Based on his past few collections for Calvin Klein Italo Zucchelli has been pegged as obsessed with forward thinking. Yet, for the brand’s S/S 2013 collection he decided to look backwards, revisiting the brand’s rich all-American sportswear history.
The show opened with a blue jeans moment thanks to a triple denim look, encompassing a stonewashed shirt, jacket and jeans in an appropriately eighties anti-fit cut. This nod to one of the brand’s most iconic campaigns gave way to a series of historical throwbacks including some typical Calvin pleat-front cream chinos, clean white basics and bulky beefcake leisurewear accompanied by a soundtrack of American classics, Guns n' Roses, The Beach Boys and co. To modernise these CK ghosts on the runway Zucchelli pushed forward with his now signature fabric experimentation, turning to semi-transparent nylon and rubberised calf. He also attempted to shake things up by throwing in a bold repetitive print, which featured on everything from shorts and shirts to blazers.
As with many of his collections Zucchelli looked beyond the clothes to the men within them – revisiting his favourite stomping grown by unpicking different versions of the American man; the sportsman (there were three biggies on the front row), the young biker-clad rebel, the working man. Each past and present Calvin Klein client base was in there somewhere, from the clean-cut family-orientated Iron John, referenced in the business tailoring, to the grungy gender-defying teen of the Kate Moss CK One era, shown in the dark-wash denims. This collection was an ode to the masculinity and machismo of bygone eras – an antidote to the slim suits, shrunken cropped trousers and decorative accessories shown on the runways of today.
While it was refreshing to see men dressed as men - so many other designers are fixated on translating female clothes onto the male form - if you took off the rose-tinted glasses there was something missing here. The problem with historical tributes is you can find yourself stuck in the past, unable to relate to the future. Zucchelli’s addition of a print just reinforced the motionless of some of the pieces. The stark and never-changing graphic created a sense of something consistent and strong, but staid. Silhouette the same, surface changed – but why?
Worryingly - given that this collection heroed the famous classics of American masculine dressing – just one too many of Zucchelli's ‘iconic’ odes were strangley forgettable as soon as they left the runway. Let's hope the 'men-as-men' ideal remains, but some of the realisation changes. May then the Calvin man can be a true hero again.