Calvin Klein and Martin Creed's installation
One of the recent and more exciting developments in the world of fashion has been the eschewing of traditional modes of showing collections in favour of something more imaginative, be it a show design, a stage design or an unusual collaboration. Of late we've seen industrial designers (Dyson and Issey Miyake), Starchitects (Tadao Ando and Giorgio Armani, Rem Koolhas and Prada), and now artists (Richard Prince and Louis Vuitton) getting in on the act. What we love about these developments is witnessing two mutual but very different creative minds at work and seeing what each lends to the other.
Last week in London Calvin Klein became the latest label to dip a toe outside the fashion pond. In the P3 space (incidentally one of our favourite discoveries of the year) Calvin Klein commissioned British artist Martin Creed to conceive of an installation involving all the company's Spring 2008 collections. You might wonder what the 2001 Turner Prize-winning artist would have that Calvin Klein would be interested in, as did we for a second or two, but the collaboration revealed two very similar ethos at play: a desire to strip things back to their essence of form and function in a manner more complex than simple minimalism.
The event itself was monumental and spectacular. Creed enlisted the help of a symphony orchestra to create an atmosphere in the cavernous former World War Two bunker, and had them seated one behind another on a long, narrow stage running down the length of the space. The orchestra played dramatic outbursts led by a thundering bass drum, which sounded much like an external panic attack. Surprisingly, the sporadic cacophony worked well as a soundtrack to which a serene handful of models (wearing Calvin Klein Collection for men and women) walked around the stage, then stopped, in time with the drum.
The remaining Calvin Klein labels were grouped around the space: underwear draped over a piano in the entrance platform, ck Calvin Klein on the stage and Calvin Klein Jeans on the stairs in the far corner. Creed masterminded the entire arrangement, choreography, ‘music’ and lighting, bringing all the collections to life in a very understated but surreal arrangement.
More than merely bringing the clothes to life, all the elements of the installation lent the collections an unusual character. Each model was like a part in a play, each outfit a costume for a character, and each collection a component of a whole. We came away feeling we had a thorough understanding of the Calvin Klein brand in its entirety, both its history and its future direction and, perhaps most interestingly, of how it views itself.
We grabbed Kevin Carrigan, Creative Director of ck Calvin Klein and Calvin Klein Jeans, to hear his take on the collaboration.
How did the project come about?
Well we’ve been thinking for a while about the idea of doing something like this here, given the popularity of the label in the UK. We previously collaborated with Shinichi Ogawa the Japanese architect, which was a huge success, so it seemed like a very opportune place and time to experiment a little more.
Why was Martin Creed chosen?
I’ve been a big fan of Martin’s since seeing his work for the first time in the 2001 Turner Prize. What I love is that he uses every day objects – tape, blue tack, lights – and manipulates them in an incredibly basic, minimalist way. In that respect he’s very similar to what we do at Calvin Klein: however different our end products may be, we share a similar vision. Martin’s work is all about movement, sound and light, and these are values we hold equally dear at Calvin Klein.
And was he an easy catch?
My goodness, I was in the States telling everyone he was too big to do a project like this. But when we approached him he was thrilled by the idea. He had complete control over everything - from the staging, lighting and sound, obviously, but right down to the choreography too.
How do you find the results?
We’re thrilled. The orchestra, the space, the arrangement, the lighting, everything works so well together. Seeing the clothes that we’ve made and seen so many times before, in this kind of installation, makes them feel completely fresh.
What do you see is the difference between this installation and a regular catwalk show?
It’s important for us to keep viewing our industries in different ways and currently so many people are doing so much more than simply putting on a regular catwalk show. Doing something like this collaboration is breaking the mould a little and opening all our eyes to viewing fashion in a new way.