So the Calvin Klein Show Made Me Cry
Welcome to Runway Matters, where we're delivering notes straight from the runway so you can quickly digest the most important trends and moments from the F/W 18 shows.
This show made me tear up. It was that powerful, and in my opinion, the most important thing that happened at NYFW this season. To work within the average internet attention span, I organized my takeaways in mini sections. Catalogued from most important to more trivial, this is how I experienced the Calvin Klein show in a nutshell.
1. Raf Simons loves America…
Many would say that the job of reclaiming American fashion lies on Simons's shoulders. No pressure. So far, his approach has been to draw inspiration from the country’s tropes and symbols, and this season, he took that concept to new heights. I thought I was impressed last season—and I was—but this show vibrated on an even more complex and achingly beautiful level.
For fall 2018, Simons set his sights on America’s heartland. The set was part of this expression, with massive barn structures and tractor seats for some lucky guests. In an era where most brands are scaling back budgets and deserting expensive runway shows completely, it’s somehow reassuring (and fun) to attend a big-budget production. The clothes reflected Wheat Belt sensibilities as well, with quilt motifs playing prominently among prairie skirts and patchwork gowns.
2. But it’s a tricky relationship.
No matter which way you slice it, America is having issues right now. In past seasons, Simons has provided a more sinister view on our country’s current climate. This time around, there was a tempered dose of optimism, which frankly felt good. The soundtrack alternated between ’60s songs “The Sound of Silence” and “California Dreaming,” a reference to another time in U.S. history erupting with social change—and hope for a better future. The clothing reflected the uncertain outlook with dystopian takes on emergency clothing. Firefighter jackets and thick protective gloves were shown as well as silver space blankets on dresses and quilts.
The show closed with the same singsong clip of David Bowie’s “This Is Not America” that played last season. A reminder of the sobering landscape we’re still navigating. I love America, and I’m also very worried about it right now. To see this so poetically reflected in fashion form resonated with me and my tear ducts.
3. It’s not just a set piece.
It’s no secret that Simons loves the arts. His era of Calvin Klein is being established as one that blurs the lines between fashion and art. Those giant barns I mentioned? They had giant Andy Warhol photographs printed on them. The partnership with artist Sterling Ruby also continued with the same pom-poms (a nod to American cheerleaders) we saw last season suspended from the barn rafters. It’s difficult to think of a current designer that is using art as an opportunity to establish an immersive environment and tell a more profound story.
4. He’s not reinventing the wheel.
Several notable styles, such as the marching band pants and cowboy pocket shirts were carried over from past seasons. I find this consistency a bit refreshing because it provides a backbone to the brand as it evolves. In an era of exhausting trend cycles, it’s also an endorsement that those items Simons showed before are still cool. I’m all for slowly dismantling the mindset of “that’s so last season.”
5. Detachable hoods!
It wouldn’t be a Who What Wear story if we didn’t lend a little time to style tips—even if we had to get to the greater social implications of the show first. Of particular note: detachable hoods. I’m pretty sure most of us can dig up a puffer with a zip-off hood to get the look. I find this delicate blend of commercial viability and conceptual fashion particularly impressive. The show tells an impactful narrative but isn’t disconnected from what we want to wear. I can picture myself in so many of these pieces. Hello, blazer coats.
6. People like Millie Bobby Brown came.
And Nicole Kidman, Laura Dern, Kelela, Paris Jackson, Margot Robbie, and Cindy Crawford. Unlike other shows where it feels like celebrities are there because they have a contract with the brand, the A-list guests seem like they genuinely are fans. Not to mention the front row hits the perfect blend of current young things and more established names.
7. Wading through popcorn is a lot of fun.
As a girl that loved foam pits, ball pits, and pits of most kinds growing up, a popcorn pit (even if it was only a foot or so deep) made me grin. In true Simons fashion, 50,000 gallons of popcorn were more than just a photo stunt—though believe me everyone got their Instagram moment. Perhaps the popcorn served to simply to heighten the cinematic storytelling of the clothes, or it was a commentary on how today’s current events can feel a bit like a bizarre movie. Either way, the overall effect was a window into Simons’s splendid world of fact and fantasy.