Raf Simons always loves to dive into the archives of any brand he takes over. And sometimes he digs even further back into the brand archives – almost pure it was a brand. Calvin Klein is a classic Americana brand and for his first collections, Raf went straight to the classic figures in Americana culture – cowboys, sheriffs, housewives. And for the second collection, Raf dug in even deeper into classic Americana. Raf rediscovered classic American quilts.
What could be more deeply American, more symbolic, more steeped in history than quilts? Hand sewn quilts are uniquely special, individual pieces of Americana traditionally made from scraps of leftover or old cloth, utilitarian to their core. Early quilts were constructed simply because throwing away old cloth would be wasteful. But quilting quickly became seen as a home craft – an art. An art practiced by women—who approached quilting as a kind of art, developing complex and meaningful patterns. Creating heirlooms that were passed down over generations.
Quilts also have quite a political background. Just think of the AIDS quilt of 1987. A massive, 1,920 panel quilt (large enough to cover the National Mall) constructed as a memorial to the victims of the AIDS crisis who might otherwise be forgotten. But even before then, there was The Freedom Quilting Bee, established in 1966 as a way for poor black women in Alabama to earn money in the South. Many of the members were closely connected to the voting rights movement in nearby Selma and money from the sales of the quilts often went to fund various civil rights activities.
Quilts were not only an undervalued women’s craft but also inherently political. It is for this reason Raf decide to collection and resurrect them in the forms of coat linings. But he also kept many quilts in tact and include them in the Calvin Klein Home collection. These quilts were the perfect, and political, addition to a minimalist home furnishing line. Just think about it – each piece in a quilt is imbued with some untold history. Can you say the same of your duvet?
I think I may need to start hunting more quilts at local estate sales…