Calvin Klein, the iconic American fashion designer and lifestyle guru, threw some planet-sized shade at Kendall Jenner’s Calvin Klein campaign earlier this week. For Justin Bieber, who also models for the brand, Klein had only high praise.
Klein’s comments were made during a live interview at the Savannah School of Art And Design on Thursday night, as part of the school’s annual “SCADstyle” conference. It is worth noting Kendall Jenner’s role at Calvin Klein wasn’t the design leader’s decision.
In December 2002, Klein sold his former company to Phillips-Van Heusen, the U.S.’s biggest shirtmaker, for $400 million in cash, plus $30 million in stock, and up to $300 million in royalties. He also passed the principal designer torch to Francisco Costa for the women’s Calvin Klein Collection.
So, to Klein’s extraordinary comments. When asked by Fern Mallis for his thoughts on Bieber and Jenner’s roles in the current My Calvins campaign, the veteran designer was politely dismissive of Jenner’s work with the brand.
“You know, I’m really not that familiar with it. I’m honestly not. I’m sure she’s a lovely young woman,” the 73-year-old said. “It’s not the kind of thing I would have done, even today. Justin Bieber, yes.”
In contrast, Klein spoke glowingly of Bieber’s modelling role for Calvin Klein. Notably, after Bieber was announced as the new face of the Spring 2015 underwear and jeans lines with the model Lara Stone back in January 2015, the campaign went on to break the Internet. Women’s Wear Daily subsequently revealed the superstar’s much-talked about (and initially disparaged) involvement added 3.6 million followers across Calvin Klein’s social media channels as well as eventually boosting the brand’s profits.
Klein’s shade of Jenner continued when he explained his approval of Bieber’s role with Calvin Klein, saying he liked the Canadian personally rather than just for his vast social media imprint, thus implying the latter was the reason for the Jenner’s inclusion in the My Calvins campaign.
“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,” Klein said.
He added, “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.”
Elaborating, Klein said he disagreed with the practice of using famous names for fashion campaigns just because of their social media weight. “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.”
The elder statesman of fashion then said artistry was the key. “However, if you take really exquisite photographs of the right people in the right clothes in the right location, and you put it online, that’s fine,” before shading Kendall’s older sister. “Just putting any old clothes on Kim Kardashian, long-term, isn’t going to do a thing.”
Klein also expressed misgivings about the current quick turnover of designers at fashion brands saying, “Designers today don’t stay long enough on the job, even the best ones. They stay two years and their contract’s up, and then they think they have invented the name Dior or Saint Laurent or Balenciaga.” He added, “Everyone’s replaceable. A lot of designers get replaced, and often get forgotten.”
Offering his take on the state of fashion, Klein said he is “disappointed” at the lack of originality and overpricing he sees. “When I see motorcycle jackets for $2,000 that are distressed or ripped jeans from couture designers, I think to myself, ‘Are they kidding me?’ We’ve been doing this for 30 years. It’s not new.'”
He continued, “I understand why it’s young and cool, but there is a thing about respect for women and trying to make women look as beautiful as they possibly can, and also [creating] new things. There’s a lot that’s going on that’s disappointing.”
Based on Klein’s comments, it is abundantly clear he is not a fan of the Kardashian-Jenner clan’s inroads into the world of high fashion, and has strong opinions on the state of fashion in general. Conversely, for an icon like Klein to state his endorsement of Bieber’s work with his former company is a huge kudos moment for the “Sorry” singer.
As might be expected, the Internet had its say on the subject.
Muse for a moment on what the Calvin Klein campaign with Bieber might have looked like with the actualCalvin Klein at the helm. A lot more solo Biebs’ ads, anyone?
[Photos by Jordan Strauss and Rich Fury/Invision/AP Images]