#SuzyNYFW: Calvin Klein’s Day And Night At The Movies

Down-on-the-farm has never looked so scary as it did on the Calvin Klein set, featuring tumble down barns, seemingly splattered with blood, while models, in layers of protective clothing, trudged through the ‘snow’.

Except that the white stuff was actually drifts of popcorn, so we onlookers must be watching a movie imagined by creative director Raf Simons. A horror movie maybe, as the designer had again worked on the set with artist Sterling Ruby, whose creations were hung like dripping blood.

After the show, the designer talked about heroes – such as firefighters and other life savers.

“It’s not specifically one group, because there are historical references too,” said Raf. “I think the main thing is to see which way the American symbolism that I started using in the beginning is moving – how can I add other things and how can I experiment with it more,” the designer added.

“That is why I wanted typical references, for example, the American landscape. But I also wanted it to be more experimental in a way,” said Raf, who was himself wearing a colourful red, white and black sweater without any of the complex protective layers seen on the runway.

They included, among many other cover-ups, an apparent breast plate, an impeccably tailored men’s coat, and a silver hood teamed with a delicate ankle-length dress that had patterns of rigid stripes breaking into a torn effect with a reference to a traditional American quilt.

Raf defined his work as being a mix of ‘safety and protection’ with a lot of cinematic historical references. They included Safe the Julianne Moore film of 1995 about environmental illness in California and a new age clinic in Mexico, and Sofia Coppola’s recent movie The Beguiled set during the American Civil War.

I had a memory of a Raf Simons’ show under his own label back in 1998 when the Belgian designer created only menswear. That – and a later one out in park land – had already seeded the concept of ‘protection’ and introduced a scary element to the designer’s trim tailoring and sports sweaters.

After a dull Autumn/Winter 2018 New York show season, it was invigorating to see powerful conflicts and hefty protection at the Raf Simons show. WHOOPS! This display of talent in the cavernous American Stock Exchange – a centre of alarming turbulence in recent weeks – was supposed to be Calvin Klein, the master of sensual minimalism, who retired from designing for the label in 2003.

If there was a feeling of conflict in this show, surely it stemmed from the designer himself. Perhaps it comes from how he feels in a violent world, or the friction between combining his deep artistic feelings with the founder’s heritage?

What stood out on the runway, apart from the latest ‘it’ bag apparently being offered as a bag of popcorn, were the coats: tailored checks or wool with interspersed stitches, smooth, dark leather or a neon striped coat in hazard-warning yellow. The new look from this fine tailor were ankle-length dresses, some sweet, others weirdly designed with twin flaps lifting up over bared bosoms.

There was undoubtedly a movie thing going on, with the popcorn symbolic of an American ritual of cinema going. But it was all so convoluted. I longed to leap up and take a close look at a star decoration as if scissored from a prairie bed quilt; to take off a silver cover to a pretty, floaty dress; to look at the exceptional knitting on a protective chest piece; to study these new-for-Raf floaty long dresses; to appreciate the man/woman sharing possibilities of an over-size checked jacket.

But my feet were mired in the popcorn. It seemed symbolic of a show that was both fascinating and confusing.