Gray is the color of Calvin Klein. Think about it, because Italo Zucchelli most definitely has. Granite, anthracite, Gotham, basalt, charcoal, heather—these were the gradations that colored his Fall collection. But don’t, whatever you do, ask him if his grays stretched to 50 shades.

And yet it was actually movies that Zucchelli had in mind: old-school black-and-whiters, where the tones of grays were what defined the screen image. He built his new collection on those subtleties, and the result was the kind of monochrome glamour that made film noir such a durable celluloid phenomenon. It’s not exactly unfamiliar territory to Zucchelli. His collections have often infused a masculine ’40s silhouette with a futuristic bent. Today, for instance, there were great big drop-shoulder tweed topcoats, the clincher being that they were overprinted with a cheetah pattern. There was also something vaguely retro (and not entirely successful) about a passage of cropped flight jackets and high-waist trousers that, with the uniform look of the models, suggested an air squadron of sinister androids.

Zucchelli’s tenure at Calvin Klein now looks like an act of long-term subversion. In this collection, for instance, he rejigged sporty wardrobe staples in black vinyl (again, much less successful when offered in gray). In a film noir context, it made perfect sense: The vinyl had the sheen of tarmac in the rain, which perpetually falls in the world of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. The speckled effect of Zucchelli’s embossed cheetah and leopard textures even began to seem like raindrops on windshields. That may sound like a stretch of the imagination, but how lucky Calvin Klein is to have a designer who can goose the everyday in such an evocative manner.

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