Calvin Klein’s New Interview Dishes On Kate Moss, Obsession, and More


Fourteen years after selling his business and walking away from his namesake brand, Calvin Klein’s reputation has never waned. Not only did he help revolutionize the way we perceive denim—from casual wear to high-fashion staple—but his minimalist aesthetic, and (sometimes literally) stripped down ads defined ‘90s fashion, and is still stylistically relevant.

This month, the designer is releasing a new, autobiographical coffee table book, Calvin Klein and, to promote it, he has given a rather revealing interview, discussing how many of his famous images came to be. Klein opened up to George Wayne for the new issue of Iris Covet Book, touching upon his career as not just a designer, but as the man behind some of the most iconic fashion campaigns of the 20th century—and CR got the chance to flip through the expansive story. Ahead of tonight’s Raf Simons‘-designed collection for Calvin Klein, the brand, we thought we’d share some highlights:

On The Brooke Shields Ads With Richard Avedon:

The “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins” campaign was apparently a lot of fun to shoot—and was created with nothing but the best intentions, and Klein described the making of the ads as fun. “Every night I’d be up at Dick [Avedon]’s studio, and he was on the floor acting like Brooke Shields,” Klein told Wayne. But the public saw the campaign differently.

“We didn’t set out to create controversy to get publicity, we just wanted to do something that was amusing, clever, and kind of sexy. But because she was so young and she was saying things like, ‘What comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing,’ meaning she’s not wearing any underwear. People went crazy. That was the beginning of me getting this reputation for being provocative and controversial, which I had to defend all those years, because people would think I set out to do that, but I never did.”

On Collaborating With Bruce Weber:

“I always had this affection and passion for photography. It seemed normal to me that if I’m creating the product, whether it’s fragrance or fashion, that I would know who the right photographer is to communicate that message, who the model is and where the photoshoot should be done. I would be on the phone with Bruce Weber three, four, five times a day and we would be discussing every aspect of the upcoming shoot, but it always started from one question, and that was ‘what is the meaning of this product?’ He would say, ‘Calvin, what are you trying to say?’ And from that threw us into trying to do something new, exciting, and interesting. We pushed the envelope, for sure, but I didn’t set out to push the envelope. In fact, when you work with very creative people, it’s a natural process. I was always willing to take risks.”

On His Infamous Underwear Ads:

The Bruce Weber-lensed image of athlete Tom Hintnaus wearing nothing but underwear caused quite a stir when it was released. The objectified male body was new back then, and fans got a little excited—to the point where they were stealing the ads.

“Those days the bus stop shelters had just started in New York. I get a call from the city because I placed hundreds of bus stop shelters. So the posters are placed behind glass and the city called and they said, ‘Mr. Klein, we want you to know your bus stop shelters are being broken. The people are breaking the glass and stealing the posters.’ I said, ‘How much does that cost for each bus stop shelter?’ They said, ‘Ooh, about 0.’ I said, ‘It’s okay. Let them break whatever they want and we’ll pay for it!’”

He Originally Wanted To Work With Vanessa Paradis:

Unimpressed with the bombshell, surgically-enhanced body-type of the supermodel era, Klein was on the hunt for something new and more natural. While in Paris he came across actress Vanessa Paradis (future mom of Lily-Rose Depp), and was immediately taken with her androgynous figure. Unfortunately, she was unavailable to hire. “It turned out she was working on a film; I couldn’t get her.” Luckily Patrick Demarchelier was able to find a model with a similar body type quickly. “He calls me and he said, ‘Calvin,’ he says, ‘I think someone just came into my studio that I think you should see.’ He said, ‘I think this is what you’re looking for.’ [It was] Kate Moss.”

On Discovering Mario Sorrenti, And Launching The Obsession Campaign:

In his first meeting with Moss, she brought along pictures of herself that her then-boyfriend Mario Sorrenti had taken. Klein, who was trying to re-invent the image of his Obsession fragrance, was inspired by Sorrenti’s loving eye for the model — despite the fact that the photos were amateur. “I said, ‘I’d like to meet your boyfriend who took these pictures,’ because to me they said ‘obsession’. [Sorrenti] was obsessed, in a very good way, with her,” Klein explained.

Upon meeting, Sorrenti told Klein that he was not a photographer. “I said, ‘Well, I tell you what,’ I said, ‘We will show you what you need to know. I want you to go to an island with her and just photograph her and then film her. We will show you how to do a commercial for TV and print.’” Not only was that the start of Sorrenti’s career, but one of fashion’s most lasting campaigns. “I sensed something in him, and in the two of them. The advertising was fantastic. It was really hot. It was sexy. It was really kind of great, and the sales went through the roof after that.”


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