He says/she says: Calvin Klein ck one

Calvin Klein ck one advert

Calvin Klein released ck one in 1994. It was one of the first modern fragrances marketed to both men and women, although as was the case with the recent release of Jean Paul Gaultier's Gaultier2, the company pointedly avoided the word "unisex", preferring to call it a "shared" fragrance. It was (and still is) targeted towards consumers in the 18-24 age range, and it was a massive success, doing $5 million in business in the first 10 days alone (Women's Wear Daily, 10/7/1994), and continuing on to become the world's top selling fragrance in 1995.

The ck one fragrance was created by perfumers Alberto Morillas and Harry Fremont. The notes are bergamot, lemon, mandarin, cardamom, pineapple, papaya, hedione, lily of the valley, green tea, oakmoss, cedar, sandalwood, musk and amber. We'll start with Marlen's take...

He says: Admittedly, it was quite the trendsetter when it was launched, and it no doubt still holds enormous pop appeal for the adolescent population, but I can’t really find much to get excited about when sniffing ck one. Light, fresh and fleeting, ck one was one of the first fragrances to use the now over-popular green tea accord that has been copied ad nauseum. Perhaps it is because this aroma is as familiar as the scent of say, a cup of coffee, that my snobbish tastes are prevented from truly enjoying this. Nice scent, well blended, clever packaging and ultimately great for a teenager.

She says: I still recall my first sample of ck one. It came in a little metal vial with a screw-top, and looked rather like a miniature film canister. The packaging seemed like something new, and so did the fragrance itself. Of course, lots of women were borrowing from the men's counter even then, but I wasn't one of them yet, so the distinctly masculine cast of ck one was something of a revelation.

It is hard to evaluate the fragrance with an open mind today; as Marlen points out, the theme has been done so many times now that it no longer smells even slightly unusual. It is a fresh scent, heavy on the citrus in the top notes, nice kick of spices, subdued tropical fruits (it is not at all overly sweet), lots of diffusive airiness from the hedione, lots of the green tea accord made popular by Bvlgari's Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert. The lasting power is so-so, but the fragrance was and is priced to appeal to a younger audience, so hey, you can just spray on more.

And, of course, tastes in fragrance have changed. One million unisex releases later, it no longer smells quite so overtly masculine to me. My first thought on trying it again this week was: nice, maybe even nicer than I remembered, but not quite so nice as Eau Sauvage. But then, I probably owe it to ck one that I eventually figured out that I could just go ahead and wear Eau Sauvage. So thanks, ck one.

Ck one can be found just about anywhere. If you shop around, you can find 50 ml bottles online for around $25.

Note: image via parfumdepub.


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33 Comments

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Wow, what a flashback! Remember how edgy and outre that ad was? I used to study those images intently. I wanted to be that cool. Sigh. Anyway, you're both right — it's as common as milk now, but my hat is off to the original unisexy idea it celebrated. And I'd rather smell it on my nephew than that Axe crap they're all wearing now! Maybe I'll get him some.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I don't know how I managed that, given the ubiquitousness of CK One…but, shockingly, I have never smelled it (knowingly, that is).

  3. Anonymous says:

    Completely, M! And the ad looks rather tame now, doesn't it?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Honestly, you would think nothing much of it now, I would guess. At the time, it was something quite new & different.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Its been so long since I've smelled this fragrance that I really want to go check it out again. It certainly was a huge part of mid-90s culture, perhaps one of few fragrances that really defined an era, at least for the younger generation. Even at a young age though, I remember this not being something I'd ever wear.

  6. Anonymous says:

    CK One–Now that's a blast from the recent past (no pun intended on the “blast”, lol!).

    It was everywhere. And then, I stopped smelling it. What happened? Does anyone wear this fragrance anymore?

    I never did and don't plan to start wearing it. But to give CK his props, I am guilty of wearing and loving Eternity. :):)

    Hugs!

  7. Anonymous says:

    CK1 was all comercial not anything daring and new as for OBSESSION. Very forgetable for me !

  8. Anonymous says:

    I echo Violetnoir's comments completely. We must be the only two people who love Eternity. I did not like CkOne when it was released, because it seemed too musky, and I do not like it now.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I was not really young enough to be wearing it when it came out, so I probably don't remember it as being ubiquitous in the same way that someone younger might. Of course, it is also light, so perhaps it simply wasn't as obvious as the Angel craze.

    But at any rate, doubt you would find it more wearable now!

  10. Anonymous says:

    I can only assume it is still somewhat popular, or CK would give up on spending advertising dollars on it (?)

    And I am guilty of forgetting entirely what Eternity smells like. Will have to check it out (again)…hugs to you!

  11. Anonymous says:

    *Sniff* I still have a small corner of my heart devoted to CK One. No, it no longer smells so groundbreaking, or as nice as some of the fougeres and tea scents that have followed it since, but I think it still smells good… Remember the sheer zeitgeist of it all?? When it came out it was so quickly hard to locate, since it went out of stock nearly as fast as it came in. I remember having to buy the big bottle of it because the smaller ones were all sold out, and then I also picked up the lotion, too. I think as far as ancillary products, there was even a powder for it if I'm remembering correctly! Boy, I really fell head over heels for it way back then. I still can't help but love it a little – it was a bit shocking then, because the average consumer had gotten so accustomed to the seperate-but-equal divisions at the perfume counters. I can't and won't judge CKOne harshly for the insane amount of overusage that followed, because I still have a soft spot for the juice itself.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Will have to review Obsession on another day then :-)

  13. Anonymous says:

    V, it is very musky. I think I will always have a soft spot for it.

