When I’m asked about where my interest in writing about perfume began one of the perfumes which launched my curiosity is Calvin Klein Obsession for Men. It was what I considered to be my first “grown-up” perfume. It was also the first step to discovering these other perfumes from Europe which also smelled like this. In the thirty years since I bought my first bottle I am now on my third bottle as I still find it deeply satisfying. I’ve always felt it was a generational fragrance for the men of a specific time. It was why I was very interested in the new releases from Calvin Klein; Obsessed for Women and Obsessed for Men. I was wondering if these might become the same kind of defining fragrance for this generation.
One thing I learned from my press package is Calvin Klein very much wanted to make sure the connections were obvious. There are so many callbacks to the original pair of Obsessions I cynically wondered why not call it Obsession 2 and be done with it. This even includes the advertising campaign where they are recycling photos shot for a 1993 advertising effort for Obsession.
Obsession for Men Ad from 1993 featuring Kate Moss as photogrpahed by Mario Sorrenti
That campaign was to send model Kate Moss and her then boyfriend Mario Sorrenti alone to a secluded house in the Virgin Islands where just the two of them spent 10 days together while Mr. Sorrenti photographed Ms. Moss. It led to a set of provocative pictures of Ms. Moss which probably sent sales soaring.
Obsessed for Men Ad from 2017 featuring Mario Sorrenti as photographed by Kate Moss
Raf Simons who creatively oversaw the new perfumes went back through the photo files from that effort. What he saw was an opportunity to connect Obsession to Obsessed visually while also indicating something new. For Obsessed for Men Mr. Simons uses pictures of Mr. Sorrenti as shot by Ms. Moss in the inevitable turnabout which would have to happen over 10 days together.
Mr. Simons also wanted what he described as a role reversal in the two Obsessed fragrances. So, for Obsessed for Men he asked perfumers Christophe Raynaud and Ilias Erminidis for this as their brief. In Mr. Simons estimation, he sees vanilla as an ingredient which exhibits a “feminine melodiousness” which makes it the heart of Obsessed for Men.
The perfumers take that vanilla and put it in a wooden box made up of cedar and ambox. Those intensely woody notes have the effect of ameliorating much of the warm sweetness. The vanilla has much less presence than it normally does and Obsessed for Men really is much more an ambrox fragrance with some cedar and vanilla along for the ride.
Obsessed for Men has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am not the generation who will gravitate to Obsessed for Men. I have plenty of other ambrox heavy fragrances this doesn’t stand out sufficiently from those. I am more interested to see if there are twentysomething men who will be shopping and, like I did in 1986, stop in their tracks because Obsessed for Men is the scent of how they want to smell. Women’s Wear Daily is estimating upwards of $50 million in retail sales this year, for the pair. If that is prescient then Obsessed for Men will be a new Obsession for a new generation.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Calvin Klein.