Who Will Replace Raf Simons at Calvin Klein?

by Charles Manning

Raf Simons is out at Calvin Klein. This, we know. In December, PVH chairman and CEO Emanuel Chirico expressed dissatisfaction with Simons, telling WWD that “while many of the product categories performed well, we are disappointed by the lack of return on our investments in our Calvin Klein 205W39NYC halo business and believe that some of the Calvin Klein Jeans’ relaunched product was too elevated and did not sell through as well as we planned.”

The question now is, who will wear the crown at the house of minimalism? Here are a few ideas.

1. Tom Ford
Ford is certainly fluent in the kind of ‘90s sex appeal that made Calvin Klein great, but he’s already busy enough growing his own namesake brand. Also, if he took on Calvin Klein he’d never have time to direct another film, which would be a real tragedy.

Tom Ford (PMC)

2. Simon Spurr
Although Spurr has never designed a women’s line, his menswear has always been impeccable and would probably look wonderfully sleek and sophisticated rendered in more feminine proportions. Spurr isn’t big on being told what to do, though, so working for such a big corporation would probably be tough for him.

Simon Spurr

3. Phoebe Philo
Not gonna happen. Not in a million years. Why fire one high-brow European celebrity designer only to hire another? Also, Philo would never design a line for Macys and even if she did, let’s be honest, it would probably be a disaster. Middle America is just not her lewk. Besides, if Philo is going anywhere, it’s Chanel. If you think Karl Lagerfeld taking a few post-show bows with Virginie Viard means she’s next in line for the throne, you’re insane.

Phoebe Philo (PMC)

4. Jonathan Saunders
The man is mad talented. That’s the truth. And he probably could have done something really cool with DVF with a little more time and under different circumstances.

Jonathan Saunders with Emma Roberts in DVF at the 2017 Met Gala (PMC)

5. Kevin Carrigan
As Global Creative Director of ck Calvin Klein, Calvin Klein Jeans, and Calvin Klein, Carrigan was responsible for the divisions of the business that actually made money pre-Raf Simons. He decamped for Ralph Lauren shortly after Simons arrived at the company, but PVH could probably woo him back if they really ($$$$!) wanted to.

Kevin Carrigan

There is also talk that PVH is considering eliminating Calvin Klein’s designer business altogether — it has famously never made money for the company and was listed as a marketing expense on the PVH budget during Francisco Costa’s decade-long tenure. In that case, bringing in someone with a strong background in more commercial, mass-market design to head things up would make sense.

6. Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen
Can you imagine? They’ve certainly got the design chops and their obsession with silhouette and draping would serve the house codes well. They’ve even got experience building a fashion business around disparate brands and price points — from The Row to Elizabeth and James to Olsenboye. The question is, why would they want to? For the prestige of working for a heritage brand? Please! They’re billionaires calling their own shots and selling $40,000 handbags. They’re probably perfectly happy where they are.

Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen (Getty Images)

7. Alexander Wang
If you think about it, Wang is sort of the millennial Calvin Klein already: he came to prominence via the runway, but made his real money selling t-shirts, and he has an almost religious devotion to a restrictive, black-forward color pallet no matter the season. Sure, his time at Balenciaga was sort of a bust, but that could work to his advantage at a place like Calvin Klein, where Raf Simon’s Euro-centric POV proved so disastrous to sales.

Alexander Wang (firstVIEW)

8. Brandon Maxwell
Of all the designers showing in New York right now, Maxwell might be PVH’s best bet to follow Simons and actually make a go of it. There is a sleek simplicity and ease to his clothes that would work well at Calvin Klein across their various price points. Also, the man knows how to do sexy, which is as important to Calvin Klein’s DNA as minimalism, and something which Simons seemed to completely overlook during his brief time at the brand.

Brandon Maxwell with Joan Smalls in one of his designs at the 2018 CFDA Awards (PMC)

9. Christopher Bailey
What’s he up to these days? He could be cute.

Christopher Bailey with Blake Lively in Burberry at the 2016 Met Gala PMC)

10. LaQuan Smith
Smith would be sort of a wildcard candidate, but that’s not a bad thing. He definitely knows how to bring the sex appeal and celebs love him. His strength is more in occasion-wear than daytime separates, but maybe he’s secretly dying to create 50 variations of the perfect camel coat and basic black pencil skirt on which Calvin Klein’s department store collections are based. Probably not, but maybe!

LaQuan Smith (PMC)

11. Some Random Studio Peon
This would certainly be the cheapest option, especially if PVH really does plan to cut runway altogether. At the same time, who’s to say that there isn’t a gem of a designer a la Nicolas Ghesquière or Alessandro Michele slaving away behind the scenes at Clavin Klein right now, chomping at the bit for their chance to take the reins — runway collections and all. Just because Raf’s vision for Calvin Klein didn’t pan out doesn’t mean someone else, established or not, can’t make the house great, relevant, and thoroughly bankable once again.

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