The Belgian designer, who was anointed creative director for Calvin Klein in 2016, is being honored for his role in preserving American heritage through the brand’s designs—particularly with regards to his incorporation of quilts. The textiles have long been a part of American anthropology, acting as both clothing and a crucial story-telling medium for the American Indians. Despite being recognized by cultural specialists for their superb artistry and craftsmanship, it was in the 1970s that the glamorous art world started recognizing the textiles as collector’s pieces and, thus, quilts entered the sphere of general public interest. However, as the decades passed, this 15 minutes of fame slowly wore out and quilts were ghettoized as being women’s work or something ‘passé’ to be found in a dusty flea market. That is, until now.
Who knew that featuring the Kardashian-Jenner clan on a stunning red and white quilt would cause a veritable cultural resurgence? Raf Simons made a bold decision to put quilts at the center of Calvin Klein’s Fall 2018 collection but, now, the textiles and their motifs can be seen on the biggest runways, on the most fashionable people and in luxury stores from Paris to New York. In a time when consumerism seemed to be all about finding something ‘new,’ something ‘state of the art’ or something ‘never-before-seen,’ Raf Simons reminds us that there’s something intrinsic in a home-spun quilt—something personal and deep—that brings every owner a unique comfort that can’t be felt anywhere else.
Raf Simons will be receiving the honor at the American Folk Art Museum’s annual benefit gala on October 2. In the meantime, Calvin Klein’s Madison Avenue location sells one of a kind, hand-selected historical quilts from across the United States.