For several seasons now, Raf Simons has treated his runway shows for Calvin Klein like short films. Most of his collections — if not all of them — have been a hit since his debut at the New York-based label in 2017, though they've all been rooted in roughly the same idea: It's a dark time in America. But after his SS19 offering, which paid homage to the post-Watergate film Jaws and featured blood-splattered clothes, bitten skirts, and more, it's worth asking: Is it time to say "We get it already"?
Though his references are more literal than his own masterful interpretation, there's nothing cliché about Simons' vision. He's got a knack for tapping into unchartered territories of the minds and closets of his loyal followers, reminding them that being bold is sexy — and facing one's fears can be, too. This was obvious in the ultra-cropped and half-zipped wetsuits, leopard print (which, at first glance, we didn't think held its own in the line-up), graphic muscle tanks featuring the daunting Jaws film poster (and the "cK" logo, of course), and high-slit skirts with shark bites taken out of them ("Don't go in the water!"). Then something less predictable happened: As the show made its way to the finale, models wore billowing graduation capes with matching mortarboards, accompanied by Simons' signature celebratory fringe.
Like any good climax, it almost had us — but it was yet another literal note Simons wrote down during his self-education in American cinema: The Graduate. The only connection between the polar-opposite cult classics? Scuba gear, which is worn in both films. To someone who's more of a TV buff, this transition was less smooth as it should have just been cut. So, how could Simons know blood-dyed tie-dye, skin-tight scuba trousers, and rubber Western boots would resonate with customers come spring? Perhaps it's a secret he'll never tell, or maybe he knows everyone else on the NYFW schedule will stick to what they know for a spring collection — florals, overdrawn silhouettes, sandals — leaving him space to do something different.
Maybe we, as a country, are obsessed with our past; flawed as it may be and given the state of our union. Film has played a crucial role in pop culture and in Simons' collections (he's cited Safe, Carrie, Easy Rider, and The Shining as influences for his versions of Americanisms). And we're well-aware of his affection for Andy Warhol.
That being said — and pardon the pun — people are bound to eat it up, as they do anything the ready-to-wear maestro does. If Simons says to jump in shark-infested waters, ask yourself if you'd get in should the prize of survival be a Calvin Klein-branded wetsuit. This is the heralded "saviour of American fashion" we're talking about here. We're not condoning putting one's life (or finances) in danger for the sake of fashion, but hey, you saw those bags.