17 January, 2024

The campaign was directed by Mert Alas and the grading is by Simona Cristea

It’s the ad you’ve not been able to escape, and would you want to?

The latest in a long line of iconic Calvin Klein ads follows man of the moment, ’The Bear’s, Jeremy Allen White, as he walks the streets of his hometown, New York City, climbs to a rooftop, strips down to his white CK boxers and flops on an orange sofa surrounded by doves, you know, ordinary everyday stuff.

Directed by Mert Alas, known for making some of fashion’s most striking images (alongside Marcus Piggott), the ad has captured the imagination of just about everyone, from the women who will be buying their partners CK underwear, to gen z flocking to TikTok to share their hilarious reactions to the film, to the commercial industry leaders who are hell bent on highlighting the ads lack of ‘big idea’, as well as trying to piggy back their own brand onto the hype.

But what is so damn special about it?

Yes, it features a magnetic, Greek God-like movie star stripping down to his underwear, yes, the music is a sultry rendition of Lesley Gore’s ‘You Don’t Own Me’ which, coupled with White’s seductive gaze is enough to send anyone all a flutter, yes the New York City backdrop evokes a sense of classic cool…

But there’s another element that will make this an ad for the history books…

The colour grade.

In its simplest form the colours can be described as ‘golden’ capturing that short, precious time just before the sun sets, when light hits the buildings *just right* and everything basks in a warm glow. Ever since the days of Marky Mark Wahlberg, Calvin Klein has been known for their black and white photography aesthetic, so it’s somewhat out of character for them to embrace these golden hues, but we are so glad they did.

The woman behind the grade is Simona Cristea, head of colour at Coffee & TV, a colourist who has a creative shorthand with director Mert Alas after years of working together on campaigns for luxury brands including Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton and Calvin Klein. On working with Mert, Simona said, “I’m always on my toes to ensure I deliver a grade to match the high standard that he sets”, and she recognises that this creative relationship feeds into all her other work and keeps her on the sharp edge of the commercial colour industry.

For Simona the beauty in the whole spot is its simplicity, and she knew once she created a cinematic golden hour with her grade that all the other elements would fall into place. She also acknowledges that there is a sense of optimism about the whole piece, Jeremy is ‘heading towards the light’ claiming his freedom, as alluded to with the words ‘you don’t own me’, and the colours bring all of that feeling to life.

So next time you watch *that* Calvin Klein ad (we know you’ve got a tab open, ready to hit play) take a moment to appreciate the colours, the warmth, the precious moment ‘golden hour’ moment it creates. And just know that, in Simona’s words ‘making something look effortless always takes the most effort’.