The 8 Best Moments From Raf Simons At Calvin Klein

The designer will be missed at the American brand

Raf Simons

Raf Simons takes home Womenswear Designer of the Year at the 2017 CFDA Fashion Awards.
Photo: Getty

From his influence over a new generation of designers such as Virgil Abloh, to his cult-like following who have turned his runway pieces into coveted collectibles, everything that Belgian design genius Raf Simons does has impacted the realms of fashion and pop culture. Remember the time American sweetheart Jennifer Lawrence’s tumbled gracefully during her 2013 Oscar acceptance? That heart-stopping moment will forever be immortalised on the Web… and so will the dreamy Dior gown she was swathed in that Simons created when he was at the French House.

So when news broke that Simons’ tenure at Calvin Klein will come to a premature end, fans and fashion insiders alike were surprised. After all, Simons brought a conceptual slant to the iconic American brand and made it one of the top highlights of New York Fashion Week. It was reportedly not enough: Emmanuel Chirico, chairman of Calvin Klein’s parent company PVH, said Simons’ high fashion vision had failed to appeal to a broader consumer market, which forms the core of Calvin Klein Inc’s business, resulting in less-than-stellar sales numbers.

Regardless, Simons’ brief creative stewardship at Calvin Klein is one for the books. Whether it was his chic and utilitarian redefinition of Americana, or his ability to tap into the cultural zeitgeist and marry fashion with reality television, we look back at the highlights of his works for the American fashion giant.


Simons borrowed heavily from Americana codes to add relevance to Calvin Klein, dreaming up collections that paid homage to American horror movies or cheerleading sports. There’s also nothing quite like sportswear and denim—America’s greatest contribution to global fashion—and Simons’ Western-inspired, nuanced take on the quintessential all-American fabric redefined what it meant to look and feel patriotic.


Transparent couch covers worn over coats for a debut season? A canary yellow gold coat fused with what seemed like PVC? Simons’ debut collection for the brand was at once strange and sublime.


Any discussion about Simons’ oeuvre will not be complete without mentioning his collaborations with Los Angeles-based artist Ruby Sterling. The latter’s works have always been present in the fashion designer’s creations, be it at his eponymous label or Calvin Klein. Most notably, the two worked together again on the set of the fall/winter 2018 show, which saw balaclava-clad models emerge from abandoned barns and trudge through what looked like powdery white snow from afar, but were actually pristine white popcorn. Hungry yet?


Another collaboration that has come to define Simons’ time at Calvin Klein? His partnership with the Andy Warhol Foundation. Simons utilised the iconographies of the late American pop artist to much aplomb. First appearing in advertising campaigns that hinted at Simons’ vision for the brand, Warhol’s prints and paintings were later introduced onto clothing pieces such as denim jackets and underwear.


A first in the American House’s nearly fifty-year history, Simons introduced a bespoke and artisanal range. Aptly titled Calvin Klein: By Appointment, the line offered couture-like tailoring and made-to-measure services that were created in the heart of the brand’s New York City atelier.


Simons changed the way Calvin Klein Underwear campaigns were created and seen. Lensed by his long-time collaborator and photographic genius Willy Vanderperre, the pictures moved away from the overt sense of sexuality that have come to define the ads. Instead, the new direction focused on the raw and the unfiltered. Pop cultural icons like Solange Knowles and A$AP Rocky, and the men from the Oscar-winning film Moonlight were enlisted to pose in nothing but their skivvies.


From his progressive body of work, it is evident that the rules of convention simply do not apply with Simons. Otherwise, how do you explain the decision to include America’s First Family of Reality Television, The Kardashian-Jenner Clan, in advertising campaigns for the brand?


In the wake of Simons’ departure, his last collection for Calvin Klein deserves more than second looks—and it’s not only because he referenced two of modern cinema’s greatest masterpieces, The Graduate and Jaws, he also did it with so much irreverence. Juxtaposing menacing shark iconography with instantly recognisable “cK” logos, Simons also crafted neoprene scuba suit separates and used mortar boards as unlikely millinery choices against well-constructed silhouettes.

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