Raf Simons: would Calvin Klein give him everything he wants?

Raf Simons

Fashion is anything but dull, something which is borne out by the news and rumours following the press release from Calvin Klein Inc. that both its creative director for womenswear, Francisco Costa, and menswear, Italo Zucchelli, will exit the business (after 14 years and 12 years respectively) as a result of a major restructuring that will bring all collections under one creative director.

In the current merry-go-round world of fashion, those are considerably long runs as the creative heads of any fashion house. There is a further announcement expected in the coming weeks/months as to who will replace them.

Italo Zuchelli and Francisco Costa

Like to the rumours that swirled about Hedi Slimane leaving Yves Saint Laurent, the open secret doing the rounds is that the name in the frame for the top gig is former Dior creative director Raf Simons. Apparently there is a non-compete clause in Simons’ contract with Dior whereby he could not work for a competitor until the summer of this year, which further added fuel to the fire that he is the “chosen one”.

Calvin Klein Inc. has also told press that there would be neither a menswear show nor womenswear show this year tor SS17 and that the collection would be created by an in-house design team and shown to press and buyers by appointment.

What is also quite fundamental is that the Calvin Klein collections for both menswear and womenswear are mostly a brand building and marketing exercise. It’s widely known that both collections did not contribute to the bottom-line and in fact it’s reported that the halo PR and brand building value from the collections is in the region of $400m, which is staggering. But maybe it’s time for a new image and there’s no doubt that Simons has the credentials from both his eponymous label (menswear) and his time at Jil Sander which gained very positive editorial attention.

So that brings us full-circle to Raf Simons and most interestingly, some of his reasons for quitting his position as creative director/womenswear at Dior, such as the time pressures and numbers of collections and having no time to think and be “creative”. It sort of begs the question, how would that change given the enormous time pressures and speed that would await Simons at a brand the size of behemoth Calvin Klein?

With both menswear and womenswear brands; ck Calvin Klein, Calvin Klein Jeans and Calvin Klein mainline collection and also huge underwear and accessories businesses (CK bought its licensee Warnaco to bring underwear back in-house) all coming under one creative director?

What’s even more interesting is it’s no secret that Simons didn’t have control over anything except womenswear at Dior, and when there is so much more to fashion businesses such as brand image, retail store design and advertising campaigns etc., then perhaps it was not all about too little time, but in fact not having “total creative control”, just as Hedi Slimane had at Saint Laurent.

When The Independent‘s Alexander Fury interviewed Simons after his second cruise show for Dior in New York in 2014, he mentioned how he had just completed 23 consecutive interviews. ‘‘It was really absurd,’’ he murmured. It’s not conceivable then that it would get any better taking up total creative control for Calvin Klein. And perhaps a somewhat volte-face on Simons’ part! The more cynical of us might say that he was in discussion with Calvin Klein for some time before his decision to exit Dior and that it suited him for things to play out the way they have, but I guess we will never know…

However, when Simons exited Dior and the reasons he gave for leaving the role were examined, there was genuine concern that the luxury designer fashion business has become too fast and creativity is an “also-ran” to the bottom line. Designers are increasingly used-up and spat out. Back in 2013 Nicholas Ghesquiere, when finally speaking about his departure from Balenciaga, revealed that he decided to leave the fashion house after 15 years because he “ended up feeling too alone”. It’s definitely a problem in fashion that doesn’t appear to be going away and who knows what the answer is.

I guess now we wait and time will tell if Raf Simons is going to be the new creative director at Calvin Klein Inc and just how that will all shake down but, if he is, then I suspect that the CK Press department will quietly be rubbing their hands with glee for some time to come.