American Horror Story, Raf Simons' Calvin Klein 205W39NYC at NYFW SS18

On Thursday September 7th, at 8pm, Raf Simons presented his eagerly-awaited second collection for Calvin Klein entitled "Sophomore." What struck me straight away was that this collection definitely had more quintessential "Raf" elements to it. As himself, the designer of his eponymous label, he has previously collaged into what seams like stepping into his own twisted dreamland, the works of iconic American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe for his Spring 2017 collection and delved deep into the soul of David Lynch for his Fall 2016 "Nightmares and Dreams" collection - a personal favourite of mine.

Raf Simons' ability to take visual tropes associated with pop culture and rework them in a way unparalleled to fashion but completely in-keeping with the way Raf's mind works and the narratives he creates. Raf Simons is a huge admirer of contemporary art, so for Spring Raf featured the screenprints of America's most famous artist, Andy Warhol. Close friend of Raf Simons, Sterling Ruby installed tons of cliché Americana objects; flags, cheerleader's pom-poms, streamers and slightly more sinister axes and metal buckets that hung above the runway, think 1976's adaption of Stephen King's Carrie - the iconic prom scene. He is exploring something that goes way beyond just experimenting at a new house to be Chief Creative Officer of, he's experimenting with America. The history of America along with current affairs. It is different to what he done at Jil Sander and Dior, I feel like Raf feels more comfortable in the position he's in now at Calvin Klein. He understands his woman, she is modern and she is cool, as he ascends from strength to strength. More about Wednesday night's fashions to follow.

Cindy Crawford's daughter Kaia Gerber
decades after her mum walked for Calvin Klein.
I couldn't help but think of Mulholland Drive, directed by David Lynch it's one of Raf Simons' favourite films. It was listed on the show notes handed out from his Nightmares and Dreams collection. I watched it for the first time two nights ago. It was safe to say my mind was blown. The Cowboy for instance is the cliché American subject, like he was intended in Mulholland Drive. What do you think of when you think of cowboys? The answer is America. A series of shiny satin cowboy looks opened the show for Calvin Klein, worn by both men and women, a continuation from last season as were the metal toe-capped cowboy boots. "American horror, American dreams" evoked Simons with 1950's American couture silhouettes that were reworked for today in unusual fabric choices like waterproof nylons used for outdoor tents. This screams Naomi Watts' character living both her dream as the young, Hollywood starlet with potential to be successful, Betty and her nightmare more commonly known as reality, the failed actress Diane Selwyn. It's all an illusion, was one of the film's main themes. Was this Raf Simons' nightmares of the American dream?

The dream sequence proceeded in collaboration with the Andy Warhol Foundation, featuring prints of Dennis Hopper circa counterculture classic Easy Rider (1971) as well as some of Warhol's more twisted, melancholic works such as "Knives", "The Ambulance Disaster" and "Electric Chair." These were seen printed on 50's sheer white Hollywood nightgowns. Loose and fluid, they were beautiful. Prints also seen on two-piece denim jackets and jeans, however on those it seemed to be dripping down the canvas due to the vertical stance, as if still wet. Almost as if the dream was slowly fading away becoming a reality. Mulholland Drive anyone? I noticed when I posted two images to my Instagram, the similarities in style, Electric Chair, 1964 and a still from the film, of the man sat in the chair who forces Adam's (Justin Theroux) film be shut down after refusing to star the young actress as his lead role. It opened up to me, the dark, evil and twisted underbelly of Hollywood. The obsession with money, fame, success, the glitz, the glamour, what's real and what isn't, the dreams, the nightmares, the reality. Warhol's obsession with death, Marilyn Monroe, David Lynch's Bette Davis / Betty Grable type character. Back to the two images, the single chair in centre of the room, the bare back wall - stripped of any hope, the deep shadows contrasting against the light-saturated floor. An adolescent sense of hope, dreams and sex, with danger lurking around the corner. The chair itself, a warning sign for either sinking or swimming. Dream plays the most important role in Hollywood.

Andy Warhol, Electric Chair 1964

Still from David Lynch's Mulholland Drive

The underlying darkness of the collection continued into the American horror movie clichés. Latex gloves and industrial dip moulded rubber dresses stamped with "Made in Ohio 44240 USA" also explaining the process I just mentioned at the fact they're "100% nitrile / synthetic rubber" something I imagine an outsider would use to describe most of Hollywood. In all honesty, these did run mighty close to those of Central Saint Martins womenswear graduate Matt Dyer, whose ideas were that of a corporation, of the mass-produced out of a factory, that the students are products being churned out. Similar to what Andy Warhol wanted his silkscreens to resemble. The latex gloves they wore again referred back to the "American dream" in the form of 1950's housewives. Some leather coats looked as if splattered with blood, as did some of the high heels and cowboy boots. My favourite shoes however were the ones that looked like Jason Voorhees' hockey goalie mask from the Friday the 13th franchise, complete with a white plastic upper, punched holes, black leather straps secured by silver studs and the recognisable red chevrons. As always with Raf, it was all
very tongue-in-cheek.

The horror story continued into some beautifully well executed dress, smothered in fringe detailing. One specific dress in mind caught my attention. Remember earlier when I mentioned Sterling Ruby's bucket s that hung from the ceiling, the pom-poms that looked like blood and the iconic prom scene in Carrie? Well this dress was the aftermath of the poor prom queen drenched in a shower of pig blood after what ought to be her proudest moment. "Extremity of our own life situation" mumbled Simons. Layers of shimmering, streams of dripping red fringing stitched upon a fishnet. These popular, head-of-the-cheerleading-team high school type pom-pom dresses were at a pivotal point in the collection - they didn't quite manage to survive until the end of Raf Simons' horror sequel. To take his final bow, Raf even wore an oversized, pale blue 70's style prom shirt complete with ruffles, from his Nightmares and Dreams Fall 2016 collection. There's one thing I love more than the American dream and that's the American nightmare.

As we all know, Raf Simons is never alone, he has his friend and longterm right-hand man Pieter Mulier, (Creative Director of Calvin Klein) by his side. He was studio director at Dior, the vital link between Simons and his staff, and who now reports directly to Raf. Anyway, yesterday the news was revealed that Yves Saint Laurent's right-hand Pierre Bergé passed away at the age of 86. I would like to dedicate this blog post to him, fashion's original right-hand man. This is to all our friends.

"His strength meant I could rest on him when I was out of breath."
- Yves Saint Laurent on Pierre Bergé.

Images courtesy of Vogue Runway and Dazed Digital

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