In a scene all too reminiscent of Phoebe Philo’s departure from Céline on the Friday before Christmas just one year ago, it was announced that Raf Simons is leaving Calvin Klein. Simons was appointed the chief creative officer of the brand in August of 2016, and presented his first collection in February 2017, bringing a new, European-tinged excitement to New York Fashion Week. It is believed that Simons initially signed a three-year contract which would have been up for renewal in the summer of 2019, and that he choose not to resign this fall. Sources are reporting that Calvin Klein will not present a collection during the Fall 2019 season in New York, despite being on the CFDA’s official calendar earlier in the week.
Simons’s take on Americana at Calvin Klein was critically lauded from the start. His first collection, staged in the brand’s corporate offices with a set by Sterling Ruby, drew from diner uniforms, Westerns, and classic cinema, presenting an artistic, unisex vision. In short order, he picked up the CFDA Designer of the Year Award for both womenswear and menswear. A season later, Simons inked a multiyear deal with the Warhol Foundation that allowed for unprecedented use of the artist’s works on Calvin Klein products; among the most popular were blankets and jeans emblazoned with photographs of Dennis Hopper and Sandy Brant.
Still, Simons’s vision hit a snag with consumers, especially in the lower-priced Calvin Klein Jeans collection. On an earnings call earlier this year, PVH CEO Emanuel Chirico said, “While many of the product categories performed well, we are disappointed by the lack of return on our investments in our Calvin Klein 205W39NYC halo business and believe that some of Calvin Klein Jeans’ relaunched product was too elevated and did not sell through as well as we planned.”
On social media, the outpouring for Simons has been swift. Fans have begun commenting on the Calvin Klein account, the account for Simons’s namesake brand, and the accounts of his coworkers with broken and black hearts. Simons’s longtime colleague and the creative director of Calvin Klein womenswear Pieter Mulier posted a black screen with no caption, while design director, and Mulier’s partner, Matthieu Blazy posted an all-white screen, seeming to confirm that this is the end of their tenure at CK as well. What’s next for Simons, his team, and the Calvin Klein brand is not known, but the news of his departure is sure to send shockwaves through the industry.