Calvin Klein Inc. and Raf Simons said Friday night that Simons is leaving his post as chief creative officer.
Both parties have amicably decided to part ways after Klein decided on a new brand direction which differs from Simons’ creative vision.
Calvin Klein will not show during New York Fashion Week in February.
According to sources, the company decided in September to reduce some of Simons’ responsibilities and wanted him to agree to a new contract with fewer responsibilities. Sources said Klein decided certain areas of the business such as store design, visual merchandising, e-commerce, public relations and communications, and corporate social responsibility would report to Marie Gulin-Merle, chief marketing officer, rather than Simons, who had been given total responsibility for all creative areas when he joined in August 2016.
In late November, Emanuel Chirico, chairman and chief executive officer of PVH Corp., parent company of Calvin Klein, said in rather blunt terms on the company’s earnings call that the reimagined Calvin Klein — under Simons’ direction — is not working. He said the collection, renamed 205W39NYC, needed to become more commercial and that investments in the collection and advertising would be shifted elsewhere. Sources indicated that Simons caused a lot of havoc in the company and overspent on everything.
“While many of the product categories performed well, we are disappointed by the lack of return on our investments in our Calvin Klein 205W39NYC halo business and believe that some of Calvin Klein Jeans’ relaunched product was too elevated and did not sell through as well as we planned,” Chirico said at the time.
This was interpreted as a direct swipe at designer Simons as he has oversight of the 205W39NYC collection and jeans, as well as a raft of other categories, global marketing and communications, visual creative services and store design.
Further, Chirico said the redesigned Calvin Klein Jeans was a “fashion miss,” telling investors: “From a product perspective, we went too far, too fast on both fashion and price. We are working on fixing this fashion miss, and we believe that our CK Jeans offering will be much more commercial and fashion-right beginning in 2019, especially for the fall 2019 season.”
Soon after the earnings call, Klein sent out communication saying that starting in February, it would stop doing print advertising and would shift those dollars to digital media.
It is understood a renewal offer came to Simons in recent weeks, even though his current pact didn’t expire until August. Sources indicated that Simons decided not to accept the renewal due to restrictions on Collection spending and full creative control that he previously had. In addition, marketing, headed by Gulin-Merle, would no longer report to him, along with other responsibilities such as store design and e-commerce.
It’s said that Simons has recently been spending a lot of time away from the office.
Simons has been the chief creative officer at Calvin since August 2016 when he was basically handed the keys to the Klein kingdom, given the kind of complete creative control that had not been seen since the days when Calvin Klein himself, and his partner Barry Schwartz, were running the business.
Some sources indicated to WWD that CKI should have established ground rules before giving Simons so much responsibility to completely change the company’s well-established aesthetics and advertising.
Upon joining the company, Simons immediately set out to rethink the collections, change the teams, change the ad campaigns and basically reinvent the business, which was generating some $8 billion in sales but had lost its momentum in some respects. Chirico has repeatedly said he believes Calvin Klein will become a $10 billion business.
While Chirico expressed disappointment in the performance of the signature 205W39NYC collection, Simons has been winning a slew of awards for his work at Calvin. For the second year running, he won the CFDA Award for Womenswear Designer of the Year, and the year before, he scooped up both the women’s and men’s prizes — a feat that had never been done before. His directional, often disquieting fashion shows have brought the company a lot of buzz, taking the brand in a different direction from the clean, modern, minimalist roots planted by its renowned founder and strengthened by Simons’ predecessor, Francisco Costa. Over the last two years, Simons has explored the dark side of the American pop landscape, the immigrant “outsider” experience, cowboy culture, the high school years, horror movies and the actual apocalypse with models walking the runway in hazmat suits, firefighter coats and Mylar accessories.
The brand’s ad campaigns, which had futuristic and artistic overtones, have featured androgynous and otherworldly looking models, as well as the Kardashian-Jenner clan, and was another shift from the highly sexualized and controversial campaigns for which the brand has been known.
As reported by WWD, Klein is also making a change in its photographers, hiring Glen Luchford to shoot the spring campaign rather than Simons’ longtime collaborator, Willy Vanderperre, who has shot the campaigns since the designer’s arrival.
Chirico told analysts over the last three years the group has invested between $60 million and $70 million in 205W39NYC — and it hasn’t seen a return on the investment.