“You know the way you smell when you first come home from the beach? Well, I want to make a cologne that captures the essence of that smell,” the Seinfeld television character Kramer first proclaimed in the show’s 1992 episode.
Later in the series, Kramer pitches the idea to an executive at Calvin Klein, who decidedly laughs him out of the room, only to steal the idea and claim it as his own, cheating Kramer. But Kramer gets his own recompense when Calvin Klein himself (or at least, the actor playing Klein) spots him and decides to make him an underwear model.
To be sure, it’s all fiction. Christopher Brosius, founder of the brand I Hate Perfume, actually created an oceanic scent called “At the Beach 1966,” while the Calvin Klein brand itself was busy releasing a handful of other mega-popular fragrances in the late ’80s and early ’90s, including its most famous ones, Obsession and Eternity.
Speaking of Eternity, Calvin Klein and its licensing partner Coty relaunched both the men’s and women’s fragrances this year, with a new campaign with actor-producer Jake Gyllenhaal and model-philanthropist Liya Kebede.
The pairing between Gyllenhaal and Kebede comes courtesy of Raf Simons, Calvin Klein chief creative officer responsible not only for the brand’s runways, but also every facet of its creative output — a behemoth task considering CK’s widespread reach thanks to myriad licensing partnerships.
Gyllenhaal’s certainly no Kramer, but the actor does get a bit cheeky when discussing his earliest scent memories.
“It’s so strange, isn’t it, how specific scents are?” Gyllenhaal told Yahoo Lifestyle. “I remember the smell of Eternity among my dirty gym clothes. I remember overspraying it on my body, it was way too concentrated. … Then I would spray it and sort of jump through it, just a full on swan dive through the scent.”
Playful memories evolve into a serious conversation, about things like honesty in advertising.
“I think there should be more honesty, and I guess less of a perpetuation of the fraudulence of the idea that love is like running through poppy fields or something,” he says. “I think love is in simplicity, and I think that’s what this says,” remarking on the commercial he shot with Kebede, in which the pair play biracial parents of a young child. The pair worked with director Cary Fukunaga, and Gyllenhaal’s company, Nine Stories, produced the short.
Gyllenhaal concedes: “By the way, you pretend to get to truth in storytelling. You pretend to get closer to a truth. ‘Honest’ is a complicated word when we’re not actually a real family, but it’s still the intention.”
Gyllenhaal and Kebede reflect further, not only on what it means to be the face of a campaign that broadcasts “love is love,” as Gyllenhaal puts it, but also what it means to be the faces of larger messages about combating things like Hollywood and industry sexism, as well as providing opportunities to those who systemically may not have them.
“At my company, as a mandate, my partner and I have an equal amount of films, television, and theater that are being made by both men and women and starring both men and women. That is a mandate at our company,” Gyllenhaal says when asked how he plans to move forward after bombshell allegations of sexual abuse surfaced against Hollywood’s biggest producer, Harvey Weinstein.
“[Sexual harassment] has been around for a long time, but there’s a massive paradigm shift in the last two or three weeks,” Gyllenhaal says. “It’s essential and it’s too long coming. [The shift has] been necessary for a long time, and it’s incredible to see and very important.”
“What I’ve learned through the years is that this is a mandate for the company too — those with great experience who sometimes don’t have as many opportunities can bring incredible insight into a space,” he says, talking about not only sexism within Hollywood, but also of ageism. “Those who are young and hungry and have a new vision can also bring that same vision to those who’ve had a lot of experience.”
Smells like change is in the air.
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