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Hey, Victoria! Calvin Called and He Wants His Sexy™ Back
Posted by Lingerie Talk | July 10, 2015

The sequined gloves are off in the battle for supremacy in that most prized of fashion categories: sexy little undies.

Calvin Klein, which knows a thing or two about marketing chutzpah, unveiled its fall underwear campaign yesterday under the slogan, “The Original Sexy”, which sounds like it must mean something.

Melisa Goldie, the company’s chief marketing officer, threw down the gauntlet thusly:

“Calvin Klein originated sexy and we’re going to reclaim, re-imagine and re-image it,” she told Women’s Wear Daily.

That boastful claim will come as a surprise to many fashion observers. Calvin Klein Underwear has been an industry giant since its launch 33 years ago and is renowned for turning minimalist basics into a global style staple, with that distinctive (and endlessly copied) branded waistband to announce your consumer allegiance. It’s no disrespect to say CKU is the original underwear for label whores.

By contrast, the brand’s “sexy” credentials are mostly the result of expensive campaigns using high-priced models in suggestive photo shoots that court controversy and attract eyeballs by the billions. Sexy by association.

So what does it mean when Calvin announces its intention to “reclaim sexy”?

Like Lane Bryant‘s wildly successful #ImNoAngel marketing push earlier this year, the new CKU campaign is a volley aimed at Victoria’s Secret and a very unsubtle effort to swipe some market share from the industry leader by stealing from their playbook.

RELATED: How Victoria’s Secret Defines ‘Sexy’

Victoria’s Secret has built a growing, multi-billion-dollar global empire by relentlessly branding the word “sexy” and incorporating it into countless Sexy Little™ products. The “sexy” VS juggernaut ostensibly began a decade ago with the release of its first “What Is Sexy?” list that ignited an enduring conversation about that most coveted of qualities. Alas, Victoria’s Secret never really joined that debate in any serious way, choosing instead to merely carpet-bomb the media with coy slogans and repetitive sexualized photo campaigns.

Ironically, VS borrowed this marketing strategy — creating an inflated brand identity by using imagery and slogans — from forerunners like Calvin Klein, who managed to convince the world that it was worth $30 to own a pair of Marky Mark‘s tighty whites without really explaining why.

Now, Calvin wants his sexy back. And to drive home the point, the company employs supermodels Edita Vilkeviciute, Joan Smalls and Isabeli Fontana in the new campaign — all of whom have fronted skimpy campaigns for Victoria’s Secret in recent years. There’s even a subtext in their headline-making choice of Kendall Jenner (above) to lead the campaign: the rising star famously skipped the VS Fashion Show last fall (whether by choice or because she was snubbed by the brand is unclear).

So far, there’s no word on how CKU plans to “re-imagine” and “re-image” sexy for a new generation of customers. The photoshoot by Mikael Jansson looks a LOT like numerous previous Calvin Klein campaigns from the past two decades, and the underwear styles are consistent with brand’s previous collections.

Perhaps “The Original Sexy” is, ultimately, just another hollow mantra meant to sound cool but without any real substance or meaning.

One thing’s certain: It sounds a whole lot better than “The Original Upmarket Unmentionables”.


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