Raf's False Nostalgia for Calvin Klein
CK 205W39NYC’s latest campaign, the first Spring Summer collection released under Raf Simon’s creative direction, transported their cast of models from a romanticised American highway to a desolate farm juxtaposing the old and the new with its youthful models dressed in vibrant coloured clothes against a dreary backdrop of a barn house. However, Raf, just like in his last campaign for CK20539NYC AW17, is channelling the art of making you feel nostalgic for a place you have never seen, for people you have never met, for clothes you have never worn. What can only be described as ‘False Nostalgia’.
At first glance, Raf has dramatically shifted the tone from his previous On the Road by Jack Kerouac and David Lynch’s Wild at Heart inspired shoot to a sinister backdrop reminiscent of Camp Crystal Lake from Friday the 13th (with Jason Voorhees shoes to match pictured above). Upon closer inspection, Raf has cleverly maintained a positive and youth fuelled mood clashing Ruby Sterling prints and art-objects with the rustic natural outdoors which climaxes into a party taking place within the barn itself.
This genius is partly due to Willy Vanderpere who shot both CK205W39NYC campaigns. Vanderpere gives life to the clothes by purposely pitting them against an old picturesque American landscape, clad with prints of Andy Warhol.
Yet like Warhol, Vanderpere is playfully exploring the relationship between artistic expression, celebrity culture, and advertising notably that which flourished by the 1960’s such as billboards.
The use of Andy Warhol not only helps set the scene for the outfits the models wear and the backdrop that emphasises their youthfulness, but it also shows an overarching development in Raf’s iconic implementation of art in the clothes he designs. Expanding upon his use of art in his fashion, Raf had previously used photographic masterpieces from none other than Robert Mapplethorpe for his own label’s SS17 collection; for Calvin Klein’s recent collection, Raf was granted access to the artwork of Warhol, lasting until 2020, on behalf of the Andy Warhol Foundation.
There are two things to understand from this: firstly, that Raf’s signature craftsmanship has successfully reshaped fashion houses for the contemporary audience, and secondly, that the power of nostalgia is a force to be reckoned with in the fashion world.
The true greatness of CK205W39NYC’s campaigns lie in the synthesis of world forgone in the modern age yet that same world being made accessible in Calvin Klein’s clothes, styling and presentation. Raf Simon’s has beautifully constructed an idea of false nostalgia where we view the new and the modern in a way that reminds us of the old except with a breath of new life. Nothing signifies this more than the sharp tips of the collars on the shirts, the fitted silhouettes of double denim outfits, large pockets detailed with vintage silver buttons and cropped knitted sweaters as if they were knitted by a grandmother.
With the anticipation for Raf Simons AW18 and Calvin Klein 205W39NYC runway shows soon to debut at NYC Fashion Week, we can only hope Raf continues his venture into rediscovering archive aesthetics. There seems to be no stopping to Raf’s success as a designer working within an industry fixated on speed, oversaturated with brands and the demand for innovation. The success of Calvin Klein underneath his guidance shows he is far from being stale in the face of newcomer designers who can still learn much from him.
Words by Alexander Rajah