Obsession

Written by Doon Arbus, directed by Avedon, styled by Julie Britt*, and cast with a Shakespearean theater company, the television ads for Calvin Klein’s blowout fragrance of the ’80s continued the brand’s reputation for provocative and stylistically innovative marketing. Though less scandalous than the Calvin Klein Jeans spots shot with Brooke Shields, also directed by Avedon and written by Arbus, they are just as effective in defining a mood and spirit essential to the Calvin brand. Model and face of the house throughout the ’80s Josie Borain is cast as the object of obsession, an apparition that lingers between the senses and just as she is within one’s grasp she is gone, a fleeting moment, an inescapable desire. It’s a dramatic pretense for a scent that is, as most critics seem to agree, wearable but far from notable. Regardless, the scent proved to be a bestseller (and I believe still is) and validated the wayward concept used for these commercials which, regardless of how the scent actually smells, are simply amazing.

*A previous version of this post had incorrectly credited Paul Cavaco as stylist. Many thanks to Simone Colina.

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