Calvin Klein is no stranger to stirring up controversy. With their history of overtly sexual advertisements – mainly during the ’90s, the brand truly takes “sex sells” to heart when it comes to promoting their image. Given their recent surge in popularity, primarily among Millennial consumers, it seems like their controversial tactics may be working.

One of the keys to Calvin Klein’s success is directing their advertising efforts towards Millennial consumers through collaborations with pop culture icons such as Kendall Jenner, Justin Bieber, and Nick Jonas. However, the brand is currently under fire for their newest ads, that many argue are overly explicit and provocative.

Calvin Klein 2In one photo, 23-year-old Danish actress Klara Kristin is seated on a couch, legs open, and the copy reads, “I seduce in #mycalvins.” Probably the most controversial of the campaign is the up-skirt shot of Kristin, accompanied by the copy that reads, “I flash in #mycalvins.” Outraged by these racy advertisements, people are turning to social media to express their concerns: do the ads promote and perpetuate misogyny, peeping toms, pornography, sexual harassment and rape culture? Many would agree that they do.

However, some Millennial consumers argue that the ads express a unique empowerment through the first person point of view. The line, “I ___ in #mycalvins,” conveys a sense of autonomy that gives the subject a voice and the power of decision. Kristin actually defended the photo in an Instagram post with the caption, “I love this photo @harleyweir took of me… all this discussion about it makes me think about how alienated and scared some people are to the female human body. Be and love yourself and your sexuality #girlpower.” Kendall Jenner has also voiced her opinion on the campaign. In behind-the-scenes footage that Calvin Klein posted on their Instagram, Jenner answers how she would define a strong woman: “I think a strong woman is independent, don’t need no man, can like walk into a room by herself and not be bothered and can go anywhere by herself and not need a million people around her–I think that’s a really strong woman.”

Calvin Klein 3Amidst the heated debate, people cannot seem to agree on whether these ads are positive or negative. However, I believe that they’re neither one nor the other, but instead more complex in nature. On one hand, they can certainly serve as statements of empowerment and bodily ownership. Calvin Klein may be trying to make the statement that society should not be afraid to openly express sexuality. However, we cannot disregard in our analysis the historical objectification and hypersexualization of women in the media and its effect on society today. There’s the running critique that some women take their objectification upon themselves and mistake it for empowerment. I agree with this opinion to some extent, but I think the key here is balance. Yes, women can certainly feel powerful and confident by expressing their sexuality and celebrating their bodies. However, we should also feel empowered by the many other facets of our identities, because we are more than just sexual beings.

As a twenty-something with an interest in fashion and pop culture, I like to think I am always up on the latest trends and “in the know.” Therefore, it was a huge surprise to me when adidas apparel burst back on the scene a couple of years ago, seemingly out of nowhere. And at the forefront of the new adidas fashion wave was the Stan Smith tennis shoes. These white tennis shoes were popping up everywhere, replacing the neon Nike running shoes that (literally) ran the show my freshman and sophomore years of college. I was extremely interested in this adidas takeover and decided to trace this trend back to its roots.

The rise of the Stan Smiths can be attributed to the marketing genius of Jon Wexler, adidas Global Director of Entertainment and Influencer marketing. It seems as if the return of these sneakers was a calculated marketing move by the adidas team way back in 2009. They decided to revamp the classic Stan Smith tennis sneaker in a way that would appeal to Millennials. An article by The Guardian discusses this marketing strategy and states that Wexler “pretty much confirmed everything Miranda Priestly says in the legendary cerulean blue Gap jumper monologue in The Devil Wears Prada… He describes the Stan phenomenon as ‘the classic model of a trend continuum actually working.’” Which basically means, for those who haven’t seen The Devil Wears Prada, that the fashion industry leaders start trends by putting their products in the hands of trendsetters. These trendy individuals are being watched by the masses and once they are spotted wearing a new brand, it immediately becomes popular.

