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Calvin Klein’s new creative team couldn’t have planned it better if they’d tried. Hot off Mahershala Ali’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar win for Moonlight — and even more notably, Moonlight’s surprise Best Picture win after La La Land was mistakenly announced as the victor — a new underwear ad emerged on Monday morning featuring the film’s stars: Ali, Alex Hibbert, Trevante Rhodes, and Ashton Sanders.
While the timing is perfect, this casting isn’t a total surprise. Calvin Klein dressed Hibbert, Rhodes, and Sanders for the Academy Awards (Ali wore Zegna), and the New York Times’ Vanessa Friedman pointed out on Twitter that a number of the actors attended the all-American brand’s runway show earlier this month.
The expressive black-and-white portraits are among the first advertising images we’ve seen from Calvin Klein chief creative officer Raf Simons and creative director Pieter Mulier, who were jointly appointed to these roles in early August. The team’s first campaign emerged in the lead-up to New York Fashion Week, and from its heavy use of abstract paintings and gangly models, it was clear that Simons and Mulier were seeking a more elevated, artistic way of selling branded briefs than casting Justin Bieber and Kendall Jenner.
The new photos of Ali, Hibbert, Rhodes, and Sanders are certainly elevated — and, as is crucial to a massive commercial brand like Calvin Klein, right in lockstep with the cultural conversation.