One brand, two campaigns. The hot-of-the-moment label, or it wants to be, Calvin Klein, and two variations on the same thing.
Left - Clearly Raf Simons' idea of Calvin Klein advertising, but which will sell the most pants?
Both trying to sell pants: one campaign is sexy and classic Klein, the other less so, read baggy pants in a drafty art gallery.
What’s interesting is that it perfectly illustrates the sexual leveller of imagery and the different choice of art directors.
The fashion and style game is all about proving your sophistication and taste level, yadda, yadda, yadda. We all want to be different and express ourselves in the things we buy, wear and surround ourselves with, but ultimately a flash of a six-pack or a bulge in a pair of Y-fronts and the attraction is universal.
We judge ourselves and others by the decisions we make and the things we choose to wear and surround ourselves with. We can all pretend to be the most sophisticated and this is the endless game of modern style and social media. It's always been about proving yourself and staying ahead of the game.
The ‘Sex Leveller’ and its universal appeal is often cleverly disguised as sophisticated, but ultimately brands can be as clever as they like, but if you’re going to appeal to the mass and biggest market, especially if you’re selling underwear, the sexier the better.
This was pioneered in the 80s, perfected in the 90s and then seemingly forgotten about in the 00s. We can all pretend to like a Sterling Ruby as much as the next man, but it ain’t gonna shift many pairs of underpants. Sex is a leveller and it still sells.
Below Left - Classic Klein starring, Trevante Rhodes, one of the actors from Moonlight. Both campaigns are SS17
So, Raf Simons unveiled his first full collection for Calvin Klein. As about exciting as New York fashion gets, it was an accomplished - of course it was, he's had plenty of experience - collection which, no doubt, Americans are breathlessly hailing as the 'New Look'. but it just looked like yet another Raf Simons collection. Where was the sex?
From Left - Bruce Weber advert for Calvin Klein underwear (1982), FW17 Calvin Klein Collection
Raf Simons showed his own eponymous menswear collection, the week before, with the same leg-warmers-as-sleeves idea he put on the catwalk here. This Calvin Klein Collection was wearably different, yet without any of the minimal sex appeal that Calvin Klein was built upon. Who could forget Kate Moss' nipples in that sheer, simple dress circa '93?
Raf Simons should have added athleticism to the collection in the casting of the models to differentiate between his and this collection. Maybe that'll be coming in future advertising, but if Raf Simons is going to connect and drive sales with the masses who have never heard of him and probably don't care about him, then it needs sex.
Fashion has a strange relationship with sex, but Calvin Klein pioneered the objectification of men and their bodies in advertising through the 80s and 90s. What looks quite tame, today, was revolutionary at the time and the first time men and women really looked at men's bodies.
But, whether it's the 80s or, as Instagram proves, today, people will never tire of looking at firm and worked out men's bodies. Ultimately, as always, sex sells and that's what the new Calvin Klein needs.
Left - Calvin Klein Obsession advertising (1987)
It all started with Raf Simons with his AW16 collection and, now, it’s the knitwear neckline du jour. The quintessentially British cricket jumper has been grunged up and distressed and become less gentleman's summer sport and more urban and edgy thanks to designers such as Alessandro Michele at Gucci. Brands such as Stella McCartney and Kent & Curwen have all done their interpretation of the cricket V and there's plenty of mileage in this style as many brands such as the Spanish knitwear brand, Sweaterhouse, is showing them for AW17. If you don't want to pay designer prices then pop to your local sports store, university or school shop and buy the largest size they have.
Left - Raf Simons AW16
Left - AMI - £225 - matchesfashion.com
Below - Prada SS17
Left - Stella McCartney - £570 MRPORTER.COM
Left - Gucci - £560 - MRPORTER.COM
Below - Kent & Curwen - £495 - MRPORTER.COM
Left - Raf Simons AW16
Left - Smart Turnout - £149
Below - Cambridge University - Magdalene College Cricket Sweater - Ryder & Amies - £110
It's always this side of winter that the parka comes into its own. The default sub-zero style, the parka has become the trusted companion to many a fashionisto. But, there's a new way to wear it:
Go big and don't go home! There’s oversized and then there’s oversized and the designers, this season, have really blown-up the parka. Wear it big, wear it slouchy and if anybody asks, say "Demna made it for me!".
If you can't afford a Raf Simons, buy a generously filled high-street version a couple of sizes bigger. You can thank me later.
