Nowadays, when you think of Calvin Klein, you are probably thinking about the underwear. Whether you are fantasising about a celebrity infatuation or just browsing in a department store, the iconic logo that wraps around the waistband is likely coming to mind. However, the difference in the 90s to now is that Calvin Klein was also known for his minimalistic clothing, which blossomed during this decade in fashion. Back when he was creative director he was labelled by BoF as ‘pioneering new minimalism in the 90’s’, so let’s forget about lingerie and look back to my favourite show of his during this period, Spring 1996 debuted in New York.
In the 90s, the designer’s briefs and lingerie were in your face, due to Klein’s risqué ‘soft porn’ advertisement campaigns that included the topless and adolescent Mark Wahlberg and Kate Moss. As you can imagine, they were widely debated artistically and parentally. In the 90s, minimalism was on trend. Inspired by Japanese designers Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto, Western designers such as Helmut Lang, Jil Sander, Ann Demeulemeester and Calvin Klein all created chic and sophisticated womenswear that stripped design back down. In an interview with WWD in 2017, Calvin Klein explains how a love for ‘purity and simplicity’ came from the non-decorative, beautifully tailored garments worn by his mother. He also expresses how in the 90s, the fashion industry needed minimalism as ‘there were woman all over the world’ that didn't want to display opulence but an understand luxury instead.
74 looks walked down the runway for the Spring ‘96 show. Each item contained the minimalistic principles Klein was pursuing as light and easy straight lined silhouettes remained the consistent shape for the show, complimented by a pastel infused colour palette mostly made up of soft blues, greys and yellows. For the majority, Klein showed an array of dresses that could have all been worn for all different occasions. Using tank dresses, crew neck dresses, straight cut strap dresses and sheer shirt dresses, he created a relaxed elegance that blurred the boundaries of evening, casual and work wear. His dresses subtly radiated an understated confidence and beauty through their clean cut tailoring and lack of obvious sexualisation. Harmonious to his minimalist ideals, Klein’s dresses within this collection are beautiful in their simplicity. Below are two particular favourite’s of mine, a muted light blue tank dress worn by model Kirsty Hume and a pale pink collared V neck dress worn by Kate Moss.
Following with the same colour palette and style, Klein also showed double breasted coats, buttoned up pant suits, blouses, long length trousers, knee length skirts, and wide shouldered v-neck vests. Within these minimalist garments Klein had also begun to escape gender stereotypes as he started to cover up the female body in a way which did not conform to traditional ‘sexiness’, he was designing for an empowered working women instead.
In 2016, Klein personally appointed Belgium designer Raf Simons as Chief Creative Director for Calvin Klein. Simons, who has a history with minimalism and youth culture, previously at the helm of Jil Sander, has already been credited for giving the brand a new relevance within today’s current fashion industry. Next time Calvin Klein is mentioned, look for the clothes as well as the underwear.