Finally Raf Simons is announced as the new chief creative officer of Calvin Klein and once again the rumor mill has proven right. For those familiar with Simons and Klein, it is a match made in heaven: both designers have mastered the art of minimalism. And although Klein’s über sexy approach seemingly doesn’t match Simons’s arty ways, Simons’ latest collection for his eponymous label proved that he does sexy very well. The 48-year-old Belgian implemented photos of the late, revolutionary American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe (whose explicit work was once at the end of an obscenity lawsuit due to 100 narrow-minded congress men).
Simons is the protagonist of straddling the border between art and fashion. He has previously collaborated (or been inspired by) with several artists. The list includes Sterling Ruby (whom he not ponlycreated a whole collection with for his namesake label, but also notoriously included in his first haute couture collection for Dior as documented in the film Dior and I), Brian Calvin, Pablo Picasso, Peter Saville, Peter de Potter, Keith Haring, Simon Periton, Andy Warhol, Jim Lambie, and surely many more. But what artists should the extraordinary creator collaborate with at Calvin Klein? We have chosen our top five picks here.
Considering the social message that probably was behind Simons’s recent Mapplethorpe-infused collection (and the rave reviews it got), we think the gay direction could be the right direction for the designer. American artist Christian Holstad has some very explicitly beautiful works that would lend itself perfectly to, let’s say, a mens backpack, shirt or even a tie. Not only are the images wonderfully homosexual, the 70’s wallpaper-vibe also fits right into Simons’s minimalistic universe which is often juxtaposed with similar patterns.
Who can say no to anything that sparkles? We can’t but that’s just one of the reasons we love NYC-based artist Mickalene Thomas’s rhinestone covered work. Her collages and paintings depict imperial black women such as Oprah, Naomi Campbell and Thomas’s mother, who is a huge inspiration for the 45-year-old artist, amid brightly patterned fabrics. Her message is clear; it’s an empowering directive to black women that easily translates to everyone (all races and all genders) that comes across Thomas’s work. Considering that Simons has mostly collaborated with white male artists, it would be nice to see him embrace a feminist spirit such as Thomas. And since he has previously featured portraits (Brian Calvin and most recently Robert Mapplethorpe) on his clothes, why not continue the success?
If there was a guide to dressing as a minimalist, the shoe chapter would definitely contain a paragraph pertaining to the importance of colorful, over-the-top shoes. Raf Simons has done a few of his own: do you remember the super trekker sneaker boots from SS14? His Bunny Star boots from the following season were equally “out there”. And what about his thigh-high bright red glass heeled patterned boots from Dior haute couture SS15? There’s no doubt the Simons has a love for the theatrical when it comes to footwear. That’s why sculptor and performance artist Raul de Nieves would be a perfect collaborator for Simons. De Nieves’s ornamentally crafted shoes would look perfect with a tailored suit, or a streamlined dress, wouldn’t they?
4. Cady Noland
Cady Noland currently holds the title of the most expensive living female artist in the world. Her Bluewald piece from 1989 sold for $9,797,000, more than $2 million above the runner up Yayoi Kusama, at a sale at Christie’s last year. Her collages, sculptures, and mixed-media installations examine the underbelly of the American psyche, specifically our fascination with celebrities, violence, and psychopathological behavior. Not only would the newspaper cutouts and sculptures look great as prints and patterns on clothes, they would also be a great way for Raf Simons to implement some Americana into his Calvin Klein collections and establish his attitude towards a variety of political issues from the get go of his American career.
5. Jared Madere
The young New York-born artist, who had his first museum solo exhibition last year at the Whitney, could be an interesting choice for Simons to work with. Madere’s installations primarily consists of contrasting materials such as salt, flowers, foodstuffs, and plastic tarps that are assembled and aggregated in a manner that insists on their material connections to society, economics, industry, and human emotion. The textures the 30-year-old creates would be intriguing to see in more refined materials turned into some kind of accessory. But Simons, famously passionate about flowers, could perhaps be intrigued to secure Madere as a future set designer for a CK show?