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BY DESIGN : Calvin's PC Cologne

August 18, 1994|WILLIAM KISSEL | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The motley crew of Gen Xers in the new Calvin Klein ad looks as if they stepped right off Melrose Avenue. Shirtless, skinny boys in weathered jeans and cropped leather pants chat aimlessly with girls clad in tanks, bra tops and stringy hair about. . . .

Why, cK one, of course. Beginning this month, Klein's new gender-neutral fragrance is the subject of a multimillion-dollar ad campaign photographed by Steven Meisel. Representatives from Klein's camp say the citrus-smelling fragrance is manly, yes. But they're betting that women will like it too.

Those steamy spots for Klein's Obsession and Escape seem clearly aimed at the "me" generation, but the ad for cK one is definitely going for the Pepsi crowd. Even the minimalistic frosted glass flask with its twist-off cap resembles a 2-liter soft-drink bottle.

Look hard and you might be able to pick Kate Moss and Donovan Leitch out of this homogenous crowd. Apparently, that's the point. The image is supposed to reflect "a certain plainness and naturalness" that characterizes today's youth, Klein says.

Women have been wearing men's fragrances for years, says Annette Green of the New York-based Fragrance Foundation, a trade association. "It seems to be a trend. Men and women are trying to downplay their differences . . . so genderless fragrances make a lot of sense now."

But don't refer to cK one as unisex or androgynous. The words make Klein wince. It's a "shared scent," he says.

Perhaps. Customers cruising through Bullock's this week were handed free samples of the his-and-her scent, which goes on sale in early October. "Avon?" guessed one young man, sniffing his wrist. "No," the fragrance girl said. "It's cK one." Uh-oh.

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