Exclusive: Behind The Scenes of Calvin Klein's Sizzling Ads

Exclusive: Behind The Scenes of Calvin Klein's Sizzling Ads

Calvin Klein's Spring-Summer campaign continues to make headlines with provocative new images, each racier than the last

Calvin Klein's Spring-Summer campaign continues to make headlines with provocative new images, each racier than the last

Text: Patrik Sandberg

“This one was more of a whirlwind,” Kendall Jenner says, the morning Calvin Klein is rolling out their latest global campaign for Spring 2016. “[I had] four shoots over the span of three days with four different teams, locations, and ideas. It’s all very Calvin still, but we mixed it up in different ways that somehow feel new to the brand.”

This campaign marks the first time that Calvin Klein Inc. is representing all of its consumer clothing categories—Collection, Platinum, Underwear, White Label, and Jeans—under one branding umbrella. It’s actually a hashtag: #mycalvins is back, and this time it stands for more than just a pair of tighty-whities with a logo on the waistband.

“We have seen how style and self-expression continue to shift across the world,” says Calvin’s chief marketing officer, Melisa Goldie. “Millennials are mixing high and low pieces to create individualized looks, so it was only natural for us to communicate that shift in our global advertising and work with a new generation of creators and collaborators to make that happen.”

For the imagery that will make up print ads and billboards from here to Beijing, Goldie and the brand tapped the influential rising photographer Tyrone Lebon to put together a crew of collaborators, including fellow photographers Jamie Hawkesworth, Harley Weir, and Tobin Yelland, and the Calvin Klein veteran David Sims. He also enlisted his father, Mark Lebon, and brother Frank to document the campaign. “We wanted to form a creative factory of collaborators,” Goldie explains. “This group represents a new generation of visual artists and perfectly complements the spirit of where the brand is headed.”

Cast members include Jenner, Justin Bieber, breakout hip-hop star Fetty Wap, Grammy frontrunner Kendrick Lamar, FKA twigs, and a motley crew of models, musicians, and other street-cast youths, including Brooklyn singer Destiny Frasqueri, British model and activist Adwoa Aboah, and  Danish actress Klara Kristin who co-starred in Gaspar Noé’s gonzo, erotic drama, Love, in which she performed real, intimate sex for the camera.

“It’s stirring and exciting!” Jenner says, now a Calvin vet. “It’s like this collective of fashion, art, music—which are all connected and intertwined, and to see a brand as big as Calvin embracing that is very cool and very now. That understanding of where things are going has always been a strength of theirs, though. It’s one of the things I’ve always loved about them.” Of course Calvin has always been known for its inspired casting, almost as much as for its peerless track record when it comes to setting the agenda with its provocative messaging. In the Lebon-helmed video that launched this campaign, Justin Bieber starts off saying, “Yeah, I’m turned on,” and Abbey Lee Kershaw closes with, “I’m not wearing any underwear, though.” Youth, hormones, sex, and freedom have been the totemic ideals of the brand ever since a 15-year-old Brooke Shields proclaimed that the only thing coming between her and her Calvins was nothing at all.

“I’ve always associated Calvin Klein with good denim since I was a kid,” says the indie rapper Joey Bada$$, one of Spring ’16’s featured talents. “It’s an honor to model for Calvin and to be one of the faces amongst such great company. I’m forever grateful.” Fetty Wap concurs. “Calvin Klein is classic to me. It’s worldwide and iconic. The shoot was dope, I had fun with it.”

“It was important for this cast to be provocative, diverse, democratic, and youthful,” Goldie says. “The campaign was created for a global audience of youthful-minded invididuals, to create an intimate connection with this audience while reflecting the cultural moment they live in.” And by global, she means a billion people—the projected amount of eyeballs who will be viewing this campaign in 26 markets worldwide. Using the fill-in-the-blank tagline “I _______ in #mycalvins,” the brand is sending a two-pronged message: Calvin is universal, but Calvin is personal. It makes for a canny sequel to the original #mycalvins campaign, which started a consumer-based movement on social media.

“I think my generation knows a good thing when we see one,” Jenner says. “The divide that made sense before doesn’t feel so necessary anymore. Everyone is doing their own thing and that doesn’t have to be bad, or mean that one thing can’t happen at the same time as another. Maybe my Calvins are different than yours, but we can both rock them however we want.”


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