Few brands are as synonymous with American culture as Calvin Klein.
Raf Simons amplified this affinity on Tuesday evening with an allegorical autumn/winter collection that subverted sartorial sensibilities and shone a long-overdue spotlight on notions of democracy via clever artistry.
From the loaded American Stock Exchange setting to the six-inch-deep popcorn floor that guests are probably still clearing the remnants of, Simons’ potent symbolism was a welcome conclusion to what has been a strangely apolitical fashion week.
While the opening looks referenced American heroism via firefighter jackets and everything-proof gloves, it was Simons’ seamless transition from stark utilitarianism to feminine prairie gowns and excessively-textured knitwear that made the obligatory nod to Klein’s trademark Western aesthetic all the more meaningful.
Almost half of the models wore knitted balaclavas, putting identity and gender distinctions on the back burner, allowing for a sense of unadulterated unity to prevail on the catwalk.
Then of course, there was the popcorn, which made itself known as a central motif from the outset as guests received invitations in the form of silver-wrapped bags of the classic American movie snack.
Taking place in the heart of New York’s financial district, it was hard to ignore the uber-capitalist setting, which was cleverly reimagined via US artist Sterling Ruby, whose dynamic sculptures hung from vast scaffolding that towered over runway.
Combining fractured farmhouse structures with Andy Warhol portraits, you’d never know this paired-back 1960s-inspired space was typically reserved for American financiers and subsequently void of the effervescent creative spirit Simons’ show encapsulated.
However, the most poignant element of the entire affair was undoubtedly Simons’ choice of music.
While the port of call for fashion show soundtracks is typically bass-heavy tracks with zero to little melody in order to elevate the rhythm of the models’ steps, Simons opted for a celestial white noise that highlighted his transgressive and disruptive vision.
It might have been a wincing listening experience, but it was one made softer by Simon & Garfunkel’s balladic “Sound of Silence”, which was interposed between the intrusive white noise throughout the show.
The popular track is inherently political and was widely thought to be a response from the American songwriting duo in response to the assassination of JFK when it was released in 1964.
Then, to introduce the final parade of models, an acapella recording of “This is not America” from David Bowie’s musical Lazarus played out on the speakers.
It might only be the former Dior frontman’s third season at the helm of Calvin Klein, but this show makes it clear that Simons’ vision for the traditional American brand is one that eschews the sound of silence – that message was loud and clear.