Pret-a-Reporter

Raf Simons Joins Calvin Klein as Chief Creative Officer

Courtesy of Facebook/Calvin Klein
Raf Simons confirmed at Calvin Klein as chief creative officer.

It's about time.

It's been a long time coming, but Calvin Klein announced Tuesday morning that Raf Simons is joining the fashion house as chief creative officer.

Simons will lead the creative strategy of the Calvin Klein brand globally and oversee all aspects of design, global marketing and communications, and visual creative services. His first CK collection will debut for the fall 2017 season.

The announcement comes after several months of industry speculation that the Belgian designer, who departed Dior in October 2015, would be taking the top post. Simons replaces Francisco Costa, who joined CK in 2003 before exiting the label in April. Men's creative director Italo Zucchelli also left with Costa.

Simons' appointment as chief creative officer confirms Calvin Klein's game plan to combine the CK brands under one creative vision as part of its new global strategy, which Business of Fashion first reported.

In addition to Simons, CK hired Pieter Mulier (who was the designer's assistant at Dior) as its new creative director. Mulier will be responsible for executing Simons' creative and design vision for men's and women's ready to wear, as well as the accessories line. He'll report directly to Simons.

"Not since Mr. Klein himself was at the company has it been led by one creative visionary, and I am confident that this decision will drive the Calvin Klein brand and have a significant impact on its future," said Steve Shiffman, CEO of Calvin Klein, Inc. in a statement. "Raf’s exceptional contributions have shaped and modernized fashion as we see it today and, under his direction, Calvin Klein will further solidify its position as a leading global lifestyle brand."

At Dior, Simons pushed modern ideas about dressing such as chopped-off ball gowns worn over pants, ball skirts worn with crewneck sweaters, tailored jackets with sneaker lacing, and hand-embroidered, couture sneakers. And his collections, where sport often met couture, presaged the current athleisure shift in women’s wardrobes.

He also has his own namesake brand of menswear that is a hit with rappers and musicians (A$AP Rocky name checks Raf in his 2013 song "Fashion Killa"), and a popular collaboration with Adidas.

It will be interesting to see how he channels his couture and streetwear visions into the iconic American brand, where he will also be overseeing and trying to boost the underwear and denim categories.

The move comes as Calvin Klein has been attempting to reposition itself for the next generation, with an aggressive marketing strategy that has cast Justin Bieber, Kendall Jenner and many more stars with massive social media followings in provocative ads, recalling the 1980 Brooke Shields classic, "Nothing comes between me and my Calvins." The most recent fall ads feature a starry cast that includes Kate Moss, Frank Ocean and Grace Coddington, among other bold facers.

The red carpet impact of the appointment is another thing to consider. Simons has proven at Dior that he’s able to enlist some of Hollywood’s biggest names — Jennifer Lawrence and Rihanna included — as ambassadors. Though the press-shy designer hasn't always been comfortable with the limelight (something that was made obvious in the critically-acclaimed 2015 documentary Dior and I), it will only be a matter of time before his designs and marketing efforts will speak for themselves at Calvin Klein.

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