Raf Simons, with the artist Sterling Ruby, has rendered the iconic, minimalist design of the Calvin Klein Collection flagship at 654 Madison Avenue unrecognizable. Is it a construction site? A police crime scene?
It’s actually a work in progress.
The 22,000-square-foot, three-level Calvin Klein flagship will undergo a complete renovation at an as-yet undetermined date. But Simons, chief creative officer, wanted a new environment for his inaugural fall 2017 Calvin Klein 205W39NYC collection, so he tapped Ruby, a frequent collaborator, to create an interim store design. It was unveiled Saturday.
Calvin Klein 205W39NYC, Simons’ unwieldy new name for Collection, is a reference to the ground-floor space and 12th-floor showroom at the brand’s headquarters, which were also designed by Ruby. Simons was apparently drawn to the Garment District address because it speaks to that fading neighborhood’s heritage.
“Ruby has reimagined architectural designer John Pawson’s original design of the Calvin Klein flagship,” the brand said in a press release. Reimagined? Cherry bombed with yellow paint would be more accurate.
Bathed in yellow light and with yellow-painted walls, the store is filled with yellow scaffolding, a literal reminder that this is temporary and the flagship’s final look is still to come. According to the company, the color yellow is meant to signify yellow caution tape and traffic signs.
“I’m taking the Calvin Klein flagship from minimal to maximal,” Ruby said. “My design should be seen as a marker to celebrate the future of the brand.”
Ruby’s soft sculptures shaped like candles, which in some cases are almost two stories tall, are splattered with black and gray paint. Other candles are covered in fabric with red-and-white stripes and blue Lego pieces. Horizontal yarn sculptures, also by the artist, hang from the ceiling and frame the sculptures below. Bundles of yarn hang from S-hooks like mop tops for Raggedy Anne.
Vintage quilts, displayed throughout the store — and for sale — reflect Simons’ obsession with Americana that was expressed in his fall Klein collection via cowboy boots and an American flag skirt. Both the artist and designer share a vision of America that encompasses highs and lows, as evidenced by the slop bucket hanging from the ceiling.
Briefcases so big they look like caricatures of briefcases are displayed on pedestals along with color-blocked sandals. Simons’ marching band ready-to-wear includes a plastic-covered plaid coat, $3,695, that was a hit of his fall runway show. A medium domed tote is $1,690 while suede evening shoes with crystal detailing are $1,495. Each product category has its own home in the store, but cross-interact throughout.
Ruby’s transformation of the flagship seems to be a direct rebuke of the celebrated Pawson design. With its sandstone floors and white walls and columns, the light-filled space provided a neutral backdrop for the clothes, but was considered by some to be overly severe with not a single rounded shape in the store and slabs of stone used for tables.
“The reimagined Calvin Klein Madison Avenue store concept by Raf Simons and Sterling Ruby is truly a sight to behold,” said Steve Shiffman, chief executive officer of Calvin Klein Inc. “This is a great statement of Raf’s creative vision for the brand, and I’m thrilled to bring this one-of-a-kind retail experience to New York.”
The reopened flagship has new offerings, including Calvin Klein Jeans Established 1978 and Calvin Klein Underwear 205W39NYC.
The idea of the home category has been re-created by Simons with an emphasis on a collection of objects for the home, some found, some designed, the company said. Product assortments include Homer Laughlin coffee mugs, Rose Cabat ceramics, Italian vintage glassware and bedding.
Ruby’s sculptures take up prime real estate on the second and third floors. The home area on the third level features a mattress on the floor covered in a vintage quilt with underwear hanging nearby. Outside the bedroom, men’s suits, leather pants, bomber jackets and a sweater embroidered with 205W39NYC are displayed.
Mannequins look down from ledges, naked save for fuchsia arm warmers.