Calvin Klein confirmed today the long-rumored appointment of Raf Simons. The Belgian designer replaces Francisco Costa on the women’s side, and Italo Zucchelli on the men’s, both of whom exited the company in April of this year, as Calvin Klein’s chief creative officer. The news has galvanizing potential, and not just for fans of Simons’s 21-year-old eponymous men’s collection or of his work at Jil Sander or Christian Dior, the prestigious French fashion house he abruptly left last October. He’s good for New York fashion.
Simons is a designer’s designer. His July 2012 haute couture debut for Dior was attended by Azzedine Alaïa, Donatella Versace, Alber Elbaz, Riccardo Tisci, Diane von Furstenberg, and Olivier Theyskens, lending the changing-of-the-guard moment an historic aspect. Simons’s Dior was a markedly different one than that of his predecessor John Galliano, modernist and introspective, where Galliano’s was historicist and flamboyant, and the influence of his sleek minimalism spread across fashion’s four capital cities. Off-White founder and Kanye West’s creative director Virgil Abloh, meanwhile, is an obsessive collector of Simons’s menswear; “he’s my Martin Margiela, my Michael Jordan,” he told me. To look at the output of Simons and Abloh is to see a direct link.
Soon, Simons will be a New Yorker, mingling at industry events and negotiating crowded Garment District streets, but he’ll bring the glamour and buzz of Paris to the Big Apple with him. Editors, buyers, and other influencers who leave New York early to get to London for its collections, or who go home for a little R&R in advance of Milan and Paris, will be inclined to stick it out until Calvin’s traditional end-of-week show to discover for themselves how the intellectually inclined Simons will interpret the spare sensuality that is the Calvin signature. Or maybe Simons will put his stamp on things with a new Fashion Week slot? As the hottest ticket in town (sorry Marc, Alex, et al), he’d have that prerogative. A new day and time for Calvin Klein could reshuffle the whole New York schedule.