What Calvin really means

STATEMENT FROM Calvin Klein, Inc.

(With subtext by Calvin)


The message of the CK Calvin Klein Jeans current advertising campaign is that young people today, the most media savvy generation yet, have a real strength of character and independence.

(The message of my jeans campaign is that young people today should have sex, lots of sex, straight-up sex, twisted sex, denim sex, multicultural sex. That's the same message I've always had. Wet shots sell dry goods. Why show clothes when you can show a body? I look at the body as being something beautiful. Anyway, these pictures are supposed to make people stop. Stop and shop. But everyone is so blasted media-savvy, its gets harder and harder to push back the edge of the envelope. How do I stay on the border of bad taste when my rivals are doing magazine ads of rape fantasies and black and white men handcuffed together? In the old days, it was easy. You got Brooke Shields to vamp in tight jeans, even if she was 15. You got Marky Mark to clutch himself in boxer briefs. But the edge keeps slipping away. So, of course, I was thrilled when Steven Meisel came up with a campaign that had a bunch of hot, half-naked boys and girls being questioned by an old creep in a rec room. So what if it looks like a low-budget porn flick? The idea was so Calvin.)


They have very strongly defined lines of what they will and will not do -- and have a great ability to know who they are and who they want to be.

(We know exactly what kids will and will not do. Infantile sexuality is older than Cheryl Tiegs. Girls exposing their breasts and flashing white cotton panties. Shock, horror! OK, so the boy with bulging briefs, dirty hair, shark tattoo and black nail polish isn't Beaver Cleaver. But this is the '90s. And the dialogue is beyond brilliant. The off-camera creep has this great leering Winstons-and-Wild-Turkey voice. When he asks this stacked Ginalolita, "Do you like to take direction?" and she answers with a Mediterranean accent, "Yes, it's my preferred," I mean, that's truth in advertising. My favorite is when the guy tells the River Phoenix look-alike, "Ya think you can rip that shirt off ya? That's a nice body. You work out? Yeah, I can tell.")

We also are conveying the idea that glamour is an inner quality that can be found in regular people in the most ordinary setting; it is not something exclusive to models and movie stars.

(Some of the kids and their parents did get upset during the shoots for the ads. I kept telling the kids glamour is an inner quality, so they should go ahead and take their clothes off. Anyway, I hate regular people. We called the agencies and got the coolest models we could find. Parents should stay out of their kids' careers.)

However, some people have a different perception of the ads. We have been taken aback by that perception, in part because it differs sharply from our intended message.

(I'd have more of a problem if no one cared.)

Because of the role the fashion industry plays in shaping the culture in which they grow and form impressions, we have a responsibility to young people -- in fact, we share the concerns some have raised about the challenges children face today.

(OK, I get it. This year, family values moves the goods. Doesn't anyone in my operation know which way the wind is blowing? I want to exploit, not mis-exploit. And I don't want my picture flashed on the news with the phrase "Kiddie Porn." Memo to myself: Send a check to the Children's Defense Fund.)


We continue to believe in the positive message of these ads.

(Controversy is good for business. Kids want whatever outrages their parents.)

But since the ads' message about the spirit, independence and inner worth of today's young people has been misunderstood by some, and because we take our responsibility to those young people so seriously, we will cease running the remainder of this campaign as soon as possible.

(That inner worth line is so hot. My shrink's trainer thought of it. What's next? Steven thinks that, with the outtakes, we've got a video. OK, we'll put a warning label on it.)

Maureen Dowd is a columnist with the New York Times.