The mutual adoration previously witnessed between Calvin Klein and Andy Warhol that was first cultivated at Studio 54 and more recently revived in the brand’s last two campaigns shows no sign of abating any time soon.
This week, the label and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts announced that together they’re embarking on an unprecedented partnership that extends beyond the directional runway collections shown under the 205W39NYC ready-to-wear label and well into the year 2020.
“I’ve come to realise that Warhol’s genius goes much deeper than cheerful Campbell’s Soup paintings,” said Raf Simons, Chief Creative Officer of the iconic American brand, said in a statement released to coincide with the news. “He captured all sides of the American experience, including sometimes its darker sides. Warhol’s art tells more truths about this country than you can find almost anywhere else.”
While the first iteration of the new partnership was unveiled in September this year with Simons’ Spring 2018 collection, featuring iconic Warhol artworks placed as screen prints across raw denim and gauzy nightgowns alike, the brand’s collaborative efforts began with the designer’s first game-changing offering for the house. On the eve of his runway debut at the label, Simons and creative director Pieter Mulier commenced their holistic overhaul of the brand with an American Classics campaign that was partially photographed at the Andy Warhol Foundation and that juxtaposed archival Calvin Klein designs with works of art by 20th century American artists, Warhol chief amongst them. That same campaign then appeared plastered across billboards in the Mojave Desert, setting the scene for their sophomore campaign outing (albeit the first conveying their acclaimed vision for ready-to-wear). The second time around, however, only Warhol’s work made an appearance.
The partnership is a natural one, par for the course when it comes to the singular Simons. Not only did Klein and Warhol move in the same social circles during the 1970s and 80s (the two were often photographed alongside campaign face Brooke Shields at Studio 54; an image of a silhouetted Shields captured by Richard Avedon now functions as a readily identifiable logo for the brand’s revamped denim line, Calvin Klein Jeans Established 1978), but Warhol also first cut his teeth as a commercial and fashion illustrator. Those works in particular, the stately court shoes and the department store window designs, were the subject of a Adman: Warhol Before Pop, a fascinating exhibition shown earlier this year at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
The partnership thus will see the brand support the foundation’s endowment fund, from which it distributes grants to support the creation, presentation and documentation of contemporary visual art. It also means Simons and his team will be granted access to the late revolutionary artist’s archives, many works from which are yet to be published, to be used across apparel and the many subsidiary lines on which the house has made its considerable name.
Tile and cover image: Willy Vanderperre/Courtesy of Calvin Klein