and saddle brown, and loose, on-the-ranch silk trousers for men and women popped up. Next came the horror: faded plaid suiting with printed details depicting knives, denim looks printed with Warhol’s images of Dennis Hopper and car crashes, blood red slacks, and muddy, A-line rubber skirting, made to look as though it was dragged through the dirt or a dust-filled Midwestern town. American Psycho came to mind as a trash bag cocktail dress made it’s way down the runway. Vinyl gloves and rural fifties-styled frocks echoed the aesthetics of Hitchcock and Lynch. Bags had Sterling-influenced pom-pom extensions. Simons looked to the most American of American memories.
There was much to be desired in the offering (a red string and pom-pom dress, especially). And it was, as it should be, disturbing. Still, there is something quite dark about purchasing an intensely clever comment on American culture and trauma and wearing it around Lower Manhattan, or wherever you may be. Does it incite conversation? Or does it simply commodify fears that for many, especially those who live outside the realm of Net-a-Porter RTW, are struggling with in ways that reflect needs that have little to do with self-aware consumption and the cynicism of pop art yesterday and today. Of course, the conversation and its commodification are not mutually exclusive. Haunting, beautiful, and incorporating materials that feel industrial rather than precious—Calvin Klein was stunning. This statement may be for the outside though; it’s easier to wear a statement on American violence when you’re not living it.