Calvin Klein confirmed today in a lengthy Instagram post that Raf Simons is the American fashion house’s new chief creative officer.
Calvin Klein Collection designers Francisco Costa, who designed womenswear, and Italy Zucchelli, who designed menswear, left in April, after which the company announced it would start a global restructuring. Right now, Calvin Klein is splintered into a laundry list of diffusion brands: Calvin Klein Collection, Calvin Klein Platinum, Calvin Klein, Calvin Klein Home, ck Calvin Klein, Calvin Klein Jeans and Calvin Klein Underwear.
While other brands like Marc Jacobs, Ralph Lauren, Dolce and Gabbana and Prada have streamlined operations by absorbing their diffusion lines back into the main brand, Calvin Klein’s strategy is to maintain its full breadth of brands with Simons at the helm, coordinating one creative vision for all.
The Calvin Klein brand is seeing strong growth as its Jeans and Underwear divisions see a trendy resurgence. In its earnings reported May 25, 2016, parent company PVH reported that Calvin Klein helped company revenue grow to $8 billion, driving an overall 13 percent growth. In 2015, Calvin Klein annual revenue was $2.9 billion.
Now, Simons, who left his position as Dior’s creative director last summer, is in charge of unifying the creative vision across all divisions. In a transparent move, Calvin Klein laid out its plans under Simons on Instagram to its 5.9 million followers. (The strategy is the complete opposite of Yves Saint Laurent’s Instagram move following creative director Anthony Vaccarello’s appointment: @YSL wiped its account clean and posted a lone portrait of Vaccarello in its place. That photo has now been deleted.)
Here’s what to know about Calvin Klein’s Instagram announcement.
Simons won’t be resuming a creative director role with Calvin Klein
After Simons exited his position of creative director at Dior, he gave a revealing interview to fashion writer Cathy Horyn for System magazine, in which he laid bare his grief with the churning pace of the luxury fashion industry.
“Everything is done in three weeks, maximum five,” Simons said in the interview. “And when I think back to the first couture show for Dior, in July 2012, I was concerned because we only had eight weeks. Now we never have time like that … we have to push really hard.”
Simons’ frustration with the fashion industry has clearly affected his position at Calvin Klein, where he won’t be serving as creative director. Calvin Klein announced via Instagram that Peter Mulier will be the brand’s new creative director, designing the men’s, women’s and accessories lines under Simons’ creative vision, and reporting to Simons as chief creative officer.
Instead, Simons will be in charge of a lot more than clothing design
At Calvin Klein, Simons will take on an umbrella role as chief creative officer that puts him in charge of not only overall design, but also marketing and communications and visual creative services, per the Instagram post. His first runway collection Calvin Klein will debut in the Fall 2017 season.
It’s the Gucci approach: Alessandro Michele, the brand’s creative director, also controls the vision of the company’s marketing and branding. The company relaunched its e-commerce site to match Michele’s design, and a video strategy has captured that vision in film. “It’s the emblematic approach to a luxury brand — creating one dream and making it visible everywhere you look,” said Ian Schatzberg, CEO of the agency Wednesday.
It’s working: Gucci is driving growth at Kering and just grew revenue by another 5 percent.
Calvin Klein is hoping the new structure will drive PVH to $10 billion
“As Calvin Klein looks to grow the brand to $10 billion in global retail sales, this new leadership is intended to further strengthen the brand’s premium positioning worldwide and pave the way for future long-term global growth,” the brand wrote in its Instagram announcement.
Calvin Klein’s growth has largely been sourced from its wholesale and licensing businesses, but the new creative direction marks a returned emphasis to ready-to-wear and designer fashion as wholesale partners like Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s face decline. With accessories as one of Mulier’s main focuses, the brand is likely hoping to boost its presence in that category as its Calvin Klein Jeans and Calvin Klein Underwear lines see continued growth with a revived marketing campaign.
“To me, the move makes total sense,” said Tony King, founder of the creative agency King and Partners. “I’m hoping the opposite of what happened at DKNY happens here, and Raf is the person to restore Calvin Klein back to its glory.”