By  on July 27, 2016
Raf Simons Fall 1997

Roopal Patel, Senior vice president, fashion director, Saks Fifth Avenue"What Raf does really well is he's been able to take the DNA of the brand and he's been able to modernize it. His track record and his history have proven that he has an incredible eye and talent to bring the past and the future together. I think his time at Jil Sander was very revolutionary in how he was able to tap into the essence and heritage of the Jil Sander aesthetic and the legacy that she had created for so many years. And how he was able to come in and really modernize what minimalism meant during that time. Raf Simons is not a one-note designer and that was really exhibited at his time at Dior. Being able to show a completely different aesthetic and to step into the shoes of a couture house and being about to move the Dior brand into the future, with modern techniques and innovative design. It just shows the breadth of his work and his capacity to design on multiple levels through different lenses. I think it's presumptuous for us to say, 'This is what we think Raf is going to come in to do,' because he's always full of surprises. He proved that when he went to Dior. What's exciting if Raf comes into Calvin Klein, he's going to reinvent and do a complete rehaul of the brand, and it will be from start to finish."Alix Morabito, Fashion editor, Galeries Lafayette"It can be a beautiful match! The mix of modernity, sharpness and poetry of Raf Simons fits perfectly with the elegant and sportive minimalism of Calvin Klein. Calvin Klein is a powerful global brand. In the last years they have developed their business with all their lines — from jeans to tailored, from perfume to underwear. It's now the perfect timing to reintegrate a strong creative vision at the top of all these. Between minimalism, sportive attitude, gender and conceptuality, the territory is wide and for sure, he can surprise us."Ken Downing, Senior vice president, fashion director, Neiman Marcus"There's a great love for Raf and his talent. We at Neiman Marcus had a very strong Jil Sander business under his tutelage. We experienced good business with Dior, as well, under his direction. The idea of him landing at a house [like Calvin Klein] that feels in many ways like the perfect house for him, a house that represents purity, a history of minimalism, but still great glamour and style. It's the perfect marriage of brand and designer. I think that Raf has all the sensibilities to make Calvin the powerhouse that it was 10, 20 years ago. I think that people are really excited about the rebirth of such an iconic, American brand. It's become really recognized as a fragrance and underwear house. [Simons'] background is of architecture and having a very streamlined approach to femininity, always understanding the use of color and the feminine flourish without being overly effusive, but creating clothes that have a quiet sensuality which I often think of Calvin Klein as being. When I was a young design student in the Seventies, Calvin Klein was the pinnacle of American style. It's great to see the Calvin Klein corporation has tapped into Raf. He feels like the perfect person to bring Calvin Klein into the next era. My belief and my hope is that he will design direct the entire house at every level. He'll touch the women's collection, the men's collection, the advertising campaign, store design and web design. In these modern times we live in, relevancy is dependent upon a creative director being able to touch all of those various emotional moments that a customer relates to. You see that at Gucci, you see that at Givenchy and many houses. If the rumors are true, we're in the midst of an amazing fashion moment."Polat Uyal, Chief merchandising officer, Beymen, Istanbul"Raf is definitely a really talented designer and I'm sure it's going to be a nice collection. But it's not enough. When there's a diffusion line that's widely distributed and available at Macy's at 50 percent off, it's really tough to get the customer to buy a luxury one. She has an ocean of luxury brands from which to choose."Cindy Ho, Fashion director, 360 Style in Kuwait"It is a match made in heaven and very importantly, Raf Simons will be happy there as he will do the work he likes. The pressure will still be there, but he can create a business model which is quite different from Europe. With his work at Jil Sander, he proved that he could play a collection supermodern, sophisticated with a twist and wonderfully catering to professional women. And the U.S. has one of the highest percentages of working women in society compared to many countries."Laura Larbalestier, Women's buying director, Browns Fashion"Raf has a track record of reinterpreting brand codes and giving them an unexpected, modern edge. It's a very interesting move for American fashion and I believe we will see a true reinvention of minimalism. I see lots of white and those flashes of strong bold colors Raf uses so well."Tiziana Cardini, Fashion director La Rinascente, Milan"I think it's going to be a good match in terms of style. The aesthetic is there: streamlined, pure. Calvin Klein has never been conceptual. It's just a very pure, practical aesthetic. It's a very approachable language, very understated. What Raf will probably do is put a little of his depth in terms of thinking — and edge. It's going to be a slightly edgier Calvin, with a touch of the experimental."Elizabeth von der Goltz, Senior vice president and general merchandise manager of fine apparel, designer sportswear, 5F Contemporary, jewelry and beauty, Bergdorf Goodman"I'm very excited if it happens. I'm a huge fan of Raf's. He really changed our Dior business. We almost basically doubled our Dior business. I'm a huge champion