Travis Fimmel, a virtually unknown Australian model who introduced Calvin Klein’s ergonomically enhancing Body underwear two years ago and became an international sensation, left the designer brand with a big job opening when he set off to pursue a Hollywood acting career. So for the fall launch of Calvin Klein Pro Stretch — performance-inspired underwear that incorporates designer style with athletic flexibility — the company turned pro, naming U.K. soccer player Freddie Ljungberg as the new “face” of Calvin Klein Underwear.
The 26-year-old native of Sweden is famous throughout Europe for his performance as midfielder for Arsenal FC in the English Premier League, and similarly for his flamboyant fashion style and for frequently dying the tips of his hair red. While Ljungberg, who was England’s player of the year in 2002, is not as well known to U.S. audiences as soccer star David Beckham, Calvin Klein is betting that his chiseled physique will have the same effect on global audiences as a cast of predecessors that includes Antonio Sabato Jr., Joel West, Michael Bergin, Mark Wahlberg and Tom Hintanhaus.
The campaign, shot by Steven Klein this summer during Ljungberg’s first visit to New York, will debut in November magazines, as well as outdoor media, including new placements in Times Square, and, for the first time, with ads placed in gyms and health clubs to reflect the performance aspects of Pro Stretch.
Interviewed via e-mail, Ljungberg said he was approached by the company to model the Pro Stretch collection because of his status as an international athlete. While he admired the artistic elements of past Calvin Klein campaigns and their association with celebrities and models that have gone on to greater fame, Ljungberg confessed he had some real concerns about taking the job.
“I thought about it a lot because it was underwear and I normally do shoots with my clothes on,” he said.
Nevertheless, Ljungberg posed for the advertisements during a brief trip to New York and according to those on the set, he had little difficulty living up to the Calvin Klein image.
“It was great fun doing the photo shoot, but really exhausting,” he said. “I was made to feel very comfortable and at ease. My friends think it is a great honor and they’re proud of me. I’m a bit shy sometimes, but I think you get less shy as you get older. I’ve gained confidence.”Given his penchant for making a flashy sartorial statement, it would be hard to imagine Ljungberg in a shy light. His former teammate, Anders Smith, once described his look as more “punk than footballer and we always said he should be in the Sex Pistols or a rock band.” But Ljungberg said ever since he was young, he always liked to dress differently. For the record, before signing on for the campaign, he said he wore Calvin Klein boxers because they keep their fit after multiple washings.
“I like to mix up designer and vintage and make my own look,” he said. “For me, that’s fashion, when you mix different stuff that normally wouldn’t fit together. I love fashion and would like to go to fashion shows if I had the time.”
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