Calvin Klein will forever be remembered as one of the most influential underwear brands in the industry. The first to rock their briefs in the 90’s were fresh-faced models reaching supermodel status in an instant. Portraying the briefs as a cheeky image of desirability, they transformed the humble Calvin underwear into a cult classic.
The brand holds a capacity to incite in their customers the burning desire to own at least one article of Calvin Klein clothing. Their ultimate selling point is ‘coolness’, suggesting the idea that joining the Calvin squad will heighten your level of ‘cool’. Many of their most coveted designs are based on timeless familiarity, winning the battle against trends, and managing to maintain that same desirability over time.
The latest #mycalvins campaign is an example of how the company has put a lot more effort into evolving its look rather than the product itself. This time, the Calvin identity is brought to us via Bieber, Jenner, and FKA twigs, amongst other famous faces. For the most part, it seems harmless, even uplifting, promoting concepts like ‘dreaming’, ‘freedom’ and ‘excelling’. But what happens when even the most powerful of fashion marketing teams fails to recognise when they deliver the wrong message?
Provocative campaigns and advertisements are great methods of grabbing audience’s attentions, but are also known to having detrimental impacts on a brand’s reputation – potentially altering the way audiences perceive them. This exact scenario happened to Calvin Klein after publicising a #mycalvins campaign billboard in Soho, New York. This particular version of the advert featured a scantily clad actress Klara Kristin, with the tagline ‘I seduce in #mycalvins’, side by side with rapper Fetty Wap, and the tagline ‘I make money in #mycalvins’. With many feeling shocked and insulted by the sexist nature and senseless placement of the two adverts together, one witness – Heidi Zak, CEO and co-founder of lingerie label ThirdLove – felt the need to speak up against old-fashioned values and inequality still apparent in the fashion industry today. Initially writing a complaint letter to CK’s CEO Steven Shiffman, she went on to post a YouTube video featuring other witnesses being interviewed in front of the incriminating billboard – exposing the public’s outraged thoughts and feelings towards it.
The billboard was unsurprisingly taken down as a consequence of the wave of attention drawn toward its encouragement of sexism and disparity. Whether or not Calvin Klein – a brand with a history of sexualised adverts and controversial campaigns – intentionally put the billboard up with a disregard to the negative messages it was portraying, we’ll never know for sure. With numerous images and an array of different taglines paired together throughout the whole campaign, is it possible this one incident was merely an accidental coincidence? Then again, should a brand of this stature be making such careless and senseless mistakes? Or was it all just part of a grand marketing scheme to round up even more attention for the already hugely popular and successful mega fashion house?
Let us know what you think.