of him and think he's supertalented. His background in industrial and furniture design [influenced] his use of lines. I always think of Calvin Klein as beautiful minimalism and clean lines, and Raf is very architectural with his lines. For Dior, he really thought about the A-line and the Bar jacket and brought those back in a very strong modern way. He made it really relevant for the customer today. It wasn't just a fancy cocktail suit. He brought back suiting for Dior and daywear. For Calvin, who's really known for his great minimal lines, suiting and his simplicity, I do think Raf can really work with that, because he works so well within those architectural lines and shapes. I feel that it could be very interesting and does suit his aesthetic. Even at Jil Sander, he was extremely minimalistic, but a little more emotional and softer. I don't know which way he'll take it. It does fit into his aesthetic. He'll touch on suiting, dresses — and really put his spin on it. He really modernized Dior. Calvin is always thought of as minimal and modern, but I don't know where he takes that in the future. I feel that he's really good at taking that code of the house and moving it forward. [As for his jeanswear,] Calvin Klein Jeans is obviously a huge business but is not necessarily for the fashion customer. It's the broad global customer, versus the fashion denim customer. I feel that Raf can bring something really interesting. Maybe keep the huge denim business as it is, but add a fashion layer. Move the brand forward for a true fashion customer. This is what I want him to do: bringing that must-have denim piece onto the hot list. He's really influenced by techno music and modern music and has done a lot of artist collaborations. Like at Dior, the Sterling Ruby print. Something unexpected and unusual would be his collaborations."Valerie Steele, Director and chief curator, The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology"I think the first thing is, Raf's got a really strong vision. And it's really interesting that before women's wear, he developed a really strong, personal and influential men's wear business. This is kind of cool, whereas Dior was always a very feminine house. Calvin Klein is more of an androgynous, urban concept. This is something that offers a lot of potential for Raf to put his own mark on men's and women's wear at Calvin. Calvin was always known for being young and sexy, and there was something a bit androgynous and a bit street about it. That kind of young and hip modernity seems to be at the heart of what Raf himself is really about, as opposed to working for other houses, be it Jil Sander or Dior. It would be interesting to see if he takes the young, hip, subcultural feel of his own men's wear and translates that to the women's wear. That would strike me as being very fresh. Right now, there's all these cool men's wear guys. There's more room in that field. If he really does get this complete creative control, the advertising will be crucial because it was always such a part of Calvin's DNA. Calvin did the most genius advertising ever. If you could do a modern version of that, not just riffing on great past Calvin Klein ads, but turn it in a new direction, that would be extremely exciting. With [the house of Calvin Klein] backing him, he can hire the world's best photographers. That remains to be seen what kind of approach he'll take with jeans versus collection advertising. They were kept in very separate silos. I remember once joking that Calvin's image was very dirty, while the collection is clean. It will be interesting to see if we get things mixed up a little. Hopefully he can balance everything. If Dior was overwhelming, this is even a bigger package."Sarah Andelman, Creative director and purchasing manager, Colette in Paris"I think the minimalist approach of Raf Simons will perfectly fit Calvin Klein's style. Calvin Klein's ads are already very modern from my point of view. I love the fact they feature Grace Coddington this season, but I'm sure Raf will surprise us in a great way."Kim Vernon, President and chief executive officer, Vernon Co."I cannot project what Raf's expression of the Calvin Klein brand will be, but I believe he has an extraordinary curiosity and grasp of culture and how it can be interpreted into clothing and objects. When I worked with Calvin, he was always inspired by what's current, modern and sexy, always powerful. His dialogue went well past the clothes. Raf has the chance to advance the brand, with a new point of view, which after 14 years has been a bit repetitive and mixed in messaging. It will be interesting and exciting to see how he communicates the brand language on the runway, in packaging, in media, something he has not really had the resources or opportunity to do. It's quite a big challenge to do that across all the channels and product categories that Calvin Klein is in, most of which is not in the designer price point. But it appears that Raf has a great capacity for creation and the discipline to handle it."Jeffrey Kalinsky, Founder and president of the Jeffrey boutique chain and vice president, designer fashion director, Nordstrom"I think it's going to be really, really ultrachic and an ultramodern take on American sportswear. For me, what it should be in 2016, compared to Calvin Klein in the Seventies. [Calvin] was such a master of very modern American sportswear. I remember everyone talking about his peacoat. I just think that Raf is going to blow it up and make just completely ubermodern sportswear for men and women. Raf's imagery is always really artistic, modern and creative. He worked with the most talented people in the industry and he's had such a strong tie to the art world. Even his newest collection for men