At Calvin Klein’s New York headquarters, the artist Sterling Ruby has created large-scale interventions that bring Raf Simons’s startling version of the American Dream to life
Credit: Courtesy of the artist/Calvin Klein

When Raf Simons issued his first directional decree for a new Calvin Klein under his leadership last month, it was done amidst a set designed by the designer’s close friend and frequent collaborator, Sterling Ruby.

The Los Angeles-based artist, who has worked with Simons at his namesake label and at Dior on couture textile designs, transformed the brand’s show space at its headquarters into an immersive installation littered with the detritus of Americana that Simons made ample, nuanced references to throughout his debut ready-to-wear collection for the house.

Buckets and baseball bats, pom-poms, the elastic bands removed from their iconic context as underwear, shredded star spangled banners and giant, soft-sculptures resembling candles adorned the space as the embodiment of what the artist called “a free-floating collage” that more closely resembled the workings of his interior monologue than a typical runway.

“When Raf [Simons] invited me to work on these projects for Calvin Klein” the artist elucidated in a statement, “he gave me the freedom to create work that was essentially my own. But of course, I also thought about what the company meant and stood for; I thought about America.”

Today, the artist and brand revealed the second component in a tripartite collaboration to overhaul the brand’s headquarters (Ruby is also overseeing the painting of the facade pitch black, and his work featured in Simons’s first underwear and jeans campaign for the brand). The 12th floor space may not be as full of the flotsam stalactites that characterised the first full-room artwork, but it’s arresting nonetheless. Here, clean white walls are substituted for paint-spattered, canvas-covered versions rendered in a jingoistic palette and interrupted by “banana yellow Formica intrusions” and more of the artist’s large-scale soft sculptures.

“It is an interesting project to intervene in at this point in time” Ruby continues. “To intervene in a massive American corporate structure that is known for making statements about American life—it’s really something.”

It sure is. Take a tour of the brand’s revamped headquarters below, and keep an eye out for a third installation to be unveiled later in the year.

Credit: Courtesy of Calvin Klein

Credit: Courtesy of Calvin Klein

Credit: Courtesy of Calvin Klein

Credit: Courtesy of Calvin Klein

Credit: Courtesy of Calvin Klein

Credit: Courtesy of Calvin Klein
Tile and cover image: Courtesy of the artist/Calvin Klein