Calvin Klein’s Big Move: Ck One Turns Lifestyle Brand

Calvin Klein Inc. singles out fragrance franchise for jeans, underwear and swimwear.

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NEW YORK — First there was just a whiff. Now, ck one will be a full-blown lifestyle brand.

This story first appeared in the September 27, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Calvin Klein Inc. is building on its iconic unisex fragrance and — together with Warnaco Inc. and Coty Prestige unit Calvin Klein Fragrances — is launching a ck one global contemporary brand. The label will launch with jeanswear, underwear and swimwear for spring, and CKI executives are saying it has the potential to eclipse the bridge ck Calvin Klein collection, which had $1.7 billion in global retail sales in 2009.

Warnaco will manufacture the new ck one categories for men and women. CKI president and chief executive officer Tom Murry said the move will extend the platform of the ck one franchise and take the brand to the next level.

“We have been thinking in terms of a brand that we can use to focus on the younger consumers, and ck one embodies that,” Murry said when asked why CKI decided to single out ck one as its next lifestyle brand. “It was a logical choice.”

The categories will play off of the fragrance, which was billed as “the world’s first shared scent” and became one of the most high-profile and successful fragrance launches in 1994.

CKI is planning for synergy between the fragrance and the new products, from its target audience to the product branding and packaging. The company will support the brand’s expansion with a stand-alone global marketing and advertising campaign that captures the youthful, cool spirit of the fragrance campaigns.

According to CKI, the strategy to build ck one into a multifaceted brand represents “a significant move to engage and cultivate a younger, fashion-conscious male and female consumer.” The design direction will reflect this notion. The denim offerings will focus on a new slouchy-slim fit for men and women in multiple washes. It will also include wovens and knits that complement the jeans. The underwear for ck one, meanwhile, will be made from cotton stretch and microfiber, and offer basic and novelty-print styles.

New items will be introduced each season, and the company is planning for monthly deliveries. “We have already booked it in for the spring season, and the bookings were very strong globally, in the U.S., Europe and Asia,” Murry said.

CKI did not disclose the pricing strategy for the brand, though Murry said it will be 15 to 20 percent below Calvin Klein Jeans and Underwear.

“I think it could be bigger [than ck Calvin Klein],” Murry said. “Ck is our bridge division in apparel and accessories, which we operate only in Europe and Asia at this time. By the price positioning of bridge, there is some limitation on how big that business can be. The focus and concept of ck one is young and sexy, and to some degree price-driven. The price points are lower than in bridge, and this is a global launch, which gives [ck one] the opportunity to be a much bigger business over time.”

Kevin Carrigan, global creative director for ck Calvin Klein, Calvin Klein Jeans and Calvin Klein white label, will oversee the creative direction of the ck one brand.

For Warnaco, the addition represents another extension of its already expansive Calvin Klein portfolio. The apparel conglomerate owns and operates the Calvin Klein Underwear brand and holds the global license for Calvin Klein Jeans and Swimwear, among other CKI licenses.

“We are excited by the opportunity to expand our Calvin Klein Jeans, Calvin Klein Underwear and Calvin Klein Swimwear offerings,” Craig Brommers, senior vice president of marketing for Warnaco, said. “The new ck one apparel brand affords us the ability to extend our conversation with an expanded global audience.”

The company plans to sell the lines at Calvin Klein, Calvin Klein Underwear and Calvin Klein Jeans stores and department and specialty stores worldwide.

After a blockbuster launch — the unisex fragrance was said to have done $60 million in its first three months on counter alone — its success spawned several other unisex offerings, including 1996’s ck Be and 2007’s ck In2U. Through the years, limited edition flankers — including 2006’s ck one Electric and ck one Scene — and a number of high-profile ad campaigns have been launched in an effort to keep the brand fresh.

One of the most high-profile of those efforts was the brand’s We Are One TV ad campaign, which bowed on Jan. 20, 2009, the day that President Obama was inaugurated. “The ck one We Are One campaign is inspired by a social movement of people coming together in the spirit of unity,” said Catherine Walsh, senior vice president of American Fragrances at Coty Prestige, at the time, adding the campaign’s centerpiece was a song commissioned from British musician Jamie Burke. “The campaign — and its original song — gives voice to an optimistic new generation, that certainly made its voice heard in the latest election,” Walsh continued; the song reached top 10 charts on many college radio stations around the country. “This is a celebration of the power of coming together as one.”

Earlier this year, the effort won a Fragrance Foundation (FiFi) award for best media campaign of the year, and the scent was inducted into the Fragrance Foundation’s Hall of Fame.

Coty acquired the Calvin Klein fragrance license from Unilever in 2005.

A heightened visibility is likely to boost the fragrance business even further.

“Ck one has been a beloved brand globally for well over a decade,”’ Walsh said. “Our consumers have always responded strongly to innovation on the brand, from new advertising campaigns to limited editions, and we anticipate that offering them a new line of apparel in the spirit of ck one will be met with an enthusiastic response.”


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