Calvin Klein reinvents an iconic fragrance playing on the evocation of memory through scent

The new Calvin Klein OBSESSED fragrance mixes memory and desire, masculine and feminine, the past and the present, these compelling fragrances echo the original OBSESSION, yet blur and reformulate scents for both men and women today.

In 1993, OBSESSION truly attained its iconic status when Kate Moss became the fragrance’s face. She was 18 years old when her then boyfriend, Mario Sorrenti, aged 20, shot her for the campaign.

Sorrenti already displayed prodigious talent as a photographer, while Moss was fast becoming not just a model, but a star. Calvin Klein himself, having been shown some of Sorrenti’s informal holiday photography of Moss by the art director Fabien Baron, sent the couple away alone, to the Virgin Islands.

They were asked to replicate the intimacy and informality of the earlier photography for OBSESSION; there was no photographic team, no hair and makeup crew and no art directors present.

The groundbreaking and provocative imagery that ensued reflected the couple’s real love story; besides portraying a mutual flourishing of first love, the images also reveal an obsession with both a subject and a medium by the photographer. As the legendary campaign approaches its 25th anniversary, OBSESSED utilizes never-before-seen imagery from that time and personal biography to further explore and evoke the idea of memory, past love and present iconography.

Transforming some of the additional and unseen prints—there are more than 250 in total—into still life compositions, Mario Sorrenti himself revisits his own history. Further to these iconic arrangements are the never-before-seen films and diary entries made by the photographer. It is here that Sorrenti provides the voice-over with his personal recollections of that time for the moving imagery.

Utilizing additional layers of depth, warmth, intimacy and reverie, the OBSESSED campaign further unfurls the true love story behind a photographic and fragrance milestone. In its limpid, black and white simplicity, its equation and evocation of scent with memory at once reflects the past and the present.

“I suppose you could say we were obsessed by OBSESSION,” said Creative Director Raf Simons. “If one thing summed up CALVIN KLEIN for us visually, it was Mario Sorrenti’s OBSESSION campaign with Kate Moss. It lived in our heads for so many years and became a touchstone of sensuality when we arrived at CALVIN KLEIN. We thought about a scent that could reflect such an idea of memory and desire for today. Of male and female, of the memory of somebody else on your skin.”

At the heart of OBSESSED is the memory of a past love, triggered by the scent of another on the skin. Here, the genders are subverted and layered, with the traditional scents of the masculine Fougère—particularly White lavender—harnessed for the women’s fragrance, while the men’s scent is in thrall to a dark Vanilla. These elements are combined with materials more typically associated with each gender; Musks add a sensuous warmth to the women’s fragrance while Amber and Woods strengthen the sense of masculinity in the men’s. It is this tension, a compulsive push and pull that makes the wearer return to the fragrances time and again.