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Raf Simons: A One Man Brand

When Calvin Klein announced last year that it was making Raf Simons its new creative director, the fashion world collectively dropped their jaws. They waited with gleeful anticipation for what the high-end European designer, and esteemed former director of Jill Sanders and Dior, would do with the very American Calvin Klein fashion brand.

No one in recent memory has ever been given complete creative control of a $4 billion fashion brand outside of the label names themselves. The fashion industry shook when Calvin Klein, the man, relinquished singular control of Calvin Klein, the label.

The blogs speculated on how would it work. Should one person really be in charge of the brand and creative direction for everything from high end and custom By Appointment line to mass-produced department store fanfare? And what about home goods and fragrances?

It begs the question: Can a high end fashion designer pull off mass appeal?

So far Raf has altered the logo from mostly lower case to all upper case lettering which gives it a homogenous seamless and solid feel. A welcomed design refinement, for sure, but it’s also indicating the brand’s large presence in popular American culture. His art direction for the Spring 2017 women’s underwear campaign seemed to nod to his commitment to diversity, featuring models from the ages of 18 to 73, all at various phases in their careers. Actress Lauren Hutton appears in one of the shots directed by Sophia Coppola, both ageless and timeless – like the brand itself.

Where previous incarnations of Calvin Klein imagery were sensual and steamy, this new version is cool and unattached but also inclusive. The brand’s Fall 2017 advertising campaign again features models at various phases of career. From ingenue to seasoned, these models are centered in a very meta photo shoot on a dusty road in Anywhere, USA that’s lined with billboards of Calvin Klein ads featuring works by pop artist Andy Warhol.

In each of Raf’s creations, the general consumer is allowed access to what is normally the elite behind-the-scenes action. A nod that only complements the open access to non-celebs of the exclusive By Appointment line, assuming buyers can afford or are willing to pay the associated price tags.

From what we’ve seen so far, Raf Simons seems to be saying that if Calvin Klein is going to remain a popular culture icon, then everyone, regardless of age or income, has to be invited to this party.

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