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Is Under The Skirt Going Over The Top? Calvin Klein Ads Push Limits

Tue., Aug. 29, 1995

The good news is that something now comes between folks and their Calvins. The bad news: You can see exactly what it is.

You thought it was safe, didn’t you? You thought fashion might finally be about pretty clothes and looking healthy. Sorry. Just when it seemed as if the 15 minutes of the waif were over, and the where’s-my-next-fix-coming-from? expression was once more considered bad rather than good, along comes Calvin Klein - again.

You remember Calvin. The underwear guy. The man who put Marky Mark in his skivvies high atop Times Square. The one who slammed the image of a topless Kate Moss into the popular consciousness. (And oh yes, the man who designs beautiful, minimalist clothing.)

In a new CK Jeans advertising campaign launched in August issues of magazines such as YM, Details, Vibe and Rolling Stone, young models - lolling about in a ‘70s-chic rec room - give us crotch shots.

The images most likely to make you think “kiddie porn” include a stringy-haired girl reclining in a blue denim miniskirt that’s hiked up just enough to reveal her white briefs. An Afroed young man - “Room 222” redux - wears denim cutoffs. His legs are conveniently positioned for a nice clear shot of his crotch. And so on.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal story, the advertisements are causing a stir partly because of the placement in YM, a magazine with a readership as young as 12 years old. Frankly, we’re just as troubled by its placement in magazines that skew older. Why do adults want to look at lewd shots of seemingly under-age models?

Calvin Klein spokesperson Don Nathan says that while the company knows that not everyone will love what it does, it’s not trying to stir up trouble. “Basically, what we focus on in the campaign is telling the story of the products,” Nathan says.

The story as they tell it: The target audience is made up of a generation that’s independent and media-savvy. They’re “people who do only what they want to do,” Nathan says. Hence, the rule-breaking attitude of the ad.

Our take on this? Folks who wear CK Jeans like to sit in an illmannered position - on the floor of a badly decorated room.

They say glamour is an inner quality and can come from anyone - like the people in the ads. It’s not just found in professionals from a modeling agency.

That’s a lovely sentiment, except that at least one of the people in the ad is a professional model. And pardon us, Mr. Klein, but where’s the glamour in a crotch shot?

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Robin D. Givhan The Washington Post

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