LONDON — The annual Frieze fair may have ended Sunday, but Calvin Klein kept the contemporary art flame burning for an extra 24 hours with an unusual take on a fashion presentation.
On Monday night, the fashion house unveiled a specially commissioned performance project by the English artist Martin Creed, known for his conceptual art using music, neon signs, balloons and light switches, as an accompaniment to a show of the brand’s spring collections.
The project was based on Creed’s “Work 673,” which features an 18-piece orchestra, whose musicians sat one behind the other in a line, playing the same note, one after the other.
The result? An evening where models formed tableaux or walked in file to the sound of booming bass drums, clarinets and cellos.
“London has this arty energy,” said Francisco Costa, creative director of Calvin Klein Collection for women, who cohosted the evening at the cavernous P3 space, an underground hall turned gallery space in north London. “It felt very natural to do something here.”
Italo Zucchelli, creative director of Calvin Klein Collection for men; Kevin Carrigan, creative director of ck Calvin Klein and Calvin Klein, and Tom Murry, president and chief operating officer of Calvin Klein Inc., also hosted the event, along with Naomi Watts.
The 900 guests included Creed, Mary-Kate Olsen, Bianca Jagger, Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig of Marchesa, Fiona and Olympia Scarry, Henry Holland, Gareth Pugh, Lara Bohinc, Daisy de Villeneuve, Kelly Osbourne and members of boy band the Backstreet Boys.
Creed said the buzzy crowd only added to the impact of the installation.
“It’s about interaction — I try to put colors, shapes and sounds together,” he said elaborating on the link between art and fashion. “Art is about making things that people look at. Clothes are about the way we look.”
Watts, who spent much of the evening curled up in a corner booth with Olsen and Jagger, was a little less cerebral about the evening. “I am a fan of minimalism and structure,” she said, pointing to her simple Calvin Klein Collection shift.
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Earlier in the day, Murry said the aim of the event was to elevate the brand’s identity and awareness in the U.K.
It’s an important moment for Calvin Klein in Britain: The company is gearing up for a retail drive that will kick off next month when a 4,000-square-foot ck Jeans store opens at 170 Regent Street. The store will carry underwear and accessories in addition to the jeans collection. In the spring, a ck Calvin Klein watch and jewelry store will open on South Molton Street.
Last March, the brand opened a Collection women’s boutique at Harvey Nichols, and Murry said the hunt has already begun for a stand-alone Collection store in central London. “It would be a first for London. We’re looking for the right location, and we’re hoping to open in 2009,” he said.
He added that other shop-in-shops, such as the one at Harvey Nichols, were also in the cards in the U.K. In addition, the company will launch its ck Calvin Klein color cosmetics line in the U.K. in the spring. Murry declined to give details of that introduction. However, he said the company had learned from its mistakes launching a color cosmetics line the first time around, in the mid-Nineties. “It wasn’t a commercial success. We got the distribution, pricing and marketing wrong, but we’ve learned from that experience,” he said.
About half of Calvin Klein’s $5 billion in global retail sales comes from the U.S., with the remainder generated in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Murry said sales in each of those non-U.S. regions are split evenly, and that no one area is growing faster than the other.
Product-wise, the biggest sales growth is coming in jeans, underwear and fragrances, he said. To wit, he said the initial sales of the new fragrance Calvin Klein Man, which launched earlier this month, were exceeding expectations.
There are currently 320 freestanding stores outside the U.S. covering the various Calvin Klein categories. Half are in Asia, while the others are split between Europe and the Middle East. Murry said that next year the company is looking to open another 100 points of sale worldwide for Collection, ck Calvin Klein, ck Jeans and underwear. He said one of the biggest challenges by far is finding the right store locations, especially in major cities.
The company’s next great frontier is India, where it plans to open “multiple freestanding stores” in Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore at the end of this year with partner Murjani Group. Calvin Klein will be doing a big event there in the spring, Murry said.
Meanwhile, on Thursday night, Calvin Klein will be taking part in yet another music-related event — but this time not so intellectual. The brand will dress Joss Stone for Swarovski Fashion Rocks, which takes place at the Royal Albert Hall. Watts, who will also be dressed in Calvin Klein, will introduce the singer at the event.