The story of Raf Simons and Calvin Klein, which lasted just over two years, shows in an disruptive way an uncomfortable truth: aspiring to luxury can sometimes be very, very dangerous
Let’s start with this description: “A tote (the one you see in the picture on this page) with revisited lines, made of nappa leather and characterised by a long curved shoulder strap and side straps. It features a print signed Andy Warhol, the most provocative and irreverent iconic Pop Art artist of all times”. Price: 2.540 euros. Manufacture: Italian. It was part of the 205W39NYC collection, namely the top line by Calvin Klein, wanted and managed by Raf Simons, fashion designer “of wonders” that the uS fashion house had hired in August 2016 because it had a strategic dream: to raise the brand level and access the luxury premium segment. Simons, for some time a “free agent” after the experience at Dior, was the right designer at the right time. So right that his first collection, presented in New York in February 2017, was enhanced by the critics. Too bad, however, that it was not rewarded by consumers. So as a fashion Icarus, then, Raf Simons tried to make Calvin Klein fly too high, ending up dissolving not only his wings, but also (partially) those of the brand. At the beginning of december 2018 there is a rumor that the leaders at PVH, the holding company that owns the brand, are annoyed not only by sales below expectations, but also by the “10 million dollars of higher costs incurred for creativity and marketing”. The words of CK’s CEO, Emanuel Chirico, are lapidary: “We are disappointed by the lack of return of our investments in our business and we believe that some of the relaunched products were too high and were not sold as we planned”.
The “consensual separation” that arrives on december 21, 2018 is inevitable. Simons leaves and for Calvin Klein a round of complex and structural carousel starts. Production of the 205W39nYC line is discontinued and its president, Michelle Kessler-Sanders, leaves office. The closure of the flagship store in Manhattan at number 654 of Madison Avenue is planned and 100 layoffs have been decided between NY and Milan.