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Calvin Klein's CK2 Fragrance Launches in the Shadow of CK One

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Photo: Ryan McGinley/Calvin Klein

Photo: Ryan McGinley/Calvin Klein

Calvin Klein's latest fragrance offering, CK2, landed on Macy's counters nationwide on Tuesday. The launch date was a significant one, at least as far as marketing is concerned: Perhaps choosing the second day of the second month of the year has helped the scent's name reverberate in millennials' tech-scattered minds a moment longer. Hopefully, it will stay there. Though 1994's iconic CK One has been rebooted in various ways — through updated products like CK One Summer and new advertising campaigns — this is its first true follow-up. 

Some things have changed. In place of a black-and-white campaign starring a gaggle of mostly dressed, skinny young things (Kate Moss, Jenny Shimizu) in a studio, the photographer Ryan McGinley shot mostly dressed young things outdoors and under vibrant lighting. And rather than labeling the scent unisex, like CK One, Calvin Klein has deemed this one "gender free" — an effort to remove all labels, Coty's VP of Marketing for Calvin Klein Vincent Brun wrote by email. Of course, Calvin Klein certainly isn't the only brand marketing genderless fragrances on a mass level right now. In late January, blossoming beauty entrepreneur and mainstream pop star Ariana Grande announced the launch of her own "gender-neutral" perfume, Frankie by Ariana Grande, so named for her brother.

What of the smell? Ann Gottlieb, the project's nose and a frequent fragrance collaborator for Marc Jacobs, described CK2 to me as a "distant cousin" of CK One, something that embodies a similar spirit but that won't cannibalize it. With notes like wasabi, "wet cobblestones," rose absolute and sandalwood, CK2 is meant to evoke a fresh, electric feeling; it's a noseful at first, but not bad after some time to dry down.

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That's just one reporter's impression, though. We'll be watching Coty's financial reports in the coming months to see how well CK2 lives up to its hype — that is, how well it sells.