Iconic Ads: Calvin Klein Jeans – Brooke Shields

The overall effect of the advertising to make jeans sensual, sexy, and suggestive without ever being vulgar.

The controversial Calvin Klein had an in-house advertising agency. A lot of the ideas/ campaigns were created by him, Doon Arbus (writer) and photographer Richard (Dick) Avedon. Most of the CK advertising campaigns were created in-house if not all.

Klein, Doon and Dick used to drink a bottle of vodka every night, they wanted to create communication.

In the early late 1970s, Klein wanted to market his denim.

Brooke Shields, 14, was photographed by Francesco Scavullo, an American fashion photographer. Brooke’s mother had contacted Calvin Klein through him.

For jeans, they knew that the person they were talking about had to be childlike and that it had to be some kind of actress. Brooke had done some things at that point, but she hadn’t done too much.

Klein remembers having a conversation with Brooke’s mother at about three o’clock in one of those mornings. She would call Klein at two or three o’clock in the morning all the time.

So she made a deal for a contract with Klein.

Klein, Doon and Dick spent a lot of time trying to figure out what Brooke would say and the character and trying to make it with a sense of humour, because in those days, jeans were not fashionable! (Yes, they had Vodka too!)

Klein believed he needed to gather creative talent and collaborate with them to create something that would make people stop and think.

The overall effect was sensual, sexy, and suggestive without ever being vulgar.

It was Patti Hansen who was the original CK denim model but it was the campaign featuring Brooke Shields which was the game-changer. They also went on TV with her even though Klein was not a big believer in television.

The idea was to “lend the Calvin Klein image to jeans and not a jeans image to Calvin Klein.” Klein also had said, “Jeans Are Sex, the tighter they are, the better they sell “.

Doon wrote 12 spots. Brooke appeared in a series of overtly sexy print and television ads (shot by Richard Avedon) for the super-tight jeans, and she became infamous for uttering the flirtatious line:

“Do you know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.”

This was a contentious campaign. Due to the unfavorable call-ins, KNXT, a CBS affiliate in Los Angeles, had put four spots on hold. Then came KGO-TV, an NBC affiliate. WNBC then prohibited it, while others shifted them to late-night slots. All of the turmoil, though, aided the brand. The amount received in royalties increased from $1.2 million in 1978 to $12.5 million in 1980.

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