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Calvin Klein teams up with London-based visionaries to redefine what the next generation of artists stands for

No matter what mark you’re looking to leave on the world as a young visionary, there’s one thing that is far more important than the end goal you’ve already set your mind on, and that is the creative journey itself. What does it mean for someone to have limitless self-expression? On a quest to both define and shape the very purpose of new generation artists and, in turn, inspire others to do the same, Calvin Klein asked its community the same question. It’s safe to say that the three visionaries the iconic label spoke to understood the assignment.

Enter creative director, stylist and writer TJ Sawyerr, artist and model Minmie S and professional dancer and choreographer Mukeni Nel, three London-based creatives here to bring us the inspiration and insights we all deserve.

“My creative skill allows me to accomplish so much. It teaches me about grace, power, strength, patience, discipline—how to be a human being and how to go through life.” – Mukeni Nel

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TJ Sawyerr’s multidisciplinary skills go further

It’s almost impossible to put a magnifying glass on London’s creative scene and somehow miss TJ Sawyerr and the endless list of accomplishments attached to his name. Throughout his career, the artist has successfully managed to showcase and shed light on the issues that are close to his heart. From challenging attitudes towards a misunderstood youth and using his influential position within the fashion industry to fight societal attitudes—such as racial prejudice and the UK’s flawed rehabilitation system—one thing is clear: Sawyerr knows exactly how to use his self-expression as a weapon in the fight against discrimination.

“The great thing about working across disciplines and mediums is that there is really no limit to how I can express my creativity, whether it’s conceptualising a shoot or directing a video or even sitting down and writing a poem,” Sawyerr shared with SCREENSHOT. Having explored a number of artistic ways to convey his messages, the Londoner is now faced with endless possibilities every time he decides to communicate bold ideas. “It’s super exciting being multifaceted in that sense and having numerous different streams of inspiration and motivation creatively,” he continued. But even before gaining such a wide array of skills, Sawyerr already knew how to captivate his audience.

Aged only 17, the creative ran his first workshop in partnership with The Basement and Key4Life—allowing him to experience the entire process of producing a community project. Bringing together a group of 15 ex-offenders, aged between 18 and 30, Sawyerr’s goal was to provide them with concrete pathways into creative industries. “Being someone that is so proud of my roots and of my heritage, and being a young black man growing up in South London, my connection to my community naturally runs quite deep. I’ve always felt a strong inclination and almost a duty to remain in touch with and open doors for the youth in my area and beyond,” he said. A large part of Sawyerr’s work has come to revolve around running creative workshops with ex-offenders and teen gang members in the city—while attempting to provide these young individuals with not just the skills, but the confidence to enter a creative field that may have seemed hostile and inaccessible to them until now.

“Working in a creative field, creativity becomes so integral to your existence. For me, it has come to represent a large part of my identity—it’s my means of expression, it’s the way that I choose to channel my political views and something that I truly can’t live without.”

Keeping an open mind is Minmie S’ key to creativity

As a form of self-expression, fashion can make us feel empowered and more in touch with our inner self. And the clothes we decide to wear everyday reflect the wide array of people we choose to emulate. In fact, it goes further than just people—we create outfits to match our feelings, moods and ambitions. It is with this outlook on self-expression that model and artist Minmie S has pushed herself to explore as many skills as she could get her hands on.

“Creativity means having the freedom to express whatever you want to, however you want to without caring about what anyone else thinks. I express my own creativity through the clothes that I wear, makeup and different artistic mediums, whether it’s photography, drawing, painting, poetry,” Minmie told us. For the visionary, in order to truly know yourself, it’s necessary that you also keep an open mind to potential skills that might cross your path at some point—turning life into an endless source of exciting teachings.

“When it comes to unmastered skills that I’d like to use to express myself—if I have to learn it, I will.”

Although Minmie, just like Sawyerr and Nel, promotes taking a multidisciplinary approach to creativity, she also shared that playing favourites is bound to happen and completely okay. “I particularly like to use analogue cameras. I’ve been shooting films since I was 13 or 14 and I’m almost 22 now, so it’s been a really long time. To me, it’s a really personal thing because, as much as you can show others through a picture, you’re still the one picking and choosing what you decide to share with them. It allows me to capture moments through my own perspective, which someone else might not have on things.”

Adding to that, Minmie also reflected on how much thought is being put into analogue photography. “With phones, you can take so many photos but on film, because it’s so expensive and you only have a few shots on a roll, it makes you view the world in a different perspective. You’re always looking for something to take photos of and so it forces you to live in the present.”

Minmie’s latest go-to medium of expression? Both crochet and knitting, because why not?

