It’s official. Raf Simons has left Calvin Klein, just eight months before the scheduled end of his three-year contract with PVH, the parent company of Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger.
Following major successes of his namesake label, and at the helm of Jil Sander followed by Christian Dior, Simons—who started in the industry in 1995—was appointed with the Herculean task of reviving and breathing new life into Calvin Klein in August 2016.
The Belgian designer was given total creative control at the American brand—which he couldn’t have back in Dior—and oversaw all aspects of design, global marketing, communications, and visual creative service. Simons’s critically-acclaimed Fall 2017 debut—held at the company’s 39th Street headquarters in New York—saw a thorough overhaul of the house’s DNA, complete with a rebranding of its runway collection to Calvin Klein 205W39NYC.
Under Simons, Calvin Klein’s American perspective was globalised, with strong art world influences including Andy Warhol and Sterling Ruby. He rejuvenated quintessential Americanisms like Wall Street suits, sheriffs’ leather jackets, denim and cowboy boots with his signature androgynous flair; giving the sacred bastion of American minimalism a youthful, pop facelift.
Murmurings of Raf’s departure began circulating earlier this month when PVH Chairman and CEO, Emanuel Chirico, publicly expressed his disappointment with the brand’s third-quarter revenues, which fell by USD21 million from the previous year. Creative and marketing costs—namely Simons’s elaborate runway presentations and the hiring of the Kardashian-Jenner’s as spokesmodels—consumed a huge chunk of the brand’s earnings.
WWD reports that Chirico, speaking to PVH investors in a conference call, acknowledged that Calvin Klein “continued to command strong brand health and desire in all markets”. He also noted, however, that its runway division had not seen a return in investment despite Simons’s industry-lauded collections.
The average Joe, according to Chirico, was not feeling the Raf love even in its watered-down form. He dubbed Simons’s work at Calvin Klein Jeans—targeted at the mass market—a “fashion miss”, reasoning that the designer’s work was too elevated for the everyday people.
Along with the news of Raf Simons’s unceremonious ousting, Calvin Klein also announced that it will not be showing on the runway for Fall 2019.
Here, we look back at Simons’ two-year tenure at Calvin Klein with a selection of our favourite menswear looks—iconic pieces that, if you can still find them, would make a worthy addition to any fashion-lover’s wardrobe.