adidas's Stan Smith tennis shoesWexler chooses who will represent adidas based on if they are authentic and if their actions align with the adidas brand. He stated in an interview with Complex that adidas looks for “people who are creative and groundbreaking, who set trends and forge their own paths and are not afraid of what people are going to say about that. Obviously the people [adidas works with] are iconic, because it is the most iconic brand in the world.” Wexler knew that he had to showcase the revamped Stan Smith sneaker with some of the most influential and iconic personnel in the fashion industry. He decided to entrust this task to Phoebe Philo, the creative director of Celine. He put the sneakers on her more-than-capable feet and the rest was history. When Philo wore Stan Smiths as she came out for the end-of-fashion-show bow during 2010 Paris Fashion Week, a trend was born. Philo was also one of Time’s Most Influential People in 2014 so that just emphasizes how putting the Stan Smiths on her feet was the best move adidas could make.

brand ambassador wearing Stan Smith tennis shoes from adidasSince the reveal of the new sneakers in 2010 things have been looking good for the Stan Smiths and adidas as a whole. In 2013, Gisele graced the cover of Paris Vogue wearing nothing but Stan Smiths. In 2014, A$ASP Rocky and Pharrell Williams both made custom Stan Smiths. North West was also spotted wearing a pair of the sneakers, displaying the influence of the Kanye West-adidas partnership. The impact of adidas’ partnering with some of the biggest names in the industry is huge. These individuals have the ability to start a trend with one photo. Wexler discussed this stating, “When Kanye shows up in GQ wearing Pure Boosts or Stan Smiths, I’ve got to assume there is an impact [on sales].”

adidas using product placement of Stan Smith tennis shoesAs for me, I purchased my first pair of Stan Smiths in the spring of 2015. I wore them with dresses, skirts, jeans, overalls…you name it. I was already known as the girl who was always wearing sneakers anyway, I just made the transition from Converse to adidas. Converse used to be my go-to sneaker but I, like most Millennials, have traded in basketball sneakers for tennis sneakers and Chucks for Stans. I was wearing my Stan Smiths over the summer on the New York City subway going to Brooklyn. A guy sitting across from me gave me a little head nod and mumbled, “Cool Smiths.” If a random hipster in Brooklyn compliments your sneakers, you know they’re cool. The innate coolness of the Stan Smiths was widely accepted by 2015 and adidas certainly took the chance to capitalize on this new image of their brand.

 

“Normal” isn’t part of the YMC team’s vernacular. As a matter of fact, “normal” is the last word we’d use to describe both ourselves & our network of collegiate influencers, which is why we’re not all that surprised that the “Dress Normal” campaign Gap launched this Fall hasn’t been a sartorial sensation – and that’s putting it nicely.

 

Gap ad for Millennial fashion

 

In August, Gap released photos of celebrities – like Hollywood powerhouse Angelica Houston and Girls favorite Zosia Mamet – layered in basic, black staples and unassuming outwear. Each snapshot was emblazoned with the brand’s iconic square logo and the head-scratching catchphrase, “Dress Normal.” Other images encourage shoppers to wear “simple clothes for you to complicate,” and opt to “let your actions speak louder than your clothes.”

 

Gap ad that doesn't focus on Millennial fashion

 

The truth is, if given the choice between complicated clothes and a complicated life, we’d wear mixed prints and 17 necklaces any day of the week. As millennials, we’d rather our clothes reflect our actions as opposed to muting them.

We’re the 23-year-old, ambitious, and painfully unique women of YMC. We’re here to rise to the occasion and dress for it. Below, learn how the way we dress enhances our dreams, our agenda, and our determination.

 

"Dress for the weekend" Millennial fashion ad from YMC

YMC "Dress seasonally" ad for Millennial fashion

YMC "Dress Festive" ad for Millennial fashion

"Dress for Adventure" YMC ad for Millennial fashion

"Dress spirited" ad for Millennial fashion by YMC