Browse all

Everything that's going on at Calvin Klein

We take stock of the situation after the departure of Raf Simons

Everything that's going on at Calvin Klein We take stock of the situation after the departure of Raf Simons

The news came in on December 21st, a news insiders and fashion enthusiasts were waiting for. Raf Simons leaves Calvin Klein after two years, eight months before the natural end of his contract as creative director of the fashion house. An announced end, the differences between the Belgian designer and the brand symbol of the American style were too many. Now, a few weeks after the departure of Simons, Calvin Klein, which is controlled by the PVH group, reveals its strategies and projects for the new year. Here we round up everything we know so far, from the arrival of Simons until today. 

Simons was called to give a unique and immediately recognisable identity to the Calvin Klein world, a new aesthetic half way between the austere minimalism of Simons and the more relaxed and sexy vibe of Klein, which was supposed to attract also a new and wider audience, as well as result in more sales. Since day one, every action of Simons was meant to represent a brand new beginning for the American brand. First of all, Raf took complete control over the creation of the collections, basically forcing the designers of both women's and men's ready-to-wear lines, Francisco Costa and Italo Zucchelli, to leave. Another victim was Kevin Carrigan, director of the CK line, the most popolar of the brand, which had reached an incredible number of sales. The only survivor was Ulrich Grimm, the accessory designer. Simons brought with him his number two, Peter Mueller, who was with him also at Dior. Many rumors describe Simons as bossy, often secretive and withdrawn; Simons refused to share his work with the commercial team of Calvin Klein, and even with the CEO Steve Shiffman and the President of the PVH group Manny Chirico, which caused many tensions in the board, especially after the numbers of the third trimester were published. 

The two years spent by Simons at Calvin Klein were rich of contradictions. All the collections designed by him for Klein received good reviews, and also the press has always awarded and praised the Belgian designer, even at the CFDA Awards. The multi-brand retailers selling Calvin Klein went from 30 to 300, but under the creative direction of Simons no new flagship store was opened. In fact, it was the flagship store of the brand on Madison Avenue in New York to cause the first real clash between the designer and the board. The spaces of the store were completely reimagined and redesigned by artist Sterling Ruby, a long time collaborator of Simons: from its minimal and total white look, the retail space was completely painted in a bright tone of yellow, both on the walls and on the furniture, in contrast with the grey facade of the building. Simons, moreover, created a brand new line, Calvin Klein 205W39NYC, that despite the initial success didn't meet the expectations. While he was at the helm of CK, Simons kept designing the collections of his namesake label, even showing for a few seasons in New York, becoming therefore a direct competitor of Calvin Klein. 

The main mission of Simons was to create a beautiful fashion, faithful to the DNA of the brand, but that at the same time could sell very well. That's way the other battlefield were the advertising campaigns. The first, for the Autumn/Winter 2017/2018, shot by photographer Willy Vanderperre, close collaborator of Simons, captured the masterpieces of American art with the iconic pieces of Calvin Klein. It was definitely an ambitious project, that in fact it was soon replaced. The protagonists of the following campaign became the Kardashian-Jenner sisters, clear example of a 'lower' and mainstream culture, that even though it's not polished nor elegant, definitely reaches a vast audience. 

Despite all this, what really matters are the numbers, and the ones of the last trimester of 2018 are clear. The earnings of Calvin Klein went from $142 millions of the previous year to $121 millions, a decline that of course didn't please the board or the PVH group. From here the decision of Simons to step down. 

The relaunching of Calvin Klein will develop on three different levels. First of all, Calvin Klein 205W39NYC, the line created by Simons, will change name and creative direction, with the aim of reaching an always wider audience, while still remaining in the luxury sector. The focus will also shift on the menswear lines of Calvin Klein Sportswear and Calvin Klein Jeans
The second point concerns the retail. In Spring, the flagship store on Madison Avenue in NYC wil be closing down, and the brand will invest more on the shopping experience, both offline and especially online, with new dedicated apps and websites. Finally, Calvin Klein will go back to its American roots, with a renewed attention for the American marketplace. 
The total cost of the operation will amount to about $120 millions in the next 12 months, with the goal of reaching $12 billions of income in the next few years. 

Last wild card, the creative director. It seems that Kevin Carrigan might be ready to come back to Calvin Klein, after the years at Ralph Lauren, not only for Calvin Klein Jeans, but for the whole brand.