Left - Raf Simons - Men’s Oversized Down Quilted Jacket In Black & Yellow From LN-CC
Right - Balenciaga FW16
Left - Parka London - ‘Lever’ Oversized Fishtail Parka
Left - Vetements - Red Canada Goose Edition Down Parka From SSense
The 90s are back!!!! I thought I’d get in there early before all the headlines, like these, hit the internet when Raf Simons shows his first collection for Calvin Klein in February. See more here
Left - Pulp - Something Changed!
The 90s revival has been bubbling along for a while now. It was inevitable, everything else has comeback, after all. Over the last few years we've seen a few grunge or washed denim throwbacks. Looking back, it was something of a golden era. Sandwiched between the fall of the Berlin Wall and 9/11, the 90s was a time of minimalism, Britpop and dance music. While it didn't feel particularly original, at the time, what with the large ‘Groove Is In The Heart’ 1970s revival and the return to live music, it still had enough original music and fashion to be distinctive when looking back retrospectively.
Right - Where did I leave my cardy? Kurt Cobain, the poster boy of American grunge
It was also the start of designer fashion as we know it today. This period of rapid expansion and no internet was a golden era of shopping centres and brands reaching their zenith with a purity that almost looks like nothing, today.
The landscape has changed. What was fresh and rare in the 90s is now tired and saturated. People’s attention spans are shorter and what was sexy and provocative then is just an Instagram away.
Left - Noel Gallagher - The 1990s was a mix of 70s, sportswear & minimalism
What could just be hype or a fresh start, it’s not just Calvin Klein that needs the 90s back. Brands like Gap and DKNY require a time when it was cool to wear a simple white T-shirt and a pair of washed jeans. What no tigers or themed gimmick? How will 2017 deal with that?!
It was easier then to impress. There was less competition and it was a slower pace of ideas and consumption.
DKNY just let their design team and Chief Ex. go and Gap has been trying to stem the decline in their sales for many years, closing stores and reducing its retail footprint. The basics market has been a race to the bottom in terms of price and the competition keeps those prices low. Will 2017 see the big 90s revival wave that these brands will ride back to popularity? Or, will it be all hype trying to shift a few pairs of overpriced pants?
So, what did we like about the 90s? I think we’re about to find out. Get ready for curtains, again!
In this week's magazine vlog, TheChicGeek discusses Raf Simons' appointment at Calvin Klein, the recent report that flossing doesn't work, Unilever's 'Regenerate' enamel toothpaste & serum and 'Egyptian Magic' skin cream.
See the full video below
Raf Simons’ long-term collaboration with Fred Perry has been one of the most successful, in brand and creativity terms, in menswear. Started in 2008 and, now, in its 14th collection, this tie-up was the perfect twist on Fred Perry without being dominated by a designer.
Every season Raf Simons knew exactly how to had a new spin on the classic Fred Perry DNA without it being too themey or over designed. I still have a black knitted polo shirt from the first collection.
Now, he’s been made head of Calvin Klein - Read TheChicGeek’s thoughts here - I wonder if this collaboration will finish. He’s going to be a busy bee turning around that fashion juggernaut.
I really like this polo shirt from the new collection. It’s one part retro Northern soul with the stripes, but clean enough to feel fresh and contemporary. You almost want the stripes to be lurex to give it that Gucci feel. This could be Raf’s last collection for Fred Perry, so get it while it lasts.
Left & Below - Raf Simons Rib Insert Pique Shirt - £95
When it was first touted, a few months ago, that designer, Raf Simons, was going to Calvin Klein I put it down to the usual fashion rumour mill working on overdrive. Why would somebody leave Christian Dior and its atelier and move to a brand built on discount underwear and cheap perfume? It didn’t make creative sense and it doesn't make business sense.
The days of buying back licenses, regaining control and taking a brand ‘upmarket’ with the help of a superstar designer are over, especially, if you have shareholders to please. Brands like Calvin Klein are built on volumes. If you want to hit the billions in sales in fashion it needs to be everywhere, quite literally: on the shelves of Boots and in the bargain bin at TK Maxx.
If Raf wants to do ‘real’ shows and make great fashion, that’s fine, but how that translates into the bread and butter product will be interesting. It may alienate its existing consumer while not replacing the sales in the difficult-to-please and fickle designer fashion market.
It must be remembered that minimalism is a hard sell. Even Prada is struggling. Justifying the price of a designer white shirt is difficult, today, especially with the rise of the high-street and brands like Uniqlo. The landscape has changed.
Calvin Klein’s brand pillars and DNA was always the image and not the product. The product was the afterthought.
