Gender diversity. Beauty diversity. Size diversity. The movement to embrace diversity in all its forms is all the rage in the Western fashion world, but it has yet to find fertile ground in Asian culture. That trend may be changing, however. For this year’s International Women’s Day on March 8th, American luxury fashion brand, Calvin Klein, is on a mission to empower Asian women to challenge gender norms.
Calvin Klein is about to roll out its first-ever Asia-initiated advertising campaign called “My Statement #MyCalvin” to pay tribute to female power in Asia. The campaign aims to push cultural boundaries and empower Asian women to make their own personal statements.
The new campaign carries the brand’s 2019 theme of “balance” and has attracted a diverse group of influencers and celebrities from Asia, including Chinese model Bonnie Chen, transgender Indian model Anjali Lama, Japanese filmmaker Shiori Ito, and Singaporean actress Victoria Loke, to explore their gender identities and how they remain confident, authentic and courageous while facing various pressure and obstacles from family, friends, and colleagues.
For the campaign, each individual — dressed in Calvin Klein’s activewear with almost no makeup — performs a monologue on how they turned their personal challenges into victories. The intimate way each person was shot adds to the emotional weight of their story.
Three months since Raf Simon’s exit from the brand, this is a significant campaign that shows Calvin Klein’s commitment to developing its presence in Asian markets. Previously, the brand made no special effort to address International Women’s Day in these markets. The brand’s last campaign that put women into special focus was for the U.S. market, when the brand unveiled its first fragrance under Raf Simon last summer, featuring actresses Lupita Nyong’o and Saoirse Ronan.
This time around, Calvin Klein will promote the “My Statement #MyCalvin” campaign on its official social media channels: WeChat, Weibo, and Facebook throughout the month of March. It also set up a mini-site for Hong Kong and mainland China to allow viewers to read about these celebrities’ stories in depth. In addition, it is collaborating with key opinion leaders (KOLs) to create special gift packages for customers.
While Calvin Klein’s campaign may be the first large-scale campaign focused on gender issues in Asia, it is not the first attempt by a brand to address the issues. In recent years, gender has become the new focus of customer experience initiatives and ad campaigns for many brands across the globe. In the luxury fashion arena in China, there are some early adopters, who have made attempts to address gender issues, but the customer reviews have been mixed.
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We'll be discussing gender equality and attitudes towards women in media and marketing at our annual Women Leading Change conference in Singapore on 4 June, 2019.
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Japanese premium brand SK-II’s “leftover” women ad campaign two years ago, for example, is still seen as a controversial one by many Chinese customers — those who share a positive view of it appreciate the brand’s courage in communicating their message in the public sphere, while those who dislike it feel that SK-II’s use of the term “leftover” is itself evidence of discrimination. French high-fashion brand Christian Dior, on the other hand, chose to tone down Maria Grazia Chiuri’s feminism campaign message in its marketing in the Chinese market, just to be safe.
Overall, challenging gender norms in the Asian cultural system will not be easy. While the entire Western world has experienced the disruptive force of the #MeToo movement, the spirit of #MeToo is spreading in a very delicate and subtle way in Asia. Calvin Klein’s latest regional campaign is a brave shot.