Friday, 22 August, 2014

Published April 19, 2014
Home & Garden
At home with Calvin Klein
If wearing the clothes isn't enough, fans of the designer can pick a line of his products to furnish their homes with. By Tay Suan Chiang
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Water pitcher and stirrer; Ellipse flatware in matte gold; bedlinen made of quality cotton (above); and the installation of pieces from Calvin Klein Home which was specially constructed at the old Kallang Airport

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'Very under-stated, it is about quiet luxury and elegance.'
Ms Mellen, creative director, on the look of Calvin Klein Home

HAVING spent 15 years working at Calvin Klein Home, Amy Mellen knows every product like the back of her hand. Which means she can easily spot any item in the collection, even when it appears for no more than a minute on the big screen.

"I would be watching a movie, and go, 'hey, that is our bedding they used'," says Ms Mellen, who has been creative director of Calvin Klein Home since 2009. She was recently in town as part of the company's multi-brand blitz across Asia that included a one-of-a-kind architectural installation at the old Kallang airport.

Calvin Klein Home was started in 1995, "when Mr Klein couldn't find the right bedlinen that he wanted", says Ms Mellen, who joined the company in 1999 as a senior designer. From a range of bedlinen, the home collection has now grown to nine categories of products, including bedding, bath, dinnerware, tabletop, table linens, giftware, rugs, down, and furniture.

The New York resident says that the Calvin Klein Home client is "a modern man or woman, who knows the brand well and is already wearing the apparel and who wants the pared down minimal lifestyle." Just as with its fashion counterpart, the look of the Home collection is "very understated, it is about quiet luxury and elegance," says Ms Mellen.

New product ranges are introduced twice a year, but unlike fashion, "our items have to last a lot longer. It would be awesome if everyone changed things in their home twice a year, but we know that is not going to happen," she says. "People invest in their home furnishings and these are pieces they have to live with for a long time, so our designs have to be long lasting."

Good design to her is "timelessness and lasts forever. It is something that you still like whether you bought it today or some years ago. It still looks good even years later."

Her team of seven, including herself, works with the merchandise department to plan a list of items that needs to be created. "Do we need a bar, a two-seater sofa? If yes, then we design one, and sometimes it works the other way too, where we suggest items to be added to the range," she says.

It becomes inevitable that some items get taken off production when new items are added on. But the brand has its evergreen designs. Among them is the bamboo flowers pattern, as seen on its bedlinen. "Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw used that print for her bedlinens, and because everyone wanted her lifestyle, they wanted that same print too," says Ms Mellen. Even though the TV series ended its run 10 years ago, the bamboo flowers print is still very popular today.

Ms Mellen oversees all the designs that are produced in-house at her New York studio. "We would dye fabric in the studio, or be sewing things, or building models of our furniture. Everyone loves to get their hands dirty," she says. "And it is important to do so, as you cannot be creative sitting in front of a computer."

Inspiration comes to her not only from the runway - "I like to look at Calvin Klein women's collection by Francisco Costa" - but also include other aspects of life, such as cooking, art, architecture and nature. "I have tear sheets, but mostly I rely on my photographic memory to store my ideas," she says.

Being a hands-on person, Ms Mellen also heads out to the factories to learn how things are made. "It also helps me better understand the limitations of production," she says. The brand has factories around the world, including Vietnam and Malaysia for its furniture, bedding from Italy, upholstery from Los Angeles and North Carolina, and towels manufactured in Turkey.

For anyone who are new to the Home collection, Ms Mellen recommends getting their bedlinen. "It is always nice to treat yourself to good quality bedlinen," she says, raving about the quality of the cotton. "It's not about the thread count, but it is the twist of the cotton that makes our bedlinen so special."

Selections from Calvin Klein Home are sold in Dubai, Thailand, Taiwan and China. Ms Mellen says their franchise partner is currently in talks with Robinsons to have the brand retail at the store.

It is no surprise to hear that Ms Mellen's home is much like a living showroom for Calvin Klein Home. "I've got the bedding, plates, sofas, rugs, pillows, duvets...," she rattles on, adding that she is always bringing home new things, sometimes way too much. "I entertain a lot, and people who come to my home will expect me to use Calvin Klein products," she says. She finds it a delight when people comment that they didn't realise that the company produced a particular item.

But what gets her more excited is when she goes to someone's home, and they use her products too. "Often they don't know that I work for the brand, and it's exciting to see that they've chosen Calvin Klein for their home."