Calvin Klein has always been a designer brand which has targeted itself for the current generation of twentysomethings to thirtysomethings. When that description fit me, in the 1980’s, a disproportionate amount of my wardrobe was from Calvin Klein and my fragrance was Obsession for Men. As the 1990’s approached the brand shifted again and the fragrance made for Generation X was called CK one, released in 1994. Creative director Ann Gottlieb collaborated with perfumers Alberto Morillas and Harry Fremont on one of the earliest most successful fresh and clean fragrances. CK one would be the flagship perfume of Calvin Klein for a couple of generations. Now Calvin Klein is angling for the latest generation, dubbed Millennials, with the new CK2.
Ms. Gottlieb has tapped a new perfumer for this task Pascal Gaurin. CK2 is described as a “gender-free fragrance that celebrates the endless possibilities of modern connections between two people”. The ad campaign by photographer Ryan McGinley shows that those two people are also not restrained by traditional gender roles. This actually sets a fairly difficult moving target for the creative team to hit. To truly be a fragrance which appeals broadly it would seem you would need to shoot for a middle ground set up for mediocrity. What I found surprising was Ms. Gottlieb and M. Gaurin are willing to challenge some of the newest generation of fragrance wearers to see beyond the commonplace.
CK2 opens with one of those challenging choices as a piquant wasabi accord is folded into a traditional opening of mandarin and violet. There is much I like about these choices if you’re attempting to be a “gender-free” fragrance. The fruit and the floral are kept very attenuated. Because you can’t really be too much of either. That is why the wasabi accord is so important here. It adds an odd grace note throwing the traditional slightly off kilter. I stress slightly because the wasabi is used as a modulator here meant to alter but not have a prominence to it. The same theory works in the heart as iris and rose give a very traditional floral bouquet. Just as in the top it is tweaked by the presence of another odd accord of wet cobblestones. The slightly aquatic and mineralic accord literally grounds the florals; keeping them from being too florid. The base is a very nicely balanced trio of sandalwood, vetiver, and incense. It is more of those clean woods which are so popular in mass-marketed fragrance these days and is the most familiar part of CK2.
CK2 has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
It is going to be very interesting to see if Calvin Klein has made an Eau de Millennials with CK2. I think there is enough different here, especially compared to some other high profile designer releases, that CK2 does stand out among its peers. When it starts showing up on fragrance counters in February I am going to be fascinated observing, on my next trip to the mall, to see how this target audience reacts. I think Ms. Gottlieb and M. Gaurin have given CK2 the best chance to succeed.
Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.