Calvin Klein: See it before you next go swimming

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, and along comes Raf Simons with a 'Jaws'-inspired, avant garde graduate collection for Calvin Klein that was as cool as it was menacing.

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Calvin Klein - Spring-Summer2019 - Womenswear - New York - © PixelFormula

Staged in the brand’s headquarters on 205 West 39th Street, in NYC’s Fashion District, two sides of the show-space projected a remix of the famed opening scene of the Steven Spielberg film -- Chrissie’s last swim in blue New England waters.

Many models wore t-shirts with the 1975 movie’s poster of a young woman swimming on the ocean surface and a shark rising below. Half the cast were in neoprene: taught pants with side-stripes for the guys, mini skirts for the gals.

Most garments folded down to make cummerbunds done in blotch abstract prints, adding a hint of S&M throughout. All anchored by tech-y looking cowboy boots with metal toecaps, or patent leather pumps.
 
Both genders donned oversized college jackets too – whether made in Harris Tweed or cashmere herringbone; and paired with rubber pants, making it hard to know if the models were headed to a tutorial of a scuba diving tank. 
 
Simons’ middle section was a series of great calico and silk dresses all scrunched up and held together with bag handles, sailing clips and chains, as the designer used the raw detritus of civilization with panache.
 
“It’s about an attraction that turns out to be the ultimate beauty, or the ultimate disaster, whether in terms of love, nature or politics. We are very often attracted to things that we actually know are dangerous. But we can’t stay away,” Simons told FashionNetwork.com. 
 
“I am working on the American landscape, or in this case the seaside. Jaws to me is a masterpiece. And it’s about so much more than a shark,” added Simons, who trotted around the space to take his bow.
 
The collection also referenced 'The Graduate', with a dozen models dressed in graduation gowns and mortarboards; over the speakers the soundtrack to Mike Nichols film.
 
“I’m thinking it might just be time to go back to college, sartorially at least,” joked Jeff Goldblum, dressed in a Calvin Klein western patch pocket shirt, after he joined Jake Gyllenhaal and the Houston Rockets’ James Harden in the front row. 
 
Business may not have exploded under Simons, but growth has certainly quickened. Last year, Calvin Klein posted a modest single figure increase in annual turnover to $3.463 billion. Though the US was largely flat, sales advanced 22% outside of America.
 
CEO Steven Shiffman told FashionNetwork.com that he plans to maintain a strategy of careful development.
 
“We are looking at changing stores and maybe opening boutiques in Europe, but they must be the absolutely right location, which is not easy to find, particularly in a city like Paris. So, I believe in cautious expansion,” Shiffman said.
 
Two decades ago, it was commonly agreed that the biggest single reason to come to New York Fashion Week was to see a show by Helmut Lang. These days, it is to catch Calvin Klein by Raf Simons, so pointed is the vision, so clever the ability of this Belgium to juxtapose so much American iconography and make it thrillingly new.
 
To paraphrase the movie’s much-quoted tagline: See it before you go swimming. See this collection before you go shopping.

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