PVH Corp. is expected to this week confirm that it has hired Raf Simons as creative director of Calvin Klein Inc., sources said, ending nine months of speculation that had turned the appointment into one of the worst-kept secrets in fashion. An announcement could come as soon as Wednesday, the sources said.
WWD was the first to report last November that Simons was being tapped to head Calvin Klein’s design department.
At that time, the industry had been buzzing for weeks that the former artistic director of Christian Dior for women’s haute couture, ready-to-wear and accessory collections was being recruited for the top creative role at Calvin Klein. The departures of Francisco Costa as creative director of Calvin Klein women’s Collection and Italo Zucchelli as creative director of men’s Collection only added to the speculation that Simons was heading to the iconic American brand.
But Simons had a stringent, non-compete contract with Dior that sources said expired at the end of July, at last freeing him to join Klein. However, it is understood the designer relocated to New York some time last month and has already begun preliminary meetings with key Klein staff. His first collection would likely be for fall 2017.
While Emanuel Chirico, chairman and chief executive officer of PVH Corp., has been continually mum on Simons’ hire, he told WWD at the company’s annual meeting in June, “We would hope that a decision will be made in the near future and as events unfold, we’ll be sure everyone’s brought up to speed.” He added, “The plan would be that there would be one creative visionary for the brand, similar to when Calvin ran the business directly.”
Even Calvin Klein himself addressed the speculation in June, saying in an interview on Sirius XM Radio: “They won’t announce [who it is] publicly because it’s under contract. But the whole industry knows.”
Simons, who spent three-and-a-half years with Dior, made the decision to step down in October, citing “personal reasons.” His last collection for Dior was spring 2016. Both Simons and Dior described the separation as amicable after the designer and the company failed to reach an agreement on a new employment contract.
He continues to show his signature men’s collection in Paris.
Known for his minimalist leanings, art-world connections, exacting silhouettes and bold approach to design, the Belgian designer is viewed by industry observers as a great fit for Calvin Klein.
In a WWD story last month, Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus, said, “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.”
Assuming the creative helm of Calvin Klein, Simons will be taking on a role even larger and more complex than the one he held at Dior, encompassing men’s and women’s underwear, fragrances, jeans, accessories and women’s and men’s Collections. In addition, it is believed that he will have responsibility for all of Klein’s advertising and other creative. In exchange, sources said the designer will be paid up to $20 million annually.
Retailers, creative directors and other fashion insiders who were interviewed about the potential of Simons’ hiring were extremely supportive and enthusiastic, believing that Simons will embrace the challenge of reinventing Calvin Klein, which the company definitely needs. They feel he will bring fresh eyes to the business, which drums up $8 billion in global sales, with the goal of taking it to $10 billion.
“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,” Roopal Patel, senior vice president and fashion director at Saks Fifth Avenue, said last month. “Raf is not a one-note designer and that was really exhibited at his time at Dior.”
Following Calvin Klein’s departure in 2003 when he sold the company he founded with Barry Schwartz to PVH Corp., the creative responsibilities of the business were divided into a multiple-creative-director model. In addition to Costa and Zucchelli, Kevin Carrigan, who was named global creative director of CK Calvin Klein, Calvin Klein Jeans and Calvin Klein White Label, responsible for the lion’s share of the business, continues, as does Ulrich Grimm creative director of Calvin Klein men’s and women’s shoes and accessories, and Amy Mellen, creative director of home. It is believed they will all report to Simons.
“They are doing something that I had hoped they would have done, which is replace me. Find someone who can, with a singular vision, oversee everything that is creative,” said Klein in his Sirius XM interview.