There’s been some grumbling on Planet Fashion that the New York shows aren’t as fancy, creative, and over-the-top fabulous as their European counterparts, with big-name New York tickets like Proenza Schouler and Rodarte decamping to Paris this season and Tommy Hilfiger showing in Los Angeles.
New York Fashion Week has become so democratic, its schedule stacked with little-known young labels among the more established and coveted designers, that ordinary people can attend many of the shows.
But Calvin Klein’s show on Friday morning felt like the old days, before bloggers and influencers crowded into the front row alongside supermodels and movie stars. It was a reunion of sorts for some of the biggest names, both new and retro, in fashion and entertainment—an embarrassment of A-lister riches.
Sarah Jessica Parker and Anna Wintour were chatting in one front row bench; Julianne Moore and Gwyneth Paltrow embraced on another; and Lauren Hutton was seated next to Brooke Shields at the opposite end of Calvin Klein’s large showroom in midtown Manhattan.
They had all come to see whether Raf Simons, the Belgian designer who breathed new life into Jil Sander and Christian Dior, could make Calvin Klein relevant again with his debut as head designer of the classic sportswear brand.
The occasion was a throwback for Shields, who was 15 when she suggested she wasn’t wearing underwear in one of her first televised Calvin Klein ads.
“There’s a certain nostalgia to it for me,” Shields, who wore an eccentric gold choker around her neck, told the Daily Beast of working with the brand again—a clever move by Simons (who better than Brooke Shields to help carry on the brand’s legacy?). Shields stressed that her collaboration with Simons was a new beginning for her, too: “I don’t feel like I’m grasping on to something from a long time ago.”
Across from her sat 12-year-old Millie Bobby Brown of Stranger Things, who was just cast as the new, youngest-ever face of the brand.
There were plenty of other Calvin girls flitting around the room: Kate Bosworth, for instance, looking like a ‘90s CK denim ad in a plain white “Calvin Klein” logo tee and tight blue jeans, her bleached blond hair parted at the center; Christy Turlington too, who has been appearing in Calvin Klein campaigns for more than 20 years and is still the face of the brand’s “Eternity” fragrance.
The Planet Fashion grumblers were stunned into silence when the models came out wearing one fabulous look after another.
There were double-breasted plaid power suits, denim suits with back pockets stamped with the silhouette from Shields’ iconic campaign, and transparent tops with chunky varsity sweater sleeves on both men and women.
The latter felt like a celebration of small nipples—another Calvin Klein signature, courtesy of Kate Moss’s famous topless ads for the brand, though it’s worth noting that all of Planet Fashion is generally partial to the small, symmetrical areolae.
Then came the showstoppers: plastic-covered feather cocktail dresses and fur coats, including a bold yellow one that was the arguably the most Instagrammed piece from the collection.
The show was a celebration of Americana, too, albeit a slightly subverted, topsy-turvy Americana that reflected our political landscape: patchwork quilts on women’s sportswear coats or sewn into lining of men’s parkas; metal-toed cowboy boots; and color-blocked pocket shirts worn in deep reds and blues worn with matching slouchy trackpants.
Many in the front rows wore white bandannas—a message of solidarity from the Business of Fashion’s #tiedtogether campaign—and Planned Parenthood pins (“Make sure you get my pin!” Diane von Furstenberg instructed one photographer before he snapped a picture, but the political messaging was subtle at Calvin Klein. The most on-the-nose reference to our fractured country was David Bowie’s “This is Not America,” which closed out the show.
Simons came out to a standing ovation. Moments later, a strikingly beautiful, tall woman made a mad dash for the door: it was supermodel Karlie Kloss, who dates Jared Kushner’s brother, trailed by the paparazzi as she ran out into the street.