It has been almost a year since Raf Simons shocked the fashion world by leaving his position as creative director of Dior. Now his newest position is making waves in the fashion industry. On August 2nd, Calvin Klein, Inc. made the announcement, via social media, that the Belgian designer will become the first Chief Creative Officer of the giant brand. Simons’ new title means he will have complete control over the entire household name – from runway to advertising to home goods – and everything in between. His appointment is the first step in the company’s new global creative strategy which aims to unify all Calvin Klein platforms.
Since a young Brooke Shields asked that famous question in a 1980 Calvin Klein advertisement, the brand has focused on sex appeal and youth, consistently capitalizing on the controversy stirred up by campaigns often deemed as too provocative. Today the strategy is no different, and in fact the brand recently was criticized for a recent up-skirt image of model Klara Kristin stating, “I flash in my Calvins.” The brand’s most recent Tyrone Lebon campaigns star Justin Bieber, Bella Hadid, and other sexy stars in various states of undress.
Simons’ proven ability to channel edgy youth culture into successful collections makes the pairing between himself and the American label seem sensical but also has many wondering just what he will do with the Calvin Klein conglomerate, especially given his outspoken dissatisfaction with the current runway system and the fact that Calvin Klein executives have publicly admitted that their fashion shows are more of a marketing tool than a profitable venture. Ready-to-wear makes less than $10 million annually while the brand’s total revenue is $2.9 billion. As chief creative officer, will Simons phase out Calvin Klein’s RTW presentations or devote more energy to them?
For months, rumors swirled that Simons would take over at CK. In June, Calvin Klein, himself, hinted at the appointment in a radio interview, saying “They are doing something that I had hoped they would have done, which is replace me.” An accurate statement given that this is the most control given to a singular person at the brand since Klein sold the company to PVH in 2002.
Although the announcement was not a shock, some fashion insiders see Simons’ acceptance of the position as surprising given his reasoning for leaving Dior which included his frustration at a non-stop collection cycle that left little time for creativity and experimentation. His exit from the French house had a domino effect and left many people re-evaluating the break-neck speed of today’s fashion industry so it seems a bit contradictory that the designer would move on to a brand that is inarguably more commercial than Dior. On the flip-side, the amount of control Simons will have at Calvin Klein means that he can enact big changes in the commercial and creative processes of the giant brand. If he is successful at doing this, other large names will undoubtedly follow suit, which means that Raf Simons may eventually change the business of fashion, forever. We’ll have to see what happens at New York Fashion Week in February when he unveils his first Calvin Klein collection.
Raf Simons & Bella Hadid images courtesy of Calvin Klein
Dior image courtesy of Vogue