Clever collaborations with Gen Z fuels Calvin Klein’s creative comeback

Clever collaborations with Gen Z fuels Calvin Klein’s creative comeback

Photographed in the picturesque setting of Nha Trang, Vietnam, Kim Yoo Jung fits right into Calvin Klein’s creative brand positioning in 2024.

The actress, who made her debut promoting a confectionary brand in 2004, exudes elegance amidst the backdrop of a luxurious resort, showcasing ensembles including tank tops, flared pants, chunky sneakers, t-shirts, and cropped cardigans.

The response on Instagram and Twitter reflected an outpouring of love and appreciation for Kim Yoo Jung and her collaboration with Calvin Klein. 

Her portrayal in the Netflix series ‘My Demon’ garnered global acclaim, as Kim plays the role of a CEO, captivating viewers with her depth and style: whilst inspiring fans with her character’s sartorial choices.

Calvin Klein’s Korean formula

Kim Yoo Jung’s campaign comes hot on the heels of Calvin Klein’s partnership with brand ambassador Jungkook, a South Korean vocalist from the boy band BTS, whose ‘genderless concept’ campaign was widely credited for turning around the fortunes of the iconic brand last year.

Indeed, Your Team Marketing (YTM)’s analysis of Jungkook's Calvin Klein promotional campaign noted that Calvin Klein was on the verge of bankruptcy until this campaign, which catapulted them to a record high of $87.93 per share, a +20% increase.

Jungkook's promotional campaign, which featured in more than 150 cities and gained more than 50 million video reel views, resulted in positive outcomes, including a gross profit of $1.25bn, according to YTM, and a turnover of $2.15bn for the first quarter.

Our take

What goes around comes around in fashion. 

The vintage 70s/80s look that accompanied The Strokes’ rise to power in the early 00s was a rejection of the aspirational pursuit of perfection that Calvin Klein’s 90s aesthetic embodied.

However, the 90s comeback was just a matter of time, and the last five years or so have forged fertile ground for Calvin Klein, whose campaigns with Kate Moss, Marky Mark et al now carry a newfound charm for Gen-Zers. Interestingly, Calvin Klein’s clothing has become popular again because of (not despite) the company refusing to deviate dramatically from its crisp white t-shirts, iconic boxer shorts, double-denim and iconic logo splashes.

What was missing, apparently, was a brand association with stars who appeal to Gen Z in the same way the 90s supermodels and celebrities so successfully brought young consumers on board.

Calvin Klein has certainly beaten an impressive path to relevancy of late, with pop royalty including Harry Styles and Ciara rocking the brand’s Obsession t-shirt, and Brazilian soccer star Neymar sporting a CK sweater on the cover of WSJ’s men’s style section.

The ‘Korea Effect’ seems to be what was missing, however. In recent years, films like ‘Parasite’ and series' including ‘Squid Game’ and ‘All Of Us Are Dead’ have cemented a worldwide obsession with Korean culture, as bands like BTS and BLACKPINK top the pop charts.

So, while Calvin Klein’s fashion might feel familiar, its more globally-facing creative is seemingly all it needed to usher it back into the 21st century.

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