Another essay from the last writing class has bubbled to the surface. This dates me terribly, because Calvin Klein has gone from avant-garde, enfant terrible, to a “mature” designer considered to be a classic stylist. But when he first started making headlines, he gave me headaches.
Am I the only person who feels that Calvin Klein is responsible for the decline and fall of Western civilization? Maybe I just resent him because he officially stamped my passport into Old Farthood.
I was vaguely aware that Calvin Klein’s name was appearing on people’s asses in the first wave of something called Designer Jeans. (Previously there were only Levi’s and, if you didn’t know any better, Wranglers.) Designer Jeans were meant to look as though they had been airbrushed onto your body, and the trendoids, male and female, began cramming themselves into pants two sizes too small, trying to look blasé and aloof although they were also bug-eyed and breathless.
I wasn’t too alarmed. I was still a renegade, unwilling to give up my buttery soft, faded-to-baby-blue Levi’s for the crisp, navy full-length trusses called designer jeans.
But Calvin wasn’t happy just being a prestigious tush flag. A cultural visionary, Cal knew we were right there on the cusp of becoming a nation of sheep, eager to jump on the bandwagon of any ludicrous trend that two or three insecure suck-ups now pronounced Officially Cool. Calvin decided the time was right to branch out, and burst into my consciousness with commercials for a perfume called Obsession.
Obsession! Calvin Klein wanted us to smell like a personality disorder, a state of mental unbalance. “He broke my heart so I slashed his tires and burned down his house. Obsession.” And I just didn’t get it. I was no longer Talking the Talk.
Next was Infinity. Cal thought we should smell like mathematical concepts promoted by glassy-eyed anorexics, like Kate “I only eat tiny bits of” Moss. And I realized I was completely clueless about this campaign, too. I was once the drum majorette for hip, anti-establishment thinking and behavior, the poster girl for non-conformity. Now I sounded and felt like my parents: “What are they talking about?”
I grew up with Evening in Paris, Joy, Chanel, and for naughty girls, Tabu. And the models smiled, or at least offered a smoldering come-hither look. Wouldn’t you want to sell perfume — a luxury item — with images of style, glamour, allure, success, romance? But no, here was Cal peddling his wares with greasy-haired scowling waifs and apparently that’s what we wanted, because we made him a gazillionaire!
The new campaign was for something called CK1, an apparently transgendered scent with the brilliantly succinct catch-phrase, “Just be.”
Just be? Come on! What’s the alternative? Just don’t be? I guess if you just not be, you be dead, and it wouldn’t much matter what you smell like.
Maybe Cal has forged a bold path of marketing strategies into the obtuse, the obscure, the downright silly. If that’s the case, if I’ve finally “gotten it,” I’d like to offer a few suggestions for his next perfumes:
Yo, I din’t do it. Bring me some smokes.
Calvin Klein’s … INCARCERATION.
No, I’m full, really. Be right back.
Calvin Klein’s… BULIMIA.
Party like you mean it. Jimi and Janis. Yeah, dude.
Calvin Klein’s … HEROIN.
Fabulous. Gotta take this call, babe. Ciao.
I think I just launched a new marketing career! Do I look younger? Wait a minute – how about when I scowl?