Decades before Raf Simons took the reigns of iconic American fashion house Calvin Klein, and enlisted his go-to collaborator, Sterling Ruby, to reinvent the interior of the brand’s New York flagship at 654 Madison Avenue, the house’s founder took a similarly artistic approach to the shop’s interior when it opened its doors in 1996.
Klein blurred the boundaries between art gallery and retail environment when he commissioned American minimalist artist Dan Flavin to create three distinct, site-specific works in varying configurations to further glorify the simplicity of the John Pawson-design retail space. Flavin’s readymade-like approach to his craft, subject in his appropriation of an everyday object like a fluorescent light bulb, was the ideal compliment to the streamline, minimalist aesthetic of Calvin Klein in the 1990s. Today, Raf Simons has reenergized the brand through an Americana lens, introducing marching band uniforms, quilting, workwear and western boots as early impressions of the house’s forthcoming vernacular. Walking into the Madison Avenue flagship today, one will find a space swarmed with bright yellow scaffolding, colorful display plinths and gigantic balls of yarn suspended from the ceiling. While Sterling Ruby has introduced an entirely new visual experience in a different manner than Dan Flavin, both artists’ reliance on everyday materiality is remarkably similar; an ideal compliment to the Calvin Klein clothing lining the store’s sales racks.