Calvin Klein Puts a Woman on Top

veronica leoni
Calvin Klein Puts a Woman on Top Collier Schorr

After five years without a creative director or a runway collection, Calvin Klein is charting a new course. The brand has hired Italian designer Veronica Leoni, founder of the beautifully tailored minimalist label Quira and a 2023 LVMH Prize finalist, to step into the role and revive the luxury side of the business. Leoni will be the first woman in this position at Calvin Klein. Her official title will be Creative Director of Collection, and she will oversee several categories, including women’s and men’s ready-to-wear, underwear, and accessories. Her first runway show will be for the Fall 2025 season.

Leoni has an impressive resume, with design positions at Phoebe Philo’s Céline, Jil Sander, The Row, and Moncler. She seems more than qualified for the role on paper, but it’s also exciting to finally have a woman appointed to the top of one of this hugely significant brand. She follows Raf Simons, who helmed Calvin Klein’s runway and ready-to-wear from 2016 to 2018, and Francisco Costa, who took over from Klein in 2004 just after he sold the company to PVH Corp and stepped away.

In a statement, Calvin Klein’s Global Brand President Eva Serrano emphasized Leoni’s intentionality as a designer. “It was clear from our first conversations that Veronica’s life work had been preparing her for this moment and the opportunity to define a new era for Calvin Klein,” she noted. “I am confident that her purposeful approach to design and work ethic, combined with our shared values, will further enrich our iconic brand and result in a collection that resonates with consumers around the world.”

Leoni shared her own excitement about the future of the brand, too, explaining that, “For decades, Calvin Klein interpreted the idea of bold self-expression, and I am willing to empower it with a strong accent on style and creativity.”

Reviving a label, or trying to evolve it after it spent years in fashion purgatory, is a tricky business. If you bank on nostalgia alone, then you may alienate a younger customer who doesn’t appreciate the value of the original vision or see its place in their current world. If you completely reinvent it, the ones who were around for its heyday won’t buy in and won’t see themselves in the clothes—they’ll likely just buy the originals on a resale site. What’s unique about Calvin Klein, both the label and the man who birthed it, is that it has always been hyper-strategic about connecting the dots between product and runway, mass and class. In the ‘90s, Klein was one of the first designers to use image as a vehicle to sell clothes and his vision simultaneously. Design, tailoring, and chicness were always key, but for Klein, fashion was about a feeling and, in his case, a feeling of uninhibited sensuality.

These days, it’s hard to find fashion—clothes or visuals—that make us feel something. It’s hard to imagine how Leoni and the team will connect the dots between sumptuous runway collections and videos of Jeremy Allen White undressing to the tune of Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me.” That being said, to have a woman at the wheel of Calvin Klein, a brand built by men on women’s desire and strength in their sexuality, feels wildly hopeful, and not just because of the optics. It’s a genuine game-changer for a woman to control Calvin Klein’s runway and, perhaps, to reclaim those sharp cuts and slinky silhouettes that made both men and women feel hot once upon a time. It’s an image that might represent a bright future for American fashion, one with women on top.

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