Raf Simons’ first collection for Calvin Klein represents nothing less than the miracle of resurrection: striped pants in strange colors, different shades of cowboy boots, quilted parkas, and faux fur shrouded in transparent plastic. The clothing evokes images of marching bands, the classic Western, Georgia O’Keeffe, dormroom sex, Wall Street suits, and vaguely suburban floral dresses. They are reminiscent of the conceptual rigor of Helmut Lang at his strongest—they demonstrate Simons’ insatiable fascination with the idea of youth. These designs are not meant to stimulate the sales of fragrances and underwear. They are meant to be bought—or stolen—and worn to death.
The show in January was scored by two versions of David Bowie and Pat Metheny’s “This Is Not America.” An obvious choice in these days, and yet still completely in tune with Simons’ artistic decisions. When Bowie started to conquer the American market in the 70s, he called his work “plastic soul”— a genius tag that described both his fascination with the American music tradition as well as his distance from it. Simons’ approach seems similar—helping himself generously from the all-you-can-eat buffet of American style, while using a knife and fork and perfect table manners.