Calvin Klein has accomplished what very few brands have pulled off in the history of fashion. Instead of introducing ornamentation designed to disappear by next season, they have revolutionized two of fashion’s most essential silhouettes: jeans and underwear. So accessible as to be democratic, these two products propose a brand of minimalism that speaks to inclusion and accessibility, with an iconic silhouette refined to perfection, in which individuals are free to express themselves.
“We don’t have to make people see the light,” says activist Janaya Future Khan in the campaign video for Calvin Klein Spring/Summer 21 collection. “We only have to be the light.” Individuals who shine brightly within their communities make up the collective spirit that is Calvin Klein, which believes that clothes are given meaning by the people who wear them.
Calvin Klein’s current Spring/Summer 2021 campaign (which is available now) is themed "Blank Canvas"—a nod to the brand's core minimalism, which serves as the base for creative expression. Photographed by the venerable Mario Sorrenti, the campaign is headlined by none other than Megan Thee Stallion, sporting underwear and jeans in the high-contrast black and white style that the Calvin Klein look is known for. Musicians Koffee and Rina Sawayama appear in white underwear and denim jackets. Actor Anthony Ramos and dancer Vinson Fraley explore the freedom of the body through gymnastics and dance. The campaign features a good dose of skater cameos, too: the Queer Skate LA collective and Sage Elsesser in a monogrammed denim jacket. Euphoria star Jacob Elordi returns for his second Calvin Klein campaign.
The Spring/Sumer 2021 Underwear collection features a new collection of their classic Cotton Stretch pieces and introduces moisture-wicking Air Fx Tech for breathable support and the innovative Refibra fabric. It’s a technological update to an otherwise classic Underwear product. Its offering of Jeans is stripped back in core 'dad' comfy and slouchy fits comes in several tones and washes, including our WFH favorite, light blue stonewash. Meanwhile monogram t-shirts and oversized sweats bring the iconic logo to the fore for that dose of '90s nostalgia. The collection hits just the right notes for 2021, where we are looking for mainstay essentials for our wardrobes. Whilst many brands are trying, CK is the OG. The 'Dad' denim jacket epitomizes this. Like most of the collection, it is unisex, the fit is made to be worn day to day and layered with anything, it also comes in that clean black wash that made it such a gamechanger when first released.
Trying on any of their denim offerings in the Spring/Summer 2021 collection completely takes you back to the origins of Calvin Klein's aesthetic. Jeans make up an essential category in the history of Calvin Klein, one of the few brands to make claims one of America’s most enduring and original silhouettes. From the beginning, Klein's jeans distinguished themselves from other jeans on the market, which defined themselves as tough, rugged, and casual. By contrast, Klein's jeans were sexy. Simply put, "Jeans are sex," Klein said. "The tighter they are, the better they sell."
Even today, when you think of Calvin Klein, you think of relaxed confidence, provocative sexuality, irreverent youth. This has equally to do with jeans as it does underwear, a market that Calvin Klein truly revolutionized in the '80s.
In 1982, Klein debuted his first underwear line, one of those shockwaves in fashion history that is equally relevant today as it was then. The design was simple: white briefs, which weren't unlike others on the market, except they were accentuated by the waistband, which had the name "Calvin Klein" repeated along the strip.
This forever changed the men's underwear market. At the time, underwear was something your mother or girlfriend picked up from you at the department store, which men wore without putting much thought into it because nobody ever saw it. After Calvin Klein, underwear became a sex symbol—logical, but still, nobody had the idea (or the bravura?) to do it until Calvin Klein. In the Spring/Summer 2021 Collection underwear is also a stand-out member of the line-up. Going back to their origins and heritage and embracing the brand's simplicity and functionality, the logo waistband low rise trunk is now available in 21 variations that still pack the same iconic punch and unmatchable fit and comfort as their forefathers before them.
This year, Calvin Klein began collaborations with partners who were not only paragons of style but were active catalysts for acceptance and change. This January, Calvin Klein introduced a video series with pgLang, the enigmatic creative agency, whose first corporate client was Calvin Klein for "pgLang for Calvin Klein." It was shot in LA and directed by Dave Free, featuring an all-Black cast drawn directly from the pgLang community, signaling away from the top-down celebrity influencer model, spotlighting local networks on the ground. The episodes feature clever dialogue in a way that feels witty, intimate, and real. One video—black and white without dialogue—shows two arms arm-wrestling, one dark-skinned, and one light. In the beginning, the light-skinned arm almost defeats the dark-skinned, until at the last minute, the latter struggles to fight, and almost defeats the former. Neither of them explicitly wins. The meaning has numerous interpretations.
This April, the brand introduced another major collaboration, Heron Preston for Calvin Klein, available now, . The new collection of "essentials, reinterpreted" by the designer Heron Preston, involved Preston serving as creative consultant on all aspects of the project, from the product to its advertising and marketing campaign. When Preston first came onto the creative partnership, he began with what he considered the brand's most iconic pieces, the white shirt, and underwear, and worked from there. The idea is to introduce a new uniform, with simple unisex silhouettes and precise cuts, all sourced from more sustainable fabrics.
The results are maddeningly seductive—they command a sense of aura, but you can’t figure out why. It’s a surprising take on such a core product that has seen very few adjustments over decades. "I didn't want to touch the product too much, I just wanted to elevate it," Preston tells us about the collaboration. Spending hours in the brand’s archive, Preston found ways to add touches to the classic products. T-shirts, for example, arrive in both lightweight and heavyweight (everyone should own one in each, Preston argues) with a thin seam along the middle back, and a small rhombus around the armpit, making ever-so-subtle effects on how the silhouette responds to movement. The underwear also features a razor-thin line of orange across the band, “like when a skater sags their pants.”
As for the jeans, Preston wanted to make denim that “everyone could fall in love with.” Small details see updates from Preston, as the back label on the opposite side, turned inside out. The collection also offers an over-dyed cropped jacket, and raw jeans with a fit his team “spent countless hours on.”
Even now, as Calvin Klein has evolved over the years, it remains focused on its core products, which have remained consistent and reliable throughout its history. Its minimalist design is precisely what has allowed Calvin Klein to adapt to an inclusive range of cultural expression over the years. Very few brands have captured the American imagination and democratic spirit better than Calvin Klein, easily one of the country's most enduring brands.