Fashion Labels Are Forgetting the Importance of their Brand Essence

Calvin Klein

Calvin Klein founder discusses how current practices within the fashion industry are not good for the long-run

The power of a brand essence has diminished over time within the fashion world. In the past, iconic fashion labels have endeavoured to ensure all touch points within the market reinforced the brand’s essence. From brand ambassadors to campaign models, to marketing collateral, each strategic decision was made to ensure it aligned with the fundamental image of who the brand was.

A brand essence represents the heart and soul of a brand. A strong essence can allow a brand to create emotional relationships with consumers, and allow them to cut through crowded markets to better communicate with potential and existing customers. However, over time iconic fashion labels in the likes of Calvin Klein, Dior and Puma have strayed away from their brand essence in an attempt to broaden their market appeal.

Brands have shifted towards choosing brand ambassadors and campaign models based on the size of their social media following, as opposed to the image they portray. While the physical appearances of celebrities such as Kylie Jenner (Puma), Kendall Jenner (Calvin Klein) and Rihanna (Dior) are undeniably superior, many industry experts have questioned whether their personal image aligns with the brands they are representing.


Strategic decisions to deviate away from the brand’s image in an attempt to capitalise on the success of many pop-culture icons could be seen as poor strategic decisions for the long term. Creating inconsistencies amongst communications made to consumers can create confusion about who the brand is, and what they represent. Confusion can restrict a brands ability to create genuine, long lasting relationships with their customers.

Calvin Klein, the founder of the iconic brand has recently come out and challenged the decision to use Kendall Jenner to front the brand’s recent underwear campaign. Klein revolutionised the American fashion world by introducing a heritage of sensuality into their campaigns, however feels that Jenner does not represent the pure, refined and provocative image that the brand encapsulates. While it has been nearly 14 years since the company has been under his creative direction, the brand’s original image and essence has remained relatively unscathed.

Kendall Jenner Calvin Klein

During his talk at Savannah College of Art and Design, Klein discussed his disappointment of how the fashion world has evolved over time. Describing an era where models are paid for how many followers they have, and not the image they convey. Explaining how he does not believe it is a solid formula for success or the way to create an enduring brand in the long run.

Calvin Klein has raised an interesting perspective of brand essence and how many fashion labels may be self-starting their own demise as they continue to deteriorate their own brand equity. While, from a short-term perspective signing the latest ‘it’ celebrity can help grow a brand’s social media following amongst young, digital-savvy consumers, it is unlikely to create a brand with much staying power in the long term.

Simon Wang
Strategy Intern 

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Image and Video Credits: Calvin Klein & Forbes

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