The fashion industry is among very few who, at least right now, are hungry for an outsider’s opinion on America. And when it came time for Raf Simons to continue that commentary via his collections for Calvin Klein 205W39NYC, their appetite was insatiable. At the surface of his fall 2018 show, onlookers could draw several connections to a dystopia that no longer seems so far off — a blackened barnyard (set atop a foot of popcorn), clothes reminiscent of the Great Depression, hazmat suits, and more — but, after his third collection for the American label, is Simons still in a dogged pursuit of commenting on our unconscious history? Or, like most of us, ready to move on from it?
It’s a lot to unpack, especially after a New York Fashion Week that felt more like a slow burn than the city that never sleeps. So, let’s start with the easy stuff: the clothes. On the outside, coats felt daunting, almost henchman-like, sweaters and button-ups seemed dissimilarly comfortable and utilitarian, and slacks were, again, slim yet slouchy. Add in a few looks that were more literal than others — Nepali quilts, survival blanket dresses (indeed, in their blinding splendor), knitted balaclava hats — and Simons rounded out a vision that may have felt dark, but was, nevertheless, assuredly optimistic. Good luck getting your hands into those astronaut gloves, too.
How Simons managed to layer so many motifs in perfect harmony, and why he cherrypicked the things he did from America's history, doesn't answer the question of whether or not there's more to be unpacked. That perhaps beneath all the popcorn lies a script to the movie he's trying to direct. But it begs the question of whether or not it's time for Simons to turn his attention forward, not backwards. Because while America may boast centuries worth of stains it can't bleach, the grass is actually sometimes greener on the other side.
For what it's worth, the show notes insist he was inspired by the "discovery of America," that is, the '60s: the Space Race era and the information age, only his version boasts a democracy that has no hierarchy. It's a mood board he managed to sum up in one word, one that's supposed to be synonymous with Calvin Klein, too: freedom.