The brand, probably, hit its peak around the mid-nineties. The time of CK One which took the pretension out of perfume, by adding a screw top, and a fluid, unisex advertising campaign featuring Kate Moss. Nobody bought the clothes. You couldn’t, even if you wanted to. The grey concrete John Pawson shops, Christy Turlington, Marky Mark’s six-pack, spaghetti-strapped minimalism, which looked so fresh, streamlined and cool, at the time, was all about selling pants and Unilever produced fragrance. This was the chapter of fashion history featuring jersey dresses in taupe or dove grey and the rise of the American mega brands such as Ralph, Tommy and Donna.
Calvin Klein was always the most forward and directional of all these brands and thus resonated further, especially in the UK. It was also the most visible with its Escape, Eternity and Obsession fragrance campaigns. This was the birth of ‘designer’ fashion and consumers wanted to buy into it at a price they could afford. It was a bit grungy, a bit street, yet still retained enough Americana to make it attractive. It was cool.
When fashion companies get as big as Calvin Klein they become conglomerates. These beasts of a business are difficult for any singular individual to have much input into. They roll on regardless of what was shown on the catwalk in New York or Milan and the fashion crowd turn up and clap just because the fragrance advertising is paying their wages.
I’m guessing Raf will want to work from Europe, probably Antwerp. He’ll probably show in Paris. (New York for the first season - *claps hands furiously*). The Americans will think he’s their great white hope, give him whatever he wants and haemorrhage money finding out that the tide went out on designer fashion.
So, he didn’t have the creative freedom at Dior that he wanted, and it’s a shame they didn’t give him more scope to make the brand his own and see what he could do with the shops and advertising etc., but, Calvin Klein is completely on the other side of that ‘designer’ scale.
Calvin Klein isn’t in the same category of recent revivals like Gucci, Valentino or Saint Laurent. These brands have a great retail network of the best stores on the best streets in the world. When they do something it is replicated in hundreds of shops, the world over, in very little time. This creates fashion. This creates the energy the fashion industry needs and means it actually gets into people's hands and onto their bodies. Calvin Klein would start from near zero on this front, even if every major department store took it, and it would take years to get even one store in every major city of the world.
Calvin Klein invented masstige before it was even a word. When Calvin Klein, himself, left they should have followed the Coach/Michael Kors route when they saw the ‘accessible’ luxury market growing, over a decade ago.
The fashion industry will do what it usually does, nod and smile while taking the money, but, whatever happens it’s going to be interesting.
Oscar Pinto Hervia of Hervia.com
“One of our favourite brands for this season is Thom Browne. The collection consists of spring / summer staples such as these walnut fold-up glasses that offer 100% protection and are handmade in Japan”.
Left - Thom Browne - Sunglasses - £665
“With prominent military references on the catwalks this season we think these Rick Owens hi-tops are a must have for spring. With an incredible leather finish and the on-trend khaki colour these boots are the perfect wardrobe update right now”.
Below - Rick Owens - Hi-Tops - £726
“As the innovator of minimalism Raf Simons designs deliver great quality and style every time. This isolated Stevie Print crew jumper, especially, is a piece that is sure to make waves this season”.
Left - Raf Simons - Crew Jumper - £380
“Another timeless piece that will get you through both spring and summer is this Rick Owens Bomber Jacket. We are big fans of Rick Owens here at Hervia and so this dark dust leather bomber is definitely one of our top picks. With pockets playing a massive role in the season ahead we believe this bomber marries style and substance”.
Below - Rick Owens - Bomber Jacket - £1666
“With utility influences throughout the SS16 range, Rick Owens offers a variety of easy-to-wear pieces that bring high style and practicality as well. These grey oversized Cargo Crop pants are comfortable and effortless to wear, but will still ensure you are on trend this season”.
Left - Rick Owens - Cargo Trousers - £330
The tank top is back. That body-warming symbol of the 70s has returned in our new mood for maximalism. Mr Porter is calling it a 'gilet', but we all know a geek-chic-tastic tank top when we see one.
TheChicGeek says, "It should be fitted, but not 70s tight, it should be long enough in the body to sit nicely on the waistband. Look for ribbing around this area for a better fit. Go for bright patterns and colour and have fun with it. Look in for cheap alternatives in vintage stores or more 'traditional' menswear stores".
Below - Raf Simons - Jacquard-Knit Lambswool- Blend Gilet - £285 MRPORTER.COM
Bottom - Gucci - Jacquard-Knit Camel, Wool & Silk-Blend Gilet - £405 MRPORTER.COM