Closing Credits for Raf Simons at Calvin Klein

Less than two years after being appointed chief creative officer of Calvin Klein, Raf Simons is out. It comes "after Calvin Klein, Inc. decided on a new brand direction which differs from Simons' creative vision," eight months prior to the ending of his contract. Calvin Klein will not stage a show during the New York Fashion Week schedule in February.

I was only thinking a few weeks back, how much I hope Raf Simons' tenure at Calvin Klein will outlast the average time designers are given at big corporate fashion houses nowadays. This seemed unlikely given that Emanuel Chirico, the chief executive of PVH - the parent corporation that owns Calvin Klein, effectively blamed Raf Simons for a decline in sales, criticising the brand's uneven financial performance and hailing it a "fashion miss." Although no names were given, it's clear who this statement was aimed at considering the designer was still present. "While many of the product categories performed well, we are disappointed by the lack of return on our investments in our Calvin Klein 205W39NYC halo business and believe that some of the Calvin Klein Jeans' relaunched product was too elevated and did not sell through as well as we planned."

It would appear just how important money means to fashion businesses of today, when only two years ago, PVH declared they wanted their high-end ready-to-wear collections to be creative and innovative - not like the stagnating Ralph Lauren. With hopes of growing revenue for the Calvin Klein brand from $8 billion to $10 billion, upon the announcement of Simons' arrival in August 2016. In fact, in only March of this year, they praised the 205 line for it's credibility it would bring to the more commercial lines - again, something they would go back on their word as soon as sales targets weren't hit.

In September, for the brand's Spring / Summer 2019 collection, a runway concept envisioned by Mr. Simons was required to be shown off-site (usually held on the ground floor of the Calvin Klein 205W39NYC headquarters) due to budgetary constraints. Perhaps the shark-filled waters for this collection hit closer to the headquarters than initially imagined. In addition to this, according to multiple sources,  PVH expressed concerns that Calvin Klein's partnership with the Andy Warhol Foundation - was too arty and high-brow for the masses. I feel Raf Simons on a whole was too intellectual for an American audience.

I have also been thinking a lot recently about the word "obsession," obsessions in fashion, how relevant that is in today's fashion climate and just how relevant it is to stay true to your vision and build upon your "bigger picture" narratives each season - something PVH clearly don't agree on. Raf Simons' debut show for Calvin Klein focused on an outsider-looking-in's take on Americana tropes - he closed the show with David Bowie's "This Is Not America." His second show was a nightmarish journey of American horror films through a lens of Andy Warhol prints. His third show took us to the movies, filling the former American Stock Exchange with popcorn. Raf's final show transported us to the dreaded open waters of Jaws and The Graduate. Raf Simons made Calvin Klein modern, relevant and cool albeit a niche cool but still cool nonetheless. The unfortunate truth is, if you don't make money, you're deemed not good enough. Creativity is no longer enough. Turbulent times for fashion.

Yes, hiring the conceptual designer that Raf Simons is brought great risk, but with great risk comes even greater excitement. He single-handedly made New York Fashion Week interesting and garnered enormous international spotlight for a few brief seasons. It's no coincidence that in doing so, earned him an astonishing three CFDA Designer of the Year awards in under two years.

Who knows what the future holds for both Raf Simons and Calvin Klein. What we do know for now is that Raf is back in Antwerp preparing for his eponymous label's show in Paris in January. Let's just hope he comes back with a bang, just how he did after exiting Dior.

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