Written by By Cara Davis, CNN
It has been almost two years since Calvin Klein first apologized for selling $8.50 pants emblazoned with the Arabic phrase “Shut up go do something else.”
After all, people are supposed to shut up and do something else. Please.
The fashion and entertainment brand — once a pillar of American luxury, now largely an unremarkable foreign business known for sedating the masses with its underwear, fragrances and porn themed art — was at the time lambasted for doing the opposite, provoking people of all backgrounds with a status symbol that was clearly deriding women of color.
The offending jeans, in question, were priced at $8.50. Credit: Calvin Klein
A spokesperson for Calvin Klein stated, at the time, “Our intent was never to offend anyone with the visual style presented. We obviously regret and apologize for the way in which our model made the statement. But we stand by the pants and our intention to empower women.”
The misstep aside, the campaign has continued to generate a fair amount of ruckus, allowing the brand to dive into its more controversial techniques in an effort to calm a PR storm — prompting its most recent viral invitation, Dear Sara.
The series gives voice to racialized language with the hashtag #DearSara, a U.S.-based singer who survived a shooting at a concert in June.
The model in the photos above, Mercedes Grabowski, is in fact from Poland. Credit: Calvin Klein
Calvin Klein began again the campaign in the middle of July. This time, though, the focus turns to Germany — and Germany’s past.
The garments, tagged #TwoPointFiveCities, are all black, in stark contrast to the #ShutUpGoDoSomething Else calumny. They look as if they belong in a museum, rather than on a woman’s back. Their prints — basketball, cactus and a police emblem — are intentionally cloudy, stylized graphics that recall the all-black aesthetic at the time the series was conceived.
All white. Credit: Calvin Klein
A digital montage shows directly the buildings that inspired the attire: the Brandenburg Gate, the Bonn Cathedral, the Reichstag. It’s a subtle — if disturbing — nod to Germany’s history with the Nazis.
Again, the images are reproduced with the hashtag #DearSara.
In the video, Nico Perez, also from Poland, describes in full-blown all-American perfection the role of his parents’ construction company — effectively building Germany’s westward railroads and power grid, he says.
Moments later, the poster boy for Calvin Klein slinks around with his partner and a long, dark, scarred hand, clutching his chest.
The shot is jarring — trying hard not to be.