Raf Simons

What’s on tap for fashion? Direction-wise, the bets for early 2017 were placed months ago. Following the spring collections in September-October, retailers continued to cite the European powerhouses that have ruled the trend roost for the past few seasons: Gucci’s maximalist neo-nerd; the indulgent irony of luxury streetwear from Demna Gvasalia at Vetements and Balenciaga, and Gosha Rubchinskiy. Net-a-porter’s vice president of global buying, Sarah Rutson, for example, drove home the ongoing importance of street style during the company’s spring presentation — Vetements, Vetements, Vetements and Off-White. These are names, labels and looks that have reverberated up and down the fashion food chain for a while. The question now: Is there still room for one more designer sweatshirt and embroidered bomber jacket in even the most devout, fashion-hungry Gucci acolyte’s closet?

It’s true that the big, exciting fashion news and influence have come mainly out of Europe for several seasons, while the U.S. has fueled a far less sexy, if no less relevant, “fashion system” frenzy. We have not nearly heard the last of the see-now-buy-now blah-bitty blah, but for fall, American fashion is positioned for high-profile newsiness and, perhaps, reclamation of style authority by way of a Belgian designer now in command of an iconic U.S. brand. In February, all eyes will be on Raf Simons’ debut at Calvin Klein, where the vision he presents will have been at least six months in the works. No pressure.

Speculation is part of the fun in any new marriage between a major creative force and a megabrand, but truthfully Simons’ Klein is a bit of a wild card. Simons’ vision for women’s wear at Jil Sander and  Christian Dior was modernist and lady-fied, while he’s dealt in edgier, artier, cooler fare for his own men’s wear collection. The Klein tenets of sensual minimalism could bring Simons closer to his men’s aesthetic, particularly in light of the fact that Simons is taking over the entire CK purview including Calvin Klein Collection; Calvin Klein Platinum; Calvin Klein; Calvin Klein Jeans; Calvin Klein Underwear and Calvin Klein Home brands. According to the company, Simons will oversee all aspects of design, global marketing and communications and visual creative services. That gives him a lot of creative latitude. Will Simons be the second coming of Calvin, in terms of fashion zeitgeist? Is that even possible nowadays? It will be fun to watch.

There’s another debut at a major American house on deck for fall, with co-creative directors Fernando Garcia and Laura Kim at Oscar de la Renta. This one comes with a side of legal scandal. To recap, Kim worked under de la Renta for 12 years before leaving in 2015 to launch her own label Monse with Garcia, who also worked for de la Renta for several years. Though Monse was a creative hit from the beginning, the designers took side jobs consulting at Carolina Herrera, where Kim was eventually hired as senior vice president for design last January. Yet Peter Copping’s abrupt departure from de la Renta in July had left a major hole, and speculation spun early about a possible homecoming for Kim and Garcia. Come September, they were named co-creative directors of de la Renta. Herrera didn’t like that. Not one bit.

Last month, Herrera filed a lawsuit in the Supreme Court of the State of New York seeking to block Kim from joining de la Renta until April in accordance with Kim’s non-compete agreement. The suit supplied juicy grist for the gossip mill, including plans to replace Herrera in the role of designer with Kim, and the fact that the non-compete only applied to Kim’s potential employment at de la Renta. Businesswise, Carolina Herrera and Oscar de la Renta are fierce competitors. According to Kim’s affidavit, following her resignation from Herrera in July, she and Garcia were told not to come back to the office. “In fact, Carolina Herrera said to me at that time: ‘Nobody knows you and nobody knows that you are here. I am more famous than you and have more powerful friends.’”

A preliminary injunction barring Kim from working at de la Renta was issued and lifted the week of Dec. 19. As of press time, a hearing date is set for Jan. 10 in a Manhattan state court. Following the court’s dismissal of the temporary restraining order, the Herrera company said, “The company, Carolina Herrera Ltd., understands and appreciates the judge’s reasoning for today’s decision, which is to ensure the January 10 hearing is the final word on the question of the preliminary injunction. It’s important to note the judge put the opposing parties on notice that if he grants the preliminary injunction, they will be prohibited from using any and all work product they have jointly created if they choose to work together before January 10. We are satisfied with this decision and look forward to continuing to pursue this matter.” Stay tuned…