If you live in New York, perhaps you've seen it. If you don't, you've no doubt heard about it. Back in January, Calvin Klein teamed with, among others, rapper Fetty Wap and actress Klara Kristen for a new campaign. One element of the campaign is a billboard on the corner of Houston between Crosby and Lafayette.
On one side of the billboard, Kristen can be seen wearing a hiked-up skirt offering a full-on upskirt view. She is accompanied by copy which reads “I seduce in #mycalvins.” On the other side of the billboard there is a headshot of Wap with the copy, "I make money in "#mycalvins."
Many have taken issue with the fact that Kristen's side of the billboard is all about looking sexy and using that sexiness to get what one wants while Wap's side of the billboard is making money, seemingly, through good old-fashioned hard work.
One person who has taken issue with the billboard in Heidi Zak, CEO of lingerie brand ThirdLove. Zak has written an open letter (full text below) to Steve Shiffman, CEO of Calvin Klein asking him to remove the billboard. In part, the letter reads: "It’s striking that almost a century after women won the right to vote, companies like yours are still propagating these offensive and outdated gender stereotypes: Men go to work and make money, while women are nothing more than sex objects."
Along with the letter, Zak has released a video in which she condemns Calvin Klein and argues women "aren't defined by their underwear." She goes on to say, "I'm personally offended by the Calvin Klein billboard ad in New York City that highlights a dated gender stereotype; that men are the breadwinners while women are sex objects."
The video features on the street interviews with woman who share how they feel about the billboard and the message it sends. Some of the comments include, "It's overly sexualized," "It's terrible," “It's offensive," "It's pretty inappropriate," "It's obnoxious" and "It's a double standard."
The video closes by urging viewers to head over to a Change.org petition to join the movement urging Calvin Klein to remove the billboard.
Clearly Calvin Klein is doing this for the publicity and will milk it for all it's worth. When the brand finally does take down the billboard, they will issue the usual statement about how the billboard has reached the end of its run and was, all along, scheduled to have been removed versus it being removed in reaction to public outcry.
Here's the full text of the open letter to Calvin Klein:
March 18, 2016
Attn. Mr. Steve Shiffman
CEO, Calvin Klein, Inc.
Mr. Shiffman, I’d like to talk about your new Spring 2016 campaign entitled #MyCalvins.
In New York City’s Soho neighborhood, a mere 2.6 miles from your headquarters, your billboard shows a woman in Calvin Klein underwear with the caption “I seduce in #mycalvins” — directly alongside rapper Fetty Wap, who is known for his anti-feminist lyrics and behavior towards his child’s mother in the media, with the text “I make money in #mycalvins.”
Is the message of Calvin Klein today that women are only good for seduction? Are we stuck in the 1950s? Are these the values of the Calvin Klein brand?
It’s striking that almost a century after women won the right to vote, companies like yours are still propagating these offensive and outdated gender stereotypes: Men go to work and make money, while women are nothing more than sex objects.
It is egregious that Calvin Klein is posting this message for millions of impressionable young women to see and internalize as to what they should aspire to.
See, you and I view the world very differently. I believe women can do anything, and that we should take every possible opportunity to teach and remind them of that. Anything less, in this day and age, is irresponsible marketing.
I’m a CEO, and I work hard. I make money just like Fetty – and I do so while wearing underwear, just like all the other amazing women out there working every day.
We should be illustrating that women do more than simply “seduce”. At ThirdLove we believe fit should come first. In fact, we believe the best bra is one you never think about. No matter the different roles a woman takes on during the day, her lingerie should make her feel confident, sexy and ready to be the best at her job, as a friend, wife or partner, mom, or CEO of a company.
And I’m not the only one shocked by your company. Your fellow New Yorkers had a lot to say: More Than My Underwear.
For the sake of the tens of thousands of women a day, young and old, who walk past this billboard, I’m starting a petition Change.org/MoreThanMyUnderwear. We are asking that your company do the right thing and remove this offensive billboard immediately. Women deserve more respect, and they certainly deserve more than what they’re getting from companies like yours.