Forget everything you know about Calvin Klein. No, seriously. A new parody musical on the designer has him living in Black Swan–levels of neuroticism, feuding with his nemesis Ralph Lauren, and scheming with Donna Karan. Welcome to the mind of Ryan Raftery, who has previously turned living mythological figures like Anna Wintour, Martha Stewart, and Andy Cohen into subjects of his musicals. The common thread tying Klein into the mix is pefectionism. “I liked the idea of this artist who is great, but strove for something that isn’t really possible. Perfection is an idea, it’s not a real thing,” Raftery told the Cut.
The Obsession of Calvin Klein is ficitional, but rooted in the history of Calvin Klein, the man. Specifically, it’s inspired by the fact that Calvin Klein and his ’90s sportswear peer, Ralph Lauren, grew up in the same neighborhood at the same time. Raftery took that information and ran with it. The resulting musical is inspired by Black Swan, but in 1990s New York. Driven by his one-sided feud with Lauren, Klein props up his maid, Donna Karan, as a fashion designer. Raftery’s Klein is inspired by Karan’s two first names and gives her seven easy pieces (get it?) from his own rack to start her collection. To add to the zaniness, Karan’s opening song is set to the tune of Mamma Mia. “I’m a comedian first and foremost,” Raftery said. “I’m not in the business of hurting these people’s feelings.”
The insanity is partially driven by the fashion industry rather than Klein’s own perfectionism. “Fashion designers are the only artists on strict creation calendars,” Raftery said. “Like, nobody is begging Madonna to do another album. She’ll do it when she wants to. But if you’re a fashion designer, you have to do six collections a year. And it can drive you nuts.” So there’s some sympathy for the designers, too.
The Obsession Of Calvin Klein shows at Joe’s Pub from October 28 to November 17.