Calvin Klein — two of the coolest words to ever come out of American fashion. His is a multifaceted legacy in which timing, marketing savvy and a core fearlessness fused to create one of the greatest, hippest fashion houses of all time. Throughout his designing career Klein captured, even anticipated, the proverbial zeitgeist with a flamboyant audacity that in a way seems counterintuitive to the spareness of his clothes.
Oh yes, the clothes. Over the course of his 38-year career, Klein proved himself much more than a clever seer engaged in shameless titillation of the public, putting a particular teenaged pretty baby in jeans, a waifish unknown model in absolutely nothing and an impressive male package bulging boldly on a billboard high over Times Square. Klein was also a terrific designer who early on sensed the demand of an emerging class of bright, independent women for fashion that looked like they felt: sporty, sophisticated, unencumbered. Reviewing Klein’s evolution from the early to late Seventies, one sees in the clothes a rapid transition from snappy cuteness to seductive chic. And unlike Halston, that other great fashion star who spent days designing and debauching at Studio 54, Klein remained a powerful force for decades.
He took his hits along the way, and not just from the feds, who investigated his is-it-kiddie-porn rumpus room CK jeans campaign shot by Steven Meisel in 1995. Critics sometimes thought Klein found too much inspiration on other runways, some as seemingly antithetical as Rei Kawakubo’s and Yves Saint Laurent’s. More often, Klein was accused of pilfering from designers more obviously in line with his aesthetic, at times Giorgio Armani, Jil Sander, Helmut Lang.
But to take Klein too much to task for perceived references is to miss his essence as a designer. (Obviously sensitive to the issue, during the spring ’97 season when New York still showed after Europe, Klein saw photos of fishtail looks from Milan and promptly phoned this reporter there to stress that his collection, too, featured many a mermaid.) Along with Halston, he was the preeminent architect of American minimalism, already developing notions of casual style into a statement on the rapidly relaxing social and sexual mores of the day. And unlike so many designers who get caught in the time warp of their own initial success, Klein continued to turn out of-the-moment, important collections until he retired. Cases in point: the brazenly one-note spring 1994 outing built entirely around the tank silhouette; and his fall outing that same year, in which he embraced the controversial proportion that became known as the “New Length.”
Along with his mastery of the runway, Klein’s legacy is inseparable from jeans and underwear. His success at elevating such proletarian categories to the level of cocktail party conversation via brilliant marketing remains unparalleled. In fact, with those categories, as well as fragrance, Klein was one of the first to grasp that fashion is far less about a price point than a finely honed and, yes, calculated point of view.
Today, five years after showing his last collection, Klein has no formal link to the house he once owned. He declined to be interviewed for this Milestone; read into that what you will. There’s no question that the house aura has changed; still plenty chic, it now feels a touch safer than when Calvin steered the ship. One senses that shift when comparing its new Secret Obsession fragrance campaign, the banned television spot featuring the naked, writhing Eva Mendes, to Kate Moss’ old Obsession spots. The beautifully produced Mendes ad feels timely in this video sex-is-everywhere age. Moss, on the other hand, was a real shocker.
“I don’t think newness is ever over, or staying on the edge,” Klein told WWD in 2000. “Fashion is about change. You have to keep evolving and changing. It has to be new. You have to keep pushing it.”
Breaking News: @louisvuitton's men's artistic director @mrkimjones is leaving the French fashion house after nearly 7 years. Jones joined Louis Vuitton in 2011, following a three year tenure as creative director of British luxury goods brand Alfred Dunhill. Jones is to exit Louis Vuitton after showing his fall 2018 collection for the brand in Paris on Thursday. Read the full exclusive story on WWD.com. Link in bio. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
For men’s fall 2018, @giuseppezanotti drew on elements from streetwear, sport, biker, combat and rock ‘n’ roll. Pictured here are a pair of shoes from the collection, featuring zippers, rhinestones, and silver hardware. Head to WWD.com to see a roundup of the accessories from Milan’s men’s fall 2018 shows. #wwdfashion (📷: Andrea Delb)
To celebrate the 25th anniversary of @ralphlauren’s snowboarding collection, the brand is mining its archives. The iconic brand is reintroducing vintage styles and dropping new designs for a color capsule that will be available in Ralph Lauren stores and @openingceremony on January 25. The capsule will consist of 10 pieces, including the Snow Beach Pullover, pictured here, which is a collector’s item that rapper Raekwon wore in Wu-Tang Clan’s “Can It Be All So Simple” video. #wwdfashion (📷: Tom Gould)
For @rochasofficial’s pre-fall 2018 collection, creative director Alessandro Dell’Acqua channeled the sophisticated and intriguing Catherine Denevue in the film “Belle de Jour.” Polished collarless coats, midi skirts, suits and ’60s graphic motifs were all featured in the collection, adding a sense of discreet luxury. See the rest of the photos on WWD.com #wwdfashion
“We tried to produce clothing of that couture quality, but the most daunting part was that we only had a matter of days [to do it],” said costume designer Lou Eyrich, who recreated Gianni Versace’s iconic looks for @americancrimestoryfx. Eyrich searched online retailers and vintage shops for original pieces from the design house and for @penelopecruzoficial, who plays Donatella Versace. Head to WWD.com to read how she created the Versace world. #wwdfashion
Only three months after her stellar debut catwalk season, @kaiagerber has inked her first big design collaboration –– with @karllagerfeld. The collection blends Lagerfeld’s Parisian chic aesthetic and the model’s signature West Coast casual style via RTW, accessories, footwear and more. The #KarlLagerfeldxKaia collection will launch in September with a series of events. Get all the details on WWD.com. #wwdnews #wwdfashion
Harrods plans to remove the famous statue of Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed from the bottom of the Egyptian escalators and hand it back to Mohamed Al-Fayed. “We are very proud to have played our role in celebrating the lives of Diana, Princess of Wales and Dodi Al Fayed at Harrods and to have welcomed people from around the world to visit the memorial for the past 20 years,” said Michael Ward, Harrods managing director. “With the announcement of the new official memorial statue to Diana, Princess of Wales at Kensington Palace, we feel that the time is right to return this memorial to Mr. Al Fayed and for the public to be invited to pay their respects at the palace.” More on the news, with reporting by @loreleimarfil, at WWD.com. #wwdnews