The appointment of Raf Simons as CALVIN KLEIN’s Chief Creative Officer ushered in a new era for the modern American fashion empire. The legacy of the house’s tradition of relishing in both the classic and casual has not been turned on its head, but rather been given room to breathe and flourish with a new guard of ideas parading in via the headquarters in NYC. In his first collection for CALVIN KLEIN, Raf Simons celebrates Americana and the complex fabric of our past coming together to form the future generation. The workmanship in each piece tells the story of a group effort—the wild west frontiersman, a community of folk artists, urban movers and shakers—and it all comes together through the eyes of an artist just outside the world he observed.
To celebrate the debut of CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC, formerly known as Calvin Klein Collection, we cast a trifecta of creative women who are paving their way through New York City, imprinting their own unique voices as they learn and grow. Their shared belief that experimentation leads to finding your path and their courage in putting forth their vision in its purest form exemplifies the tone of young creatives in America today.
See her work at SaraRabin.net
How would you describe your art?
The work I share is mostly figurative, quick impulsive sketches that tell a story. My work is heavily into drawing at this point, but like to paint when I have more time and focus.
How was showing at a gallery solo for the first time?
It’s hard to describe the emotional work that went into the show. It was incredibly fulfilling but taught me how much I have to learn about the art world. I am so grateful for the experience, and my eyes are definitely widened on the business side of establishing my career as an artist.
There seems to be a bit of absurdity in your work. Is there something about finding a silliness or grotesqueness that you like?
My heart is broken all the time, so I try to balance that by injecting humor into my work. I guess that sounds like it doesn’t make sense, but I am angrily and tragically sprinkling my work with humor. Laugh, dammit!
You came to set dressed in a sweatshirt and out of all the wardrobe options chose a white turtleneck to wear…
I’m a pretty simple dresser and really appreciate functionality in clothing. That’s what applies to my life most. But a statement piece can go a long way for me when I’m not in the studio working. With a strong accessory, people might see the sunglasses on my head or the bag in my hand and go, ‘oh okay, this girl knows, she gets it.’ So yeah, hand me some basics, and I’ll close the deal with the bag.
You were recently written up by both New York Magazine and the New Yorker for your first solo show—what’s next for you?
I am leaving for Japan. I’ll be doing a month-long residency there and then traveling the countryside. I’m looking forward to being immersed in a foreign environment. So many ideas come from being an outsider.
Curator and Muse Model
Visit Art Hoe Collective on Tumblr
What is the Art Hoe Collective and why does it exist?
As a curator for Art Hoe Collective, I organize the works of artists, curate our online gallery, orchestrate events, and find the best route to support other artists in the QPOC [Queer People of Color] community. There are so many young artists of color across the gender spectrum who make groundbreaking work on a daily basis but receive little-to-no recognition. I’m passionate about this project because queer people of color are the creators of culture and change, but we need access to tools to expand our work—if something isn’t accessible, it can not be radical.
Tell us about an upcoming Art Hoe Collective event that you’re excited about.
We’re currently planning art shows for the upcoming fall/winter with a theme revolving around immigrant artists in the United States. I’m also currently planning out my own solo show for my personal works. Our shift into more physical projects versus online ones is a sign of our growth as a community and as collective. We want to utilize all the tools we have to bring people together in spaces and fully immerse them in an experience.
Who’s been inspiring you lately?
Another artist who inspires me is Solange. Her ability to mix her music with performance and dancing is amazing. It’s not just music, it has a message, and it tells a story—a story that she uses movement, performance, and set design to relay. Solange’s music, although stemming from her own individual experience, is a shared narrative that many other people of color have lived and can relate to on a base level.
What is it about CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC that made you want to participate in our shoot?
I love the cleanness of the CALVIN KLEIN pieces I wore in this shoot. Raf Simons creates a beautiful, striking minimalism that evokes a feeling of nostalgia through structure and bold color. My favorite pieces in the collection were the bags, as I love the structured white purse and the texture of the leather and the crystal accents. I personally love clean, bright color in my personal style. I want people to see what I wear and know what kind of person I am before words are even spoken. I’m a firm believer that the clothing you wear influences the energy you give into the world, and I feel like these pieces are a perfect example of that sentiment.
Follow her on Instagram @rathernothanks
You don’t fall into a specific genre, so how would you describe what you do to someone outside the world of dance?
I work with a really diverse array of choreographers, musicians, and visual artists. My roles shift all the time. Sometimes I’m dancing in a project, sometimes I’m collaborating to make a music video or a photoshoot. Growing up, my focus was on ballet, but once I joined a ballet company I always felt like I wanted to be more than a “subject.” I wanted to be able to choose the tonality of a work—the environment, the timing, the sound. To build rather than to be built upon. New York City and the people in it are a constant inspiration. Since leaving Ballet West three years ago, I’ve spent my time pursuing so many interests that at first seemed divergent, but they all led me back toward making more work.
What’re you working on right now?
I am currently working on a few different projects. I am working with two women, Hadley Smith and Elle Erdman, who are very different modern choreographers, but who both have an improvisation-first approach. I’ve loved watching these pieces grow without any maps and without any kind of thematic precursor, which I think is a powerful way to construct choreography. There is a kinesthetic language when it comes to classical ballet that I mastered at young age, but that simply doesn’t exist when you step into the modern dance world. Part of what I’ve loved about working with these women is learning how to communicate using sound, environment, words, and objects as our language. At some rehearsals we are filming each other, at others we are using our own voices to move us through space, using objects to impact movement or impact feeling. It’s been very inspiring for me.
What artwork or performance have you recently experienced that got you thinking?
The Robert Rauschenberg retrospective at MoMA made me think about how I want my career retrospective to look, to have a hand in so many forms and to have my work driven by the idea that other artists and I can build something larger than our own singular vision together. I’m a dancer, choreographer, writer, and occasionally I model, so I’m drawn to artists who work via collaboration and across multiple forms.
We had you playing around with the bag a lot in this shoot…it was like watching a dance!
I had a lot of fun playing around with the bag, the clothes, and the space in the shoot. I approach using props or accessories like an extension of myself or my body. It’s all about having fun and experimenting with what surrounds you. My years of dancing in unpredictable settings and spaces have taught me that objects around you can be an important part of your kinesthetic experience and don’t have to be intimidating.
How does this collection play into your style?
My aesthetic is built on the idea that simple pieces can come together to create something really interesting, which is exactly why I like CALVIN KLEIN. For me the collection is like a frame: simple, beautiful pieces that set my look up.