had all the references to Mapplethorpe photographs, and he's always working with really great artists. We had an explosive Dior business [at Jeffrey] when he was there, and I was so sad when he left there. I'm super happy at the thought that I will once again get to carry him. We carry the men's under his name in New York. And we carried Jil Sander when he was there and it did well." [While Jeffrey doesn't carry Calvin Klein, he hopes to carry the new collection designed by Simons.] "I'll be devastated if we don't. It's going to be major, it's going to shake up the entire industry."Trey Laird, Chief executive officer and chief creative officer, Laird + Partners"If it were to happen, I think Raf represents a different vision of modern. I think Calvin stands for modern. [Raf] may not be the literal minimalist, in the tradition of Jil Sander. When you think of the minimalism and modernism, The Row represents the new Calvin in a way. There's a modern, innovative hand and vision to everything Raf does. That is true to the Calvin Klein legacy. It's interesting to think about how he would interpret innovation, in the products he would oversee and the imagery. The obvious thing, which may not happen at all, he has a long collaboration with Willy Vanderperre, who shoots all of Raf's campaigns and did his Dior work, he's great, he's supercool. He's a fellow Belgian and is part of that Belgian group and a longtime collaborator with Raf. He's been very loyal with his collaborators. Who knows if that will continue or not? Or, he'll do a new team. What's cool is he'll bring a new vision of beauty and how he sees modernity and youth, and his look and attitude have always been someone who marries the idea of the street with something very sophisticated to the highest levels of fashion and mashes those together. When he did his couture sneakers at Dior or his futuristic couture… It's interesting to think about Calvin's origins as a modern house and how it might be reinterpreted in 2017 and beyond. He's a real innovator. If it does happen, I'll be interested to see what his vision is and how it unfolds. The difference between Calvin and Jil, while they're both modern houses, Calvin has a powerful sexuality to its heritage. That will be interesting to see how Raf deals with that. It's not really something he's ever really represented. It's subjective. What is sexy depends on who's seeing it. I think he comes from a more intellectual conceptual place, more than a raw sexuality — it's not like he's Versace. But Calvin as a brand has always had a powerful sexual undertone that's been underneath everything they've done, maybe not at the Collection level, but from a brand level. I think it will be interesting when you ask about advertising, imagery and communications, how he interprets that or moves away from that. It's not something that I ever thought of at Jil Sander. That's where it's very different. It's very conceptual and intellectual, almost. Kind of arty. Raf has that legacy as well of tying in with artists. He's super directional. I, like everyone, will be anxiously intrigued to see what he's going to do. It's such a powerful brand and known all around the world and to reinterpret it with an innovative, fresh approach will be very interesting."Paul Wilmot, Founder, Paul Wilmot Communications, and who worked with Calvin Klein for many years"They're doing a reboot of the entire creative operation over there. After Calvin, there's been no singular voice for advertising, packaging, let alone design. Those guys are all businessmen and they run the company, obviously having three or four different people working on advertising and collections didn't work. I think they were always trying to synthesize Calvin's voice anyway. What would Calvin do? At this point, maybe they need to think about his legacy, but distilled through one person's point of view in terms of how the thing should look. Chanel and Louis Vuitton have a creative voice involving every aspect of it. Calvin did more than just the clothes, Calvin did the advertising, the packaging and name of the fragrances. He was the consummate creative force in the company, and they haven't had one. Each one of the designers, while talented, were trying to do their own take on what Calvin would do. Now they'll have one person's take on how you handle the legacy and intellectual property of Calvin Klein, and what he, through his voice, will say in all these different areas."Sam Shahid, Owner, Shahid & Co., who earlier ran Calvin Klein's in-house ad agency, CRK Advertising"Raf defined himself already with what he's done. He'll help the name Calvin Klein. I think the media will pay a lot of attention to it. He'll keep the same aesthetic, and he'll embrace the roots of Calvin Klein, the foundation of it, like he did at Dior with flowers. He'll do an homage to Calvin Klein, I don't mean that in a sad way, but a good way. Calvin definitely has a statement with his advertising and point of view. It's very physical. He'll bring that back or do his own thing. I think it'll be a little bit of the sexuality and the beauty of the people, I think he'll put his stamp on it and it will be the new Calvin Klein. Like he did with the new Dior. No one remembers Dior himself, and he came along and made it today, not yesterday, and I think he'll do the same thing. It will bring a lot of attention to the house. It will be very contemporary and very modern. He has the same sensibility as Calvin did in his time. Raf has the same aesthetics. With men's, I hope it's better than it is now. It's too Italian. It needs to be simple and very tailored. He'll get there, and go to the archives. The advertising will have more emotion to it. American designers need this injection to wake up. There are no