Calvin Klein’s Dreamy American Horror Show

I have, for the most part, stayed out of fashion week this season, opting instead to observe it from a distance, using the same portals you probably use — Vogue Runway and Man Repeller and Instagram — to extract inspiration and information where I want it, but allowing myself the liberty to check out, too.

Propped up on my high horse, I felt, initially, that these portals were enough to generate conclusive opinions about the trends and the culture and the styles of next fall. After all, one-dimensional clothes don’t deserve more than one-dimensional imagery to be appropriately evaluated, right? But spending some time out “in the field” yesterday reminded me of the importance of the in-real-life experience. Clothes don’t get to live in photos the way they thrive in person.

This was true of the Swarovski-emblazoned dresses at Rosie Assoulin, the louder-than-life corduroy dresses and hats worn on awkward, stampeding models in pursuit of their dental retainers at Vaquera, and at Calvin Klein, Tuesday night’s hot ticket? That’s not just a show — that’s a glimpse into the mind of an artist carrying the weight of responsibility for one of the greatest American fashion houses while reconciling his own complicated relationship with the country that employs him.

And boy is it complicated. At The American Stock Exchange last night, guests were treated to mountains of inedible popcorn, which we were required to walk through to get to our seats. I thought about how much food was underneath my feet, the abundant display of waste but lack of nutritional value and how uncomfortable it all made me feel — but that was likely the point: to generate discomfort. (As if the abandoned barns set up in both corners of the room didn’t already do that.)

But then came the clothes, accompanied first by techno music and then Simon & Garfunkel, followed by David Bowie. If last season’s collection, with its rubber gloves and plastic dresses, was inspired by horror films, this season, at the one-year mark of Simons’ induction into the house of Calvin Klein, no doubt followed suit. Because of the popcorn (some models held paper bags full of it as if they were audience members watching their own film), I related each new detail to another formative American movie.

The wild rubber boots and dish-style gloves reminded me of a classic horror movie villain. The prairie dresses could have been straight out of The Shining. The metallic fabric that lined this season’s quilted throws and made up some of the dresses — like tin foil, but not — seemed like a direct reference to Signs, and the balaclavas? So incredible on their own, and styled to genuine perfection with the various shades and prints of outerwear, and even better under garments, but so damn creepy when displayed en masse during the finale.

I’d have been impressed by the actual contents of the collection had I only seen it online. The Instagram photos and videos would have amused me, the hi-res imagery from Vogue Runway would have sent chills down my spine, but to be there among the popping kernels, observing as the fashion establishment tried to make sense of a stunning but perplexing and delightful but disturbing mind come to life — you just can’t appraise that online.

Photos via Vogue Runway. Feature image by Slaven Vlasic via Getty Images.

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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