Calvin Klein To Close Ready-To-Wear Business

After Raf Simons’s departure as chief creative officer in December, Calvin Klein announced plans to relaunch the 205W39NYC collection business under a new name, design approach and creative direction. This master plan has not materialised, however, and the brand, which is still without an artistic lead to shape its identity, announced on March 6 that it will not be continuing its luxury collections.

Michelle Kessler-Sanders, president of Calvin Klein 205W39NYC, will be leaving the company in June after closing down that segment of the business. Fifty employees in the New York office and 50 in the Milan office were let go, and the Italian hub is set to close. Steve Shiffman, chief executive officer of Calvin Klein Inc, will remain in his position and will oversee the change of course.

The decision to disengage with the international fashion collection cycle and the costly show seasons that come with it certainly has financial merit, but where does that leave the actual product? The brand’s most profitable categories are underwear and denim, which are produced by third party licensing partners. Its aforementioned plan to “[offer] an unexpected mix of influences and [move] at an accelerated pace” is also yet to materialise, although it could likely tap into the model of fellow PVH-owned brand Tommy Hilfiger, which has enjoyed financial success and a raise in profile thanks to collaborations with Gigi Hadid and, most recently, Zendaya.

This halo effect, where a brand has multiple strands all influenced by the creative at the heart of the brand, did not work for Calvin Klein under Raf Simons, however. His high-fashion vision, which often riffed thematically on the chasm between the American dream and the American nightmare, alienated the average Calvin Klein customer, who quite probably never fully grasped the meaning of the “205W39NYC” label. Nowhere was this more obvious than the Calvin Klein stores. In January, the company announced that it would be closing its New York flagship at 654 Madison Avenue, which housed a floor-to-ceiling installation by Sterling Ruby showcasing Simons’s work. The architectural tribute to the artist, who has long inspired the designer’s work, did not pay off financially, as it perhaps did visually.

As the quest for a new Calvin Klein leader continues, it remains unclear what Simons’s successor will actually be in charge of.


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