stars in America now. It's time for it to make American fashion important again."Susan Sokol, President and founder, Susan Sokol Consultancy"You almost need to take a step back and talk about Calvin for a minute. What an incredible visionary Calvin was and still is today. Calvin's marketing instincts were totally genius. He knew more than anyone how to tap into the psyche of the next generation of consumers. It's really quite extraordinary. Even when it came to designing clothing, his modern, minimalist aesthetic was way ahead of the curve. In America, he set the tone for the aesthetic, and a dark sensuality to his ads, even though the clothes were minimalist, they had a real energy to them. I can envision a very exciting and dynamic shift of creative energy under Raf's direction. Raf already with his men's wear collection has shifted the landscape of men's clothing and is considered one of the most important men's wear designers in the world. His work has a cultural resonance few designers today have. His men's clothes express something about the world in which we live as his designs challenge social and political issues. I think he really wants to make men's clothes we have not seen before, not just another classic men's blazer or button-down shirt. Raf may surprise and shock. There's this dark sensuality to his work. He takes a lot of cues from the art world. A lot of culture and art imbue his work. He definitely is an excellent choice to be the creative director for all of Calvin Klein. This is a company that has staff that will support his vision."David Wolfe, Creative director, The Doneger Group"I based my thinking on what happened when he went to Dior. I thought Dior would end up looking like Jil Sander with a more dramatic silhouette, and it didn't turn out that way. I think he's very, very sensitive to the entity of the companies he's been assimilated by. He seems able to sublimate his core into the DNA of the company. I'm hoping that he assimilates what Calvin Klein used to look like when Calvin was in charge, rather than layering on from Francisco Costa. I think he would be influenced by Calvin's hot sexuality, which would be something he's not expressed at Dior or Jil Sander or his own range. I'm hoping for some originality. I think he's terrific in terms of taking tradition and making it modern. I'm inclined to think the minimalism thing is already in place so that's a given. I hope he does lots of research about Calvin in his luxurious sportswear prime. With the silk jacquards, the suede and the leather all together. When Calvin did it, it was American, when Francisco Costa did it, it was international. I will be interested in seeing Raf's take on an American company."Charles DeCaro, Co-owner of the ad agency Laspata/DeCaro"I think what's been happening in Europe with the shuffling of designers and bold-faced names going to the wayside in favor of atelier underlings taking on the helm of the important brands is the way fashion is going today. It's strange that conversely, here we'd be looking toward someone like a Raf Simons to helm the ship of Calvin Klein. The hope would be he would somehow communicate ownership. I think that would be the direction that he could bring to the table, that he would somehow define this brand in a new light. I'm just not sure of the relevance of that anymore. You see Lanvin, you see Saint Laurent, these houses in Europe, the bold-faced names are disappearing. Now that he can potentially be on board here, I'm not sure it's going to change things. Fashion today is in flux. We hope a vision will emerge from this autonomous relationship. This self-governing thing where designers are creative directors, but I don't see it translating to anything exciting, newsworthy or new. It doesn't seem as if it's created a brand. When you think of Calvin in the past, you think he owned sex. You think of Avedon, you think of Brooke Shields, you think of Marky Mark in his underwear. I can't recall any of [Simons'] Dior ads. The powers that be see the vision in him. Hopefully he will give a voice or a new spin on the Calvin Klein brand. Whether it needed it or not, I'm not sure. The collection will reference his sensibilities, which are clean and modernist, which are in league with the Calvin aesthetic. I think he can be powerful in communicating that vision. I'm not sure how successful he's been in the past in doing such. I don't remember one Dior ad except for Jennifer Lawrence sitting in a room. Even the other ads, of girls on a rock or in the sea, it's boring. It's not exciting in the way Calvin Klein and [earlier] Dior were. It's much more of the moment. Maybe he will bring something fresh and new and maybe that will translate to excitement."Scott Tepper, Fashion buying and merchandising director at Liberty"We are really excited about Raf's arrival, and picked up Calvin Klein for resort in anticipation of the amazing new partnership."Tepper said the hope is that a Calvin Klein under Simons, whom he described as a "modern minimalist," will be "the American equivalent of what he did at Jil Sander when he hit his stride. He was so influential at a time when Milan was really struggling." He pointed to the colored, pleated skirts and reworked white wedding dresses of Simons' "couture trilogy" collections for Sander.Although the resort collection won't bear Simons' imprint, Tepper said there is already change in the air, as if Calvin Klein were preparing for his arrival. "We won't see his work until mid-2017, but it was still worth picking up the brand. We're happy with the women's resort collection, which has clean Calvin roots. It feels as if the team is wiping the slate clean so that Raf can start working his magic."

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