On a lost highway at the edge of the Mojave Desert in California stands a series of billboards. The billboards all feature images from last season CALVIN KLEIN brand campaign. One that shows a purple skull by Andy Warhol with a back view of the model Lulu staring intently at it had gone unpublished last season. Nevertheless, this picture stands here now, joined by two other Warhol-focused follies with models in front of them vast, blown-up billboards to be viewed by the side of the road.
The thing is, these billboards are not real. They appear in this hardscrabble part of the desert in a place that is often used for filming, a place that is pure artifice and uncannily familiar. Further up the road stands a diner that is not really a diner, while gas pumps that date from the 1940s or 50s are placed outside but do not dispense gasoline.
On this stretch of road’s that itself might not be real, but where real tumbleweeds roll past from the desert and where real rattlesnakes might bite the new CALVIN KLEIN campaign is being shot.
The campaign is a study in art and artifice, of the real and the imagined, the mannered world of high fashion combined with a sense of the everyday, of America and a European view of it, of film and TV and real life with a blurring of the boundaries between all. Ultimately, the campaign explores the cinematic and romantic outsider eye view of America, something of a dream world that has become concrete for Raf Simons, Chief Creative Officer of CALVIN KLEIN, and Pieter Mulier, Creative Director of CALVIN KLEIN.
They are the European “outsiders” who spent so many years looking at America through the mediums of film, photography, pop music, art, and television, and it reflects their Fall 2017 CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC collection. Bearing this in mind, the campaign is being shot as cinematically as possible by photographer Willy Vanderperre. The stylist, Olivier Rizzo, creates a nuanced cast of characters with the wardrobe of the collection; there are 22 models in all, each decidedly different from the last and mostly appearing en masse.
Twenty-two is also the number of campaign images that will be released, an unfolding of which will occur over time. Rather than having only a few images, there is a multiplicity, like an array of film stills for a film that simply does not exist. Like the subject matter of each image, the campaign is suspended between the real and the dream world; it’s a movie that finds equal merit in folk and the high-flown, food court and courtroom, the humdrum and sci-fi, the urban and the rural. It is a film with a subject matter that is the unique beauty of America.
CALVIN KLEIN 205W39NYC Fall 2017: photographed May 2017 by Willy Vanderperre at Mojave Desert, California
BTS photography by Frank Terry.