Thinking more flexibly with Mukeni Nel

Since the age of six, Mukeni Nel has dedicated his life to dancing—that’s 17 years, and counting. While in his last year at The Urdang Acacdemy, the artist secured a job in the international tour of Cats, a sung-through musical, playing the character of Bill Bailey as well as understudying Mr Mistoffelees. Speaking about his passion for the creative process, Nel told us, “I always say dance is my first language because it’s so universal and it’s just how I express my feelings.”

First encouraged by his mum, the now-professional dancer has always had a knack and love for music and “messing around.” From there, he took it upon himself to master the art form and take advantage of the freedom it brings him. Throughout history, art has been used as a way for people to convey emotions and communicate thoughts. In fact, the expression of an artist’s inner feelings is one of the core aspects of both visual and performing art.

“Dance is just forever changing. There are so many new choreographers, movement directors, and so many different styles are being merged together—I’m so excited to see where it’s going now.”

Speaking about the joyful and transcendental impact dance has had on his life and how he connects with his community, Mukeni said, “Through working on different projects, attending classes and sharing the love of dance and movement, I can connect with others.” Whether carefree or going through more complex emotions, the dancer highlighted that his skill is often the best medium for him to use in order to let go of the past and focus on the present moment.

Sawyerr, Minmie and Mukeni all believe in a culture that provokes discovery and brave thinking. It’s by keeping this mission in mind that the next generation of artists makes its mark on the world. Doing so inspires passion within your own community—spearheading a creative movement that is fueled by authenticity, collaboration and integrity. It’s time to make way for the unmatched generation, because it’s fast approaching.

Explore Calvin Klein’s collection here.

Calvin Klein’s latest #ProudInMyCalvins campaign is a celebration of LGBTQIA+ journeys

By Alma Fabiani

Jun 23, 2021

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LGBTQIA+ representation is fundamental, especially during Pride Month, as it can have a powerful impact in terms of influencing ideas and attitudes towards the community. While putting queer and trans people at the forefront is one way of championing the many voices of the community, it is also crucial for those same voices to be celebrated—not only for who they are today, but for the journey they embarked upon to express their identity.

That’s the exact message Calvin Klein is amplifying this Pride 2021 through a continuation of its renowned #ProudInMyCalvins campaign, which lets you learn from some of the biggest influences of today’s LGBTQIA+ community as they look back on the transformative events that shaped their lives.

Over the years, Calvin Klein has put great effort into championing the LGBTQIA+ community and advocating for its rights. Unlike other brands who have been called out for only doing so once June’s Pride Month comes along, Calvin Klein is known to partner with multiple non-profit organisations in support of LGBTQIA+ advocacy, equality, and safety—not for one month, but throughout the year.

This year, the brand has rounded up an impressive cast of LGBTQIA+ talents—both on-camera and behind the scenes—to bring their stories to the world, celebrating the defining moments of each of their personal journeys. Calvin Klein worked with acclaimed LGBTQIA+ photographers Gorka Postigo Breedveld, Matt Lamb, Ryan McGinley, Campbell Addy, Collier Schorr and Vivi Bacco who in turn captured eight queer and trans cultural leaders in a video series reflecting on the pivotal moments in their lives.

While each of the cast stands out for their highly individual background and rare talent, they are all united in their shared passion forand impact onthe LGBTQIA+ community. These include Venezuelan musician Arca, electronic musician Honey Dijon, spoken word poet and activist Kai Isaiah-Jamal, singer-songwriter King Princess, actor and singer Isaac Cole Powell, make-up artist Raisa Flowers, visual artist Samuel de Saboia and Elite star Omar Ayuso.

Arca (she/her) shot by Gorka Postigo in Barcelona

Venezuelan, Barcelona-based musician, singer, composer, record producer, and DJ Arca has released four studio albums and has contributed production work to artists such as Björk, Kanye West, FKA twigs, Kelela, and Frank Ocean. Arca came out as non-binary in 2018, later adding that she identifies as a trans woman, and goes by the pronouns she/her.

In 2020, in an interview for i-D, she stated, “I see my gender identity as non-binary, and I identify as a trans Latina woman, and yet, I don’t want to encourage anyone to think that my gayness has been banished. And when I talk about gayness, it’s funny because I’m not thinking about who I’m attracted to. It’s a form of cultural production that is individual and collective, which I don’t ever want to renounce.”

In Calvin Klein’s new #ProudInMyCalvins campaign, Arca shares the story of the first time she gave herself permission to cruisemeaning: to visit a place in search of a sexual partner.

“Something about the magnetism in the air that day made it possible for me to have the courage to come up to him. In that moment of connection, I felt a vitality. I felt free of doubt and elated.”

