“American horror, American dreams,” is how Raf Simons, the recently installed artistic director of Calvin Klein, summarized his second collection for the American label to Vogue.
Simons continued the exploration of Americana he started in his debut outing in February, only this time, the show had a darker tinge to it. Among the references to cheerleaders and cowboys, there were also nods to classic American horror movies, such as Carrie and Friday the 13th. The collection mashed up nightmares and beauty, but specifically as seen through the funhouse camera lens of Hollywood. It was a poppy, abstracted, tongue-in-cheek take on two facets of the American psyche: its unrelenting optimism of America, but also its state of violent disquiet, which has been more fully on display in recent months.
That concept translated into a few garments that looked like they had been spattered with blood. Some even came down the runway with matching accessories, including cowboy boots and high heels.
In some instances the horror references were subtle, though still easily discernible if you knew where to look. The set design, by artist Sterling Ruby, whom Simons frequently collaborates with (paywall), included pom-pom-like fringes strung from the ceiling that resembled a deluge of blood in cartoonish red, as well as buckets. The props hinted at the climactic scene in the movie adaptation of Stephen King’s Carrie, when the titular high schooler gets a bucket of pigs’ blood dropped on her at prom. A few garments that came down the runway in slick, shiny red read like the results. (The axes in the set may have been a wink at another King classic, The Shining.)
But Simons translated other references still more literally. One of the most overt was a pair of heels that looked exactly like what would result if you turned the hockey mask worn by homicidal killer Jason Voorhees in the Friday the 13th movies into a pair of shoes.
Elsewhere, details such as latex gloves and Hitchcockian blondes (paywall) in mid-century cuts also played with the imagery of classic thrillers. But not everything in the show was blood-stained and horror-centric. Simons also played with references to the American West, as well as pop art, particularly through a number of prints by artist Andy Warhol.
American pop culture, including its creepier parts, has long been an object of fascination for Simons. His 2002 “Virginia Creeper” collection for his namesake men’s line borrowed elements from slasher flicks such as Halloween, and more recently, Halloween, Wes Craven’s Scream, and David Lynch’s eerie head trip of a TV series, Twin Peaks, informed another of his shows.
The Calvin Klein show adds to Simons’ horror-inspired canon. It also comes just in time for the US opening of a reboot of another Stephen King creeper, the clown terror It, which makes good use of that red repeated in Simons’ show.