Fashion: CALVIN CLEAN

Forget 'heroin chic' and miserable models, think outdoors fun and a healthy glow. That's the message from the brand new Calvin Klein advertising campaign, shot by Steven Meisel, and previewed exclusively here. Report by Melanie Rickey
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The Independent Culture
FOR 20 YEARS Calvin Klein has had the knack. Whether he's telling us what to wear, what to feel, or how to live, his advertising messages have come across loud and clear. In 1978 to wear tight jeans with no knickers was the thing. Two years ago he wanted us to be downbeat and severe.

Now in the latest Calvin Klein advertising campaign, due to launch over the coming week in glossy magazines, at bus shelters and projected on to walls in Covent Garden, you can detect another change of mood. Gone are the hard-edged "real people" who featured in the "cKbe" adverts encouraging us to share our clothes and perfume with our partners. Gone too are the facial piercings, bald heads and tattoos, and vanished is any reference to squalor or on-the-edge urban living.

It's time instead to feel romantic and relaxed, and to lap up a whole new American lifestyle. "Everything is prettier, healthier, cleaner, attractive," Calvin Klein told the New York Times, in reference to the new campaign. "It's a fresh clean kind of sexy, which seems sexier now than another dirty looking model."

It was last summer at Calvin Klein Inc, on New York's West 39th Street, that the decision to change direction was made. The furore over "heroin chic" was at its zenith (a moment at which even President Clinton spoke out against fashion's grungier tendencies), and Klein admits, "We thought that it was creative, but it was perceived as drug addicts and messy. People don't want that now."

So in came Steven Meisel, who carted his creative team and models to upstate New York for the romp in the fields featured here.

Klein and his in-house agency, CRK Advertising, had devised an active, fun, healthy all-American look for Calvin Klein Jeans, which also includes the cK Khakis line. In contrast, the mainline men's and women's collections, sunglasses, opticals and accessories advertising images (also featuring Kate Moss and Christy Turlington) have a Wallpaper* magazine feel. Think complete lifestyles and "middle youth" - models posing in beautiful homes with blemish-free skin and ultra-stylish clothes. Its the mood that the new women's title Red is also trying to tap into.

But it's the advertising for jeans and the cK label which is the true barometer of the times for the all-important youth market. Here Klein presents us with groups of happy, laughing people interacting in an almost ironic pastiche of Americana. He seems to be saying that these twenty- somethings have had enough of downbeat chic, nose piercings, smoking dope and apartments lit by bare lightbulbs. Now they want to play tug of war with their friends, read a book by an ornamental lake or, er, pick potatoes instead. Maybe they have found the true meaning of life.

Once again Klein is ahead of the pack, and apart from shifting a few hundred thousand pairs of khaki trousers and ribbed vests, this series of images will define an emerging mood in fashion. Robert Triefus, senior vice president for worldwide communications at Calvin Klein, says that the photographs are not dictating how we should feel, just tuning in to changes in taste that will become clearer over the coming year. "Our images are about a chemistry, rather than a response," says Triefus.

Perhaps, but Calvin Klein's advertising has always managed to capture the spirit of the times. We're certainly feeling happier already.

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