Love them or hate them, Kendall Jenner’s Calvin Klein ads are hard to escape—if you’re one of the model’s 54-million-odd followers, you’ve surely come across them on Instagram; if you’re a New Yorker, you’ve probably spotted the 50-foot-tall version splashed on a SoHo billboard; if you’re a STYLECASTER reader (hi!), you’ve seen them right here on the site.
Somehow, however, they’ve managed to elude Calvin Klein, the designer who founded the eponymous brand in 1968.
Klein, who sold the company in 2002 to clothing giant PVH Corp., was interviewed by fashion-industry veteran Fern Mallis Thursday night at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and, according to Fashionista, who covered the event, his reaction to Jenner’s casting was one of total ennui.
“You know, I’m really not that familiar with it,” he said. “I’m honestly not. I’m sure she’s a lovely young woman. It’s not the kind of thing I would have done, even today. Justin Bieber, yes.”
Naturally, that got a laugh out of the audience. The designer continued, explaining that some of the magic of fashion campaigns has been lost now that brands are making decisions based on follower counts, rather than that special something. (If you’ll recall, Kate Moss was a virtual unknown when she was cast by Klein in 1992—and famously hasn’t touched social media since.)
“When [I say] I like Justin Bieber in the Calvin Klein Underwear [campaign], it’s because I like him—not because he’s got millions of followers. Now, models are paid for how many followers they have. They’re booked not because they represent the essence of the designer, which is what I tried to do—they’re booked because of how many followers they have online. I don’t think that, long-term, is going to work. I don’t think that’s a great formula for success for the product you’re trying to sell.”
Folks, we finally have the fashion version of that amazing Mariah Carey meme: