People are perplexed by this $2700 Calvin Klein sheer torso ‘jumper,’ they shouldn’t be

A turban and overcoat look at Marc Jacobs.

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Often fashion can be entirely puzzling.

Sometimes, that’s its whole purpose. To stretch our imaginations, for the designers to make a statement.

Occasionally fashion is the opposite of “wearable” or “suitable for the commute” – think of the special pieces created for haute couture, or the work of Japanese avant garde designer Rei Kawakubo and just this week at New York Fashion Week, Marc Jacobs’ pastiche of oversized outwear and fabulous turbans. 

A turban and overcoat look at Marc Jacobs.

A turban and overcoat look at Marc Jacobs. Photo: AP

So it’s worth keeping that in mind when reflecting on a ‘jumper’ by Calvin Klein that is currently befuddling the internet.

This is what it looks like: it’s a unisex piece that is completely sheer in the torso and yet has thick woolly sleeves. So as Buzzfeed notes, you’d need to wear a vest for warmth, but that would defeat the purpose of the sheer torso/impetus to show one’s nipples. It will only keep your arms warm, which, well,  isn’t super practical.

Oh and it costs around $2700.

Quite a few column centimetres have been devoted to trying to figure it out.

The jumper (do we call it that, or is it more … sheer panel with woolly arm bands?) was debuted as part of Raf Simons’ first collection for Calvin Klein at New York Fashion Week in February and arrived in stores and online this week. According to Buzzfeed, it’s already sold out in some places).

So what’s the point of it? 

Well, when you think that Belgian born chief creative officer Simons’ debut at Calvin Klein was one of the most hotly anticipated fashion moves (coming as he did from Dior and into such a heritage American brand), perhaps a lot. Especially when you consider what Simons hopes for his pieces.

He told Vanity Fair, “For me, it’s extremely relevant that fashion work in its moment in time. I’m not romantic about the past. Once it’s done it’s done. I’m romantic about the future.”

So what then of a piece shown in the weeks after Donald Trump’s election, at a time when fashion types were showing political messages – both overt and subtle – on the runway? 

According to Simons, his all American debut – sportscoats, western shirts, slouchy suiting – was “the coming together of different characters and different individuals, just like America itself”.

Just this week, that view had turned a little nightmarish with Simons showing dresses printed with Andy Warhol’s car-crash images and material that looked like body bags – the dream had turned dark.

As Cathy Horyn said of Simons’ second collection, “Who wants to be confronted with our national obsession with trauma and disaster, in the form of a sweet dress whose pattern was less polka dot than bloody splatter? Or the images of people on a shirt who may or may not have been, well, axe murderers? But I’d rather feel something at a fashion show than be numbed by gingham. So would most people.”

So back to that jumper: it was optimistic in a way, glass half full.

It might be sunny, but best be prepared. It wasn’t what we might have expected and we definitely weren’t dulled by it. We’re still not, even if mocking it.

New York Times fashion critic Vanessa Friedman noted at the time of Simons’ debut for Calvin Klein in February, that in a time of deep unrest, Simons offered a way forward.

“[T]hese were clothes that wore their concept lightly, sketching out a no-fuss melting pot of the mind without hesitation and making you think twice about your own preconceptions.

“It was about time.”

So maybe, probably, a jumper that wears its concept lightly isn’t for everyone. But it does give pause.

Sometimes that’s the whole point. 

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