Should the specter of a nuclear war with North Korea become a reality and the United States is bombed into oblivion, turning into one of the very “not-so-nice” countries so reviled by its current president, what will be left? Centuries later, when alien archaeologists start to dig beneath the ashes and uncover some semblance of what used to exist, what conclusions will be drawn?
Perhaps Raf Simons had the same thing on his mind when thinking about his Fall/Winter 2018 collection for Calvin Klein. His previous seasons riffed on notions of Americana, and that theme is still expressed here (with quilted overshirts carrying over some of the fabric used in FW17’s grail-status parka, and a Warholian set serving as the backdrop, literally building on SS17’s Warhol collaboration), but filtered through a nostalgic moroseness.
Maybe Raf Simons’ idea of living in America simply isn’t living up to the reality. His romanticization of the films, artists, and pioneer spirit that once characterized the country have given way to a show characterized by dressed-up elements of survival, decay, and an examination of things that will live on after we all pass.
But despite the ominous undertones of the show—a popcorn floor that could be a stand-in for snow or an ash-covered ground, multiple Warhol-adorned barns that could have functioned as improvised fallout shelters—the collection was anything but #dark. Similar to the social commentary and touches of depression in subculture in his latest eponymous collection, there was a healthy dose of escapism for Calvin Klein. Plenty of movies, after all, visually express a more ideal version of the world we wish to live in.
Given the unprecedented success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the records already being broken by Black Panther, film’s potential for escapism when reality feels post-apocalyptic is a given. But there’s also another layer here, in deconstructing the glitz and glamour of Old Hollywood (exhibited in some very regal patterned topcoats), it’s apropos considering the entertainment industry is also remaking itself in the wake of the digital age, and a new breed of creators empowered by the fall of the old guard like Harvey Weinstein.
Bringing together pop culture influences like Looney Tunes characters on sweaters, hi-vis workwear details on fireman’s coats, and signature touches like voluminous outerwear made of classic menswear checks, knit balaclavas and silver accessories nod towards the 1960s space race and Simons’ existing penchant for astronaut gear. The message blurred the lines between past and future, with a focus on a timeless sense of masculinity balanced by soft beauty.
The star-studded show included appearances by notable Simons acolyte A$AP Rocky, stylist Aleali May, Kelela, Yasiin Bey, Dev Hynes, Karlie Kloss, Margot Robbie and actors Nicole Kidman, Kyle McLachlan holding it down for an older generation. The finale, set to Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence,” punctuated the overall somber tone.
It’s entirely unclear if Simons’ vision of America has equally decayed as he’s confronted with its realities, but at least for the duration of the show, he and the audience were able to take a welcome break from the impending apocalypse. Sometimes, it’s nice to just escape into someone’s well-crafted vision.
Now check out Raf Simons’ Fall/Winter 2018 collection inspired by drugs and excess.
- Photography: Thomas Welch