What’s really wrong with FKA Twigs’ Calvin Klein ad?
Last week, the fashion world was shocked (or perhaps, not that shocked) to learn that FKA Twigs’ Calvin Klein ad has been banned in the U.K. Originally launched in April 2023, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) claims the images of Twigs present the singer as a “stereotypical sexual object”. ASA also declared the composition of the ad redirects viewers’ focus toward the model’s body rather than the advertised clothing.
What makes this interesting is that over the past few weeks, the internet has been drooling over The Bear actor Jeremy Allen White’s SS24 Calvin Klein ad, and it’s definitely not because of the clothing. What’s equally confusing (again, or not so confusing) is that Kendall Jenner’s CK images, part of the same campaign as Twigs’, were not banned despite being just as revealing. So what’s really wrong with Twigs’ images in the eyes of the ASA?
Let’s be real here. There’s one difference between Twigs’, White’s and Jenner’s ads. If you need to have it spelled out; Twigs is the only person of colour in question. Compared to White’s very recent and highly celebrated campaign, the only real difference is that she’s a woman.
It’s no secret there are very apparent double standards in the realm of advertising. Women, across all forms of media, are scrutinized far more intensely than men. From viral TikToks to millions of likes across Instagram, White’s campaign has been a huge success for Calvin Klein. The images leave little to the imagination, hence social media’s obsession with them. Twigs’ ad, on the other hand, is arguably more artistic, vulnerable and more covered up. Why is it that a man boldly embracing his body is celebrated, but Twigs’ ad is apparently a step too far?
It’s also worth mentioning the current hype behind that scene in Saltburn. The end scene, with Barry Keoghan dancing fully (yes, fully) nude to Sophie Ellis Bexter’s “Murder On The Dancefloor” (a banger), has sent the girlies wild. It’s a great scene, but again we’re seeing in real-time how a man embracing their body is “brave” and “sexy”, but we aren’t celebrating women’s artistic choices with their bodies in the same way.
Now, let’s get down to the crux of it. With Jenner’s images, part of the same campaign, being deemed acceptable by the ASA, it appears to be pretty evident race plays a part here. Why is Twigs, a Black female artist, having her images shunned despite her white counterpart’s images showing just as much nudity? Historically, the media’s portrayal of Black women has been hypersexualized. That’s not the issue here, though. The images themselves are beautiful, tasteful and equally as sexualized as Jenner’s. The hypersexualization happening here is in how the ASA perceives them. Is a partially nude Black woman too sexual for their liking?
In short, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with FKA Twigs’ Calvin Klein campaign. What is wrong is the way in which we interpret and judge Black women’s bodies. To shun Twigs while celebrating White and Keoghan bearing all, and leaving Jenner’s scantily clad images unscathed, is qwhite interesting, to say the least.