Calvin Klein has gone from an obsession to being Obsessed — and it has reunited a legendary duo to make the point.
The brand’s new fragrances, Obsessed for Women and Obsessed for Men, which hit counters next month, are a modern interpretation of one of the biggest fragrance blockbusters — and iconic ad campaigns — of all time: Obsession. And Mario Sorrenti and Kate Moss, the respective photographer and face of the original 1993 campaign have resurfaced in those roles for the fragrance’s second coming.
Obsessed was the brainchild of Raf Simons, chief creative officer at Calvin Klein, who made the project one of his first orders of business upon taking over the top creative spot last year.
“I suppose you could say we were obsessed by Obsession. If one thing summed up Calvin Klein for us visually, it was Mario Sorrenti’s Obsession campaign with Kate Moss,” said Simons, who conceptualized the campaign and the name of the fragrance.
“I felt very nostalgic looking at the archive of the original shoot. I had not seen many of these photos before and it feels great that they are still so relevant,” said Moss.
Amidst the departure of Francisco Costa, longtime Calvin Klein creative director, and the appointment of Simons last year, a return to its roots has been the brand’s mantra. This extends from the designer’s first ready-to-wear collection that hit the runway in February to its marketing efforts and will even dictate the brand’s approximately $800 million fragrance business.
It was this desire to revisit Calvin Klein’s heyday that gave way to Obsessed. After all, along with Eternity, it was Obsession that helped catapult Calvin Klein’s fragrance portfolio into a billion-dollar business in the Eighties and Nineties.
“It lived in our heads for so many years and became a touchstone of sensuality when we arrived at Calvin Klein. We thought about a scent that could reflect such an idea of memory and desire for today. Of male and female, of the memory of somebody else on your skin,” said Simons, who delved into the archives for inspiration.
He exhumed more than 250 never-before-seen prints that Sorrenti shot of muse and girlfriend at the time, Moss, for Obsession’s 1993 ad campaign. This was the beginning of Obsessed — the first scent formulated with Simons at the helm of the American fashion house.
Olfactively, Obsessed differs from Obsession (the female version of Obsessed has a base of white lavender and the male a heart of black vanilla), according to Edgar Huber, president of Coty Luxury at Coty Inc., which holds the Calvin Klein fragrance license — but Sorrenti and Moss’ campaign is nearly identical in look and feel to their first go round. In fact, the campaign for Obsessed actually contains no new imagery. The ads are based wholly on photos from the original shoot.
It could be assumed that the brand was able to keep budgets to a minimum — as there was no casting, location scouting or any of the other costs typically associated with a photoshoot of this magnitude — but some obvious tweaks were made for Obsessed.
One change is that Sorrenti reedited the photos he took of Moss in 1993 — with the addition of the new rounder, fuller and translucent bottles — to depict the story in a more contemporary way. While Moss is the face of the Obsessed masterbrand, Calvin Klein got a little creative with Obsessed for Men. Instead of using a model, Sorrenti himself is the face of the men’s version, thanks to an outtake from the original shoot. The photographer swapped roles with Moss, who shot a rare series of images of Sorrenti in front of the camera.
Obsessed will be a big push for Coty and Calvin Klein, and industry experts project the fragrances could do $50 million at retail in its first year. Obsessed for Women, created by Honorine Blanc and Annick Menardo, and Obsessed for Men, created by Ilias Ermenidis and Christophe Raynaud, will see a full global rollout starting with the U.S. in early July. A 3.4-oz. size of Obsessed for Women retails for $94 and a 4.2-oz. size of Obsessed for Men for $82.
“[Since] Obsession was the first men’s fragrance launch with a woman in the advertising, we decided to stick to the approach as much as we could,” said Huber, who isn’t worried about the niche category encroaching on a decelerating designer sector of the business.
“It is true that the ultra premium segment is the fastest growing, but it’s also by far the smallest.…The premium segment — all the designer brands — are more than 75 percent of the market,” he continued. “It’s still growing, so we aren’t only growing the ultra premium segment. We believe that Obsessed will reinvigorate the growth of the premium fragrance market.”
Huber’s optimistic that a full global rollout to Calvin Klein’s retail partners, coupled with a “360-degree” marketing approach that positions Obsessed as a stand-alone scent — he was clear that it’s not a flanker of Obsession — will help achieve this.
Simona Cattaneo, chief marketing officer of Coty Luxury, said the appointment of Simons will usher in the convergence of the “past, present and future of Calvin Klein fragrances,” but it’s the advent of digital that separates Obsessed from its predecessor. To put that in perspective, Obsession launched nearly 20 years before Instagram existed.
And to reflect this, Cattaneo said digital represents about half of all marketing spend for Obsessed, with minor variances per market. Compare this to last summer’s Deep Euphoria rollout, which at launch saw 45 percent of the media budgeting going to TV, with 25 percent going to print and 25 percent to digital.
“We are obsessed with Obsession, but more than this, it’s the memory of a past love.…It’s this huge, huge love story between Mario and Kate that’s represented in the original.…Mario used to say that he was so in love and obsessed with photographing Kate Moss,” Cattaneo said, adding that an abundance of photos and video assets from the original shoot that have never been seen make for perfect content to disseminate online to tell the story of Obsessed. “This typically wouldn’t be possible at launch [25 years ago when] you would use a couple of visuals and that was that. Today we can really bring the customer in to this love story.
She’s also not concerned about a nude Moss appearing in campaign images, which caused a stir upon the initial release 24 years ago. In fact, Cattaneo thinks that when revisited today, nudity is the least provocative part of the campaign.
Today, the provocation is not always about showing skin, she explained. When she watched videos and heard Sorrenti’s voice reminiscing of his past love and “when you look at Kate and her eyes, they are equally sexy and provocative” — sometimes even more than nudity.