#TBT Calvin Klein Once Again Tried It With An Upskirt Photo, Just Like They Did 21 Years Ago

by Shardae Jobson

Calvin Klein, the famed designer label, especially for its denim offerings, has been here before. “Here” being the center of controversy and accusations of their advertisements as too inappropriate and too salacious for customers and viewers of fashion.

The newest ads for their current “I (fill in the blank) in #mycalvins” campaign features some, not so subtle nods to sex and the male and female anatomy. (Hence, Kendall Jenner holding an opened grapefruit with the tagline of: “I eat in my #mycalvins.” A clear resemblance to the outside of a vagina. Nice!)

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There’s another with model Abby Lee Kershaw with both her hands down her undies.

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But it is one picture, in particular, that’s re-stirring the pot of Klein dangerously bordering on child-like pornography or soft-core porn. I saw this coming from the jump.

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The photo above is of Danish actress Klara Kristin and was shot by Harley Weir. While the photo is purposely a tad blurry by the nether regions, there’s no shying away from the ad being an upskirt shot of Kristin and what looks to be her polka dotted undies.

Is this photo sexy? I don’t think so. It is provocative and attention-grabbing, even for all the “what the hell is this about” reasons. And her tagline? “I flash in #mycalvins.” (Insert exasperated looking emoji please. They tried it).

On Facebook, I saw that “Calvin Klein” was trending and it was because of Kristin’s ad. I shook my head and a lopsided grin slipped on my face. Oh, Calvin Klein. “Here” we are. Again? Let me count the times to be precise.

I wasn’t here for the 1980-81 days of a 15-year-old Brooke Shields declaring “What comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” (I admit. That line was clever as hell). But I was absolutely around and remember when Klein had scooped up Kate Moss as their Girl Friday for their jeans and perfume ads. The era of Moss inducted the questionable emaciated look for 1990s fashion. And the “the look” founds its way onto other fashion house ads and runways such as Gucci’s Spring/Summer show where glossy eyelids, frail bodies, and zombie expressions ruled.

And in staying in the year of 1995… 21 years ago, Klein released a series of ads, surprisingly minus Moss, for CK jeans that were quickly labeled as “kiddie porn.” The models had little or loose, sheer clothing on with jeans. The backdrop was an oddly chosen bland basement with just the mere prop of a ladder.

For the video version, the voice of a faceless man was included and he was just as creepy as the location. His tone is syrupy and conspiring as he separately interviewed real-life models acting as wannabe models. It’s gross. (The voice is somewhat similar to the one heard at the end of Shields’ ad). The models behave not so much as “in” on the guy’s intentions (whatever they may be), but nonetheless indifferent as they disturbingly embraced the casting couch situation. I’m not sure who in the Klein camp thought this would’ve made anyone want to buy a pair of bootcut, five pocketed jeans. But in the summer of 1995, they were released on billboards.

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For an August 1995 Los Angeles Times post about the basement ads, then Fashion Network Report editor and publisher Alan Millstein found a way to inject a risible viewpoint on the matter by stating: “Once again Klein has scored a grand slam home run. He’s gotten millions of dollars of free publicity from this. It is like a B-12 shot for his company.” The same week as the LA Times piece, the brand spoke to the New York Times and expressed dismay at how the ads were misconstrued.

“[The ads were supposed to bring a] positive message [about] the spirit, independence and inner worth of today’s young people.”

Now this 2011 Calvin Klein ckOne ad below, embodies the soundbite Klein attempted to pacify the basement ads controversy with. The 1995 ads in no way promoted positivity towards young people. They models didn’t even look happy or excited.

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Calvin Klein is not new to the upskirt or upshot photograph either. The blonde-haired model from the 1995 ads posed in one photo, shot by Steven Meisel (he shot the entire campaign) by herself and laid slightly sideways on the dirty looking rug, her denim skirt is raised a bit and legs are apart just enough to show the strip of her white undies.

No.

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Back then, some retailers rejected selling the brand because of the ’70s porn with teens advertisements. Klein eventually pulled the images and it was after the Justice Department conducted an investigation to ensure the models used by Klein were of adult age (They were).

(In a scary twist, one of the models, James Brandon Ralph, died at the age of 36, in 2010. It was revealed he had been convicted of first-degree child abuse of a 12-year-old. Disgusting).

The tradition of risque images in fashion is as old as bread in this industry. The decision to do has been carried on by brands American Apparel, Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci when under the talents of Tom Ford, Sicily, and almost any campaign shot by Terry Richardson, and Dolce & Gabbana.

But the reason why photographs like Kristin’s for Calvin Klein are so problematic is because it’s beyond fashion. In the real world whether it was 1995 and we wore Lee and Wrangler. Or, in 2016 as we wear… (what jean brands are popular today??) They are too many perverts walking the streets and in the comfort of their homes that get thrills out of images such as upskirt shots and peeping Tom photographs and videos. And the victims of these lewd shots are often women and children and are taken without their consent.

In 2014, these perverts began to make headlines as their crimes were recognized in larger numbers and laws were finally passed to bring justice to hundreds of innocent victims of pervert voyeurism.

Often times, if not perusing the Internet for wide-eyed children, these “Toms” in broad daylight use hidden cameras that are sometimes found in objects as formerly innocuous as pens to spy and creep on people. Everyday common tools such as iPhones and high-tech gadgets are also manipulated to get their shots as they try to be as slick as possible with their body movements to get them. (Such as “Tom” dropping something on the floor and their cameras are conveniently angled in a way to capture an upskirt shot).

There have also been cases in where shoppers were recorded undressed in dressing rooms in stores ranging from Forever 21 to K-Mart. Similar instances have occurred in public restrooms.

The most famous case as of late regarding “peeping Toms” came at the agony of former ESPN sportscaster Erin Andrews. She rightfully sued Michael David Barrett for filming her while she was unaware and nude in her Nashville Marriott hotel (in 2009) and for uploading the footage to the Internet where millions had would wind up viewing it. This past March, Andrews finally won her lawsuit against stalker Barrett and Marriott in a $55 million settlement.

So when does sexual imagery simply become sexist? It’s a fine line that can get crossed extremely fast. Sex, in any form of art, should be presented as sexy and Kristin’s ad is far from the adjective. Weir’s photograph makes unfortunate acts and disorders as enjoying child pornography as carefree or nothing to be outraged about. It neutralizes the situation. If such photos are to be taken, wouldn’t it be preferable it be a one on one type of thing? Such as say, a grown adult couple who are exclusively dating and trying to keep things hot? I don’t know. But I do know that Kristin’s photo is too much for public display. A “peeping Tom” perspective is not for everyone and nor does everybody want to be one. Klein could’ve sold us all clothes without us having to resort to that pose. Again.

Companies and brand should have a sense of responsibility upheld when advertising or catering to an audience that is particular youthful or of the young adult bracket. The advertisement just reaffirms that women should maybe consider wearing two pairs of underwear plus boyshorts when wearing sometimes open on the bottom such as skirts or dresses. And these garments are supposed to be fun and girly to wear.

Calvin Klein is an iconic brand and has always believed that sex sold units. I get it. I’ll be lying if I haven’t dreamt of my dope-ass ad for the brand one day. And I am a fangirl for their hosiery. But upskirt images doesn’t make anyone want to spend their humble bread on designer jeans. Or a bra. It’s always lame when sex and intimacy become devalued as cheap and vulgar.

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