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Bye, Bieber. Raf Simons Is the New Face of Calvin Klein

It’s the start of a new era for the great American brand.

Raf Simons stands in front of the runway chart backstage at Christian Dior's fall 2015 couture show.
Raf Simons backstage at Christian Dior’s fall 2015 couture show. Photo: Victor Boyko/Getty Images

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For nearly two years, Calvin Klein has defined its narrative by its advertising. The brand had what seemed to be an endless capacity, and budget, to churn out campaigns starring young, hot things like Justin Bieber, Kendall Jenner, FKA Twigs, Zoë Kravitz, and Bella Hadid — often shot in black and white, lately in lush hyper-saturation.

On Tuesday, Calvin Klein announced on Twitter and Instagram that Raf Simons has signed on as its new chief creative officer. And just like that, the attention’s turned back to the clothes.

The news, though major in the scheme of fashion’s turbulent ecosystem, comes as no shock. Speculation that Simons, who led his own line and Jil Sander before heading up Dior from 2012 to 2015, was up for the top job at Calvin Klein has been free-flowing for the better part of a year.

The start of the Belgian designer’s tenure at this iconic American brand presents a lot of questions. Obviously, what will his Calvin Klein look like?

What does a conversation between Simons and Bieber sound like?

And considering that Simons exited Dior in part because of the exhausting pace at which today’s designers are expected to turn out collections (and pre-collections) (and couture collections), how could a brand that spans as many businesses as Calvin Klein possibly be less relaxed than that? Man cannot live by B12 shots alone.

Indeed, Simons is going to have his hands full. When in April Calvin Klein announced the departures of Francisco Costa and Italo Zucchelli, its longtime creative directors of womenswear and menswear, the brand made clear that it would soon be aligning all its businesses under one creative vision.

In the caption of its Instagram post on Tuesday, Calvin Klein explained that Simons will be leading creative across the Calvin Klein Collection, Calvin Klein Platinum, Calvin Klein, jeans, underwear, and home brands — in addition to “all aspects” of design, marketing, and communications.

He will have some help, however: Pieter Mulier, Simons’s right-hand man since before he landed at Dior, has also joined the team as Calvin Klein’s creative director.

Though Calvin Klein Collection has its spring 2017 runway show scheduled for September 15, Simons’s first collections be shown for fall 2017, the company said. Still, we’d guess that the brand’s upcoming New York Fashion Week show will reveal some hints of what’s to come.

One final preoccupation: how will Simons mold his aesthetic to fit a brand that has already devoted enormous resources to redefining itself in recent months — and succeeded at doing so? Aided by all those new ad campaigns, Calvin Klein’s revenue grew 9 percent in 2015 and 13 percent in the first quarter of fiscal 2016, from $654 million to $723 million. In 2015, women’s underwear sales rose 20 percent.

Given those numbers, Calvin Klein is unlikely to want a total break from what it has going on right now, even under the direction of a creative force as formidable and well-respected as Simons.