Honey Dijon (she/her) shot by Matt Lambert in Berlin

Calvin Klein’s latest #ProudInMyCalvins campaign is a celebration of LGBTQIA+ journeys

Kai Isaiah-Jamal (they/them) shot by Campbell Addy in London

In their video for Calvin Klein, titled The Moment: transition 2.0, poet, activist and model Kai Isaiah-Jamal shares about their experience as a trans person of colour.

“I’ll never forget it. I call it my transition 2.0. Being able to step back into femininity and celebrate that glory…where once those things would have been really triggering. I felt weightless and free.”

King Princess (pronoun-fluid) shot by Collier Schorr in New York City

The singer, songwriter and producer from Brooklyn, New York, quickly rose to fame after her debut single ‘1950’, released in 2018. It was through her mother, who worked in fashion, that she first found her LGBTQIA+ family. For King Princess—real name Mikaela Straus—the moment she shed light on was when she first felt lucky to be gay, “I started to realise that I was part of this tapestry of queer people that have made really powerful, moving work. When I realised that, everything made sense.”

Calvin Klein’s latest #ProudInMyCalvins campaign is a celebration of LGBTQIA+ journeys

Isaac Cole Powell (he/him) shot by Ryan McGinley in New York City

Similar to Arca, Isaac Cole Powell had his moment through a personal encounter. Powell’s happened in 2010, when he found himself alone with someone he was very attracted to. “I kept waiting for him to do it,” he says. “My hand just crept down my thigh, waiting for it to brush up against him. And then it finally did, and it was like electricity. My whole body was flashing colours.”

“I just knew there was no going back from that feeling, I was forever changed in that moment because I finally knew what it felt like to touch another boy.”

Raisa Flowers (she/her) shot by Ryan McGinley in New York City

Beyond her impeccable make-up looks, Raisa Flowers is also a fierce advocate for representation of all types in the fashion industry. “She’s been vocal about the pushback she’s received as a plus-size, black and queer makeup artist and works hard to ensure inclusivity for all types of bodies and faces,” writes Elle.

In her #ProudInMyCalvins video, titled The Moment: I Didn’t Care, Flowers explains how she learned to channel her inner-power through teenage rebellion after shaving her head while attending Catholic school. “My principal was like, ‘We need to watch her because she’s going to be wild’,” she recalls. “I felt like a badass.”

Samuel de Saboia (he/him) shot by Vivi Bacco in São Paulo

Calvin Klein also travelled to Brazil to link up with bisexual Afro-Indigenous Brazilian artist Samuel de Saboia. Sharing his own defining moment, de Saboia recalls, “I never kissed a guy till that moment. Heart pumping. Like, I could literally see my chest just moving.”

“My parents are preachers. So, once I got back home at the end of the day, my parents already had a photo of me kissing this guy. I just felt so hurt by the idea that someone would look at another person and feel entitled to change and mess up their whole life. Within one week, I packed my bags and went to São Paulo. And everything started,” adds de Saboia.

Omar Ayuso (he/him) shot by Gorka Postigo in Madrid

Spanish actor Omar Ayuso, best known for his role as Omar Shanaa on the Netflix series Elite, felt affirmed simply by admitting who he truly was to both himself and to the people around him. In his video, Ayuso admits how scared he was when he first came out to his mother in 2013, “I came out of the closet when I was 15. And to begin with, I told a couple of female friends, but what I remember was when I told my mother. I thought she would be shocked and make some big scene or get really mad… Not at all, quite the opposite.”

“When I could finally be who I was and had nothing to hide, which I can tell you was only in part because I still find it hard today, I felt calm and at peace because you’re no longer living with the fear or anguish that people around you will reject you.”

They say ‘life is about the journey, not the destination,’ and although it would be naive to undermine the freedom that comes with embracing who you always knew yourself to be, in order to truly learn from each other’s experiences, it is also necessary for us to look back on the events that led up to this precise moment.

Along with uplifting the vibrant members of the queer community by celebrating those transformative moments of queer affirmation, Calvin Klein has also reimagined some of its iconic styles in fun Pride-appropriate colourways for its Pride 2021 capsule collection—from Calvin Klein Underwear staples like bralettes and jockstraps and Calvin Klein Jeans pieces like trucker jackets and cropped vests to accessories like bags, hats, and eyewear.

Because the brand knows that actions speak louder than words, it has also announced a two-year partnership with The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organisation for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning young people. Through this partnership, Calvin Klein will use its platform to increase the knowledge of The Trevor Project’s essential 24/7 crisis services and other mental health resources to help promote wider inclusion for the  LGBTQIA+ community.

In addition, the brand supports ILGA World’s work as the global voice for the LGBTQIA+ rights of those who face discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, and/or sex characteristics.

Learn more about the campaign and shop Calvin Klein’s Pride 2021 collection here.

 

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