Raf Simons has just been confirmed as the new chief creative officer at Calvin Klein. This ends a rumour mill that’s been churning away since April, the month Francisco Costa and Italo Zucchelli jointly left their positions as the label’s women’s and men’s creative directors respectively. So what will he bring to the near-legendary American label?
First-up, the mere fact the 48-year-old designer’s there is enough to get the fashion crowd excited about the brand. Since Simons founded his eponymous, gender-blurred menswear brand in 1995, it has gained an almost cult-like following in the industry. Every season we attend the Paris shows and, with industry professionals already having seen two full rounds of catwalks in both London and Milan (as well as the Pitti Uomo trade fair), the general rule is that the later the show is on the schedule, the less likely it is that it will attract a big crowd. This isn’t the case with Raf. Usually held at 8pm in a far-flung corner of the French capital, Raf’s show is not only one of the latest on the schedule but it’s also one of the most well-attended. It’s also noticeably one of the youngest crowds.
All of this bodes well for a label that’s not only inextricably linked to a gender-fluid vibe since the release of CK One, but also one that’s currently trying to re-connect with its younger fans.
However, Simons’ hire also marks a milestone for the brand. The caption underneath the Instagram post announcing his new role read:
“Mr Simons will lead the creative strategy of the Calvin Klein brand globally across the Calvin Klein Collection, Calvin Klein Platinum, Calvin Klein, Calvin Klein Jeans, Calvin Klein Underwear and Calvin Klein Home brands. As part of his role as Chief Creative Officer, Mr Simons will oversee all aspects of Design, Global Marketing and Communications, and Visual Creative Services.”
In short, Simons is being given full creative control across all aspects of the brand – not just the clothing. This is something that no single person has had since the founder Calvin Klein was himself in charge.
At a time when many established brands are streamlining their operations (whether that’s closing diffusion lines or buying back fragrance franchises), giving Simons the ability to unite all the arms of a huge company seems like a savvy business move – and gives him the freedom to shape the label in a way perhaps not possible at such a storied label as Dior.
It’s also something we’ve seen garner huge returns for brands in recent seasons. Both Hedi Slimane’s rebrand at (Yves) Saint Laurent andAlessandro Michele’s Gucci reboot transformed the brand into something covetable, current and, crucially, profit-making. It is also worth noting that during Simons’s three-and-a-half years heading up the womenswear at Dior, sales rose 60 per cent.
So the real question is, what will Simons do when he gets there? Throughout its history, Calvin Klein has chased a younger audience. From the famous CK One ads in the Nineties to the #mycalvins campaign fronted by Justin Bieber and Kendall Jenner right now, the brand has tended to concentrate its big brand-building efforts on its entry-level products (i.e. underwear and fragrance). Will he stick to the status quo? Or will he shake things up completely, putting the brand’s catwalk collections front-and-centre? We’ll have to wait until his first Autumn/Winter 2017 show to find out…
This article originally appeared on gq.co.uk.