Calvin Klein: In Conversation

Oct 26, 2017 8:12PM

Three defining photographs, printed exclusively for Phillips' ULTIMATE, embody the quintessential American brand. With Calvin Klein celebrating the release of his very first book, our own Yuka Yamaji spoke to him about his vision for each shoot and his passion for photography.

Detail of Steven Meisel CK One, New York City, 1994

Phillips is honoured to collaborate with Calvin Klein to celebrate his rich legacy in conjunction with the release of his much-anticipated first book, published by Rizzoli. Together, we have selected three defining photographs to represent three seminal collaborations from his book: Steven Meisel's CK One, New York City, 1994 for Calvin Klein Fragrance; David Sims' Kate, 1993 for Calvin Klein Underwear; and Bruce Weber's Carré Otis, San Francisco, California, 1991 for Calvin Klein Jeans.

These images embody the Calvin Klein brand and its DNA – provocative, rebellious, minimalist, pure, modern – and define an entire generation that experienced the consumer culture of the 1990s. This dedicated offering stands as a testament to Klein's revolutionary approach to fashion advertising and to the power of collaborative creativity.

The three selected works are available for sale for the first time and have been printed for ULTIMATE, a biannual offering of photo-based works exclusive to Phillips. We are excited to present collectors unparalleled access to exclusive photographs created by today's leading image-makers in fashion who have defined and will continue to define key moments in our social history.

Phillips' Yuka Yamaji and Calvin Klein discussed his forthcoming book, creating campaigns and his passion for photography.

Calvin Klein, Westkill Farm, New York, 2013 © Steven Klein

The Book

Yuka Yamaji: Your first book is coming out this November. Why now?

Calvin Klein: I've thought about it on and of for many years, but it was Anna Wintour and Kelly Klein, my ex-wife, who convinced me that I must do this. I speak at universities and realised most people I speak to know the name but don't know exactly what I did. This book is a way to tell them. It's really the story of my life.

YY: And how did you select the photographs to tell your story?

CK: I went through over 40,000 images in my archives over the course of a year and edited them down. I sent them to Fabien Baron, the creative director I worked with for years. He said he saw different sides of me in the images – the minimalist and the rebellious side – and that's how the images were finally edited.

Steven Meisel and CK One

YY: What was your vision for the CK One campaign?

CK: The initial vision was inspired by a famous 1969 photograph by Dick [Richard] Avedon, Andy Warhol, and Members of the Factory.

YY: And why did you turn to Steven Meisel to launch this fragrance?

CK: I wanted to capture a liberal and rebellious attitude, featuring unique people, for our new anti-perfume. I knew Steven could do that.

David Sims and Kate Moss

YY: How did you discover David Sims and his photography?

CK: David had been working with Guido [Palau, hair stylist] and Melanie Ward [stylist] who I knew well. When I saw David's work I felt he had an authentic point of view.

YY: You flew Sims, Ward and Kate Moss from London to New York for your 1993 Calvin Klein Underwear campaign. What were you expecting?

CK: Because David's images were so offhandedly cool, I knew that together we could capture the look I envisioned.

Working with Bruce Weber

YY: Let’s turn to Bruce's featured photograph of Carré Otis riding a motorcycle, shot for your 1991 Calvin Klein Jeans campaign. What was your vision for this campaign?

CK: I wanted to create an image which represented a genuine lifestyle.

YY: So you felt Carré Otis embodied this?

CK: We chose to shoot Carré because she was that strong and defiant woman on the motorcycle. Matching the model with the mood is how you get to the truth in a photo.

Photography and Building a Brand

YY: You have created one of the world's most recognisable brands. What role did photography and photographers play in building the Calvin Klein brand?

CK: I've always had a passion for photography. When I was creating a product, it was knowing who the right photographer is, who the model is, and placing them in an environment to communicate my vision.

YY: Lastly, what does photography mean to you?

CK: Photography is a way to connect with people.

Explore Phillips: Photographs on Artsy, and place max bids on nearly 100 artworks. Live bidding opens Thursday, November 2nd, at 2:00pm GMT (10:00am ET).