  14. Anonymous says:

    K, glad to find someone else who remembers it the way I do! Even the recycled boxes seems very cool & of-the-moment. I think there are still tons of ancillary products around, actually, but I never used a one of them.

  15. Anonymous says:

    Well, speaking of Mr. Klein – I always found his fragrances to be so original and trendsetting…That seemed to stop with the release of Contradiction. I gave him a little more credit with Truth, but he's lost me again with Euphoria.

    I remember the astonishment at first smelling Escape for Women in a magazine, my utter zeal with my first bottle of eternity for Men…But with CK One – nothing. I just kinda went “eh”…

    So Robin, looks liek we have next our reviews, huh? Obsession and Eternity?

  16. Anonymous says:

    So funny that CK one is reviewed today…I was JUST talking about it to a friend. I had a boyfriend years ago that wore it, it smelled nice on him, but not as masculine as I'd like. I never wore it, it seemed weird to smell similar to my bfriend at the time, and something about it didn't wow me. It didn't seem unusual enough, I guess. I think I was wearing Chopard's Casmir at the time, which I don't even remember much about, except that it was sweet. Today I'm trying Philosykos for the first time and am completely in love. Have ordered a bottle from Aedes already.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Well, I tested it again today at Sephora and it was just as I remembered it – not something I'd wear. But they had a new release called CK1 Scene which was surprisingly very nice, not anything like the original. One thing I have always loved are the funky bottles and limited editions that have come around with this fragrance. The lime green summer edition, the almost comic-like bottles of the others. Very cool.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Gina – I bought Philosykos last week and have been wearing it daily since. It's phenomenal isn't it? I'd be interested to know if you've been layering it and with what b/c I'm not having too much luck. I use it to intensify the fig in Marc Jacobs for Men but thats all I've found it successful with. And BVLGARI Green Tea is nice with it as well.

  19. Anonymous says:

    MarkDavid, I am in LOVE with Philosykos. I have to be honest, I've never tried layering. I feel like I don't know enough to combine the right fragrances into something I won't want to immediately scrub off. I'll venture into it eventually…but for now, Philosykos is just amazing all on it's own. I got a decant from Ebay and tried it for the first time today and it was love at first whiff for me. It's everything I love in a fragrance. Glad you love it too.

  20. Anonymous says:

    And I have not yet tried Scene, so will have to do that! Yes, they've really done a good job of packaging with the line.

  21. Anonymous says:

    Looks that way!

  22. Anonymous says:

    So interesting that you found it not masculine enough. It always smelled to me like it was stolen from the men's counter. This year's “shared” fragrance, Gaultier2, smells like it was stolen from the women's.

    And yay for Philosykos! Such a great scent.

  23. Anonymous says:

    I remember loving this at the time. Interesting that you mention the Bulgari though – wasn't there an allegation that it was the CK was let's say *heavily* influenced by the Bulgari?

  24. Anonymous says:

    I have no idea — at the time, I am sure I was so unaware of trends in the perfume industry that I'd never have noticed! At any rate, now I'd say influenced by, but by no means a dupe.

  25. Anonymous says:

    It's funny, but I think on that boyfriend, it smelled more feminine than on most. Body chemistry is so weird, and I love how things smell different on everyone. My favorite for men is probably Chanel Pour Monsieur.

    I still smell Philosykos on my hair from yesterday. Love to wake up with a great scent in my nose.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Chanel Pour Monsieur is a great scent too. And Philosykos has always been one of my favorites to wear to bed…very calming.

  27. Anonymous says:

    I remember this perfume quite well!
    My late grandmother used to work for Cheeseborough Ponds (spelling?) which is now known as Unilever, and I remember her bringing home all sorts of perfumes from company store and she always had TONS of CK One on hand! I used to walk home with big bottles for nothing!
    I used to wear this scent daily, and I really loved it then.
    It is surprising that the scent just seems unoriginal now, especially with all the copycats that have followed since it's release.
    My parents have since bought my grandmother's home, and while rummaging through closets (and other closed spaces) I have found TONS of this scent still laying about the house (along with copious amounts of CK Be). As a matter of fact, I have one of those bottles set up in the spare room of the house as a cheeky decoration, hehe!

  28. Anonymous says:

    This was my very first perfume when I was thirteen. My mom got some in a Secret Santa at work and hated it but I loved it. Of course, I used to douse myself in it so it practically oozed out of my pores but I loved it.

    I haven't worn it in probably four years but a girl on my floor at school wears it. I borrowed a dab from her today and am amazed at how many memories it brought back. For me CK one is the smell of junior high and considering how much I hated junior high, I probably won't wear it again. Funny how many memories a perfume can drag up.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I used to wear it pretty heavily too — and agree, it is amazing how a scent can bring back a whole era!

  30. Anonymous says:

    I re-smelled ck one few weeks ago after not smelling it for a long time and my first impression was “waow!!! This is such a beautifully balanced fragrance!”. Nothing sticking out too much, soft and clean… a true scent of peace (even though the ad was pretty punk back in 1995!).

    I decided to wear it and found it a little masculine on me, and SO close to Chrome!!! However, the floral musky scent remaining in my hair made me feel very fresh even after a work day followed by a long dinner night.

    I even got compliments on the way I smell ;-)

    The other day, a girlfriend was wearing the last Max Mara – Le Parfum, and I really thought it was ck one!!!! (Maybe because of the musks?). I had to compare of course: on top, they are very different, but as they dry they become pretty close.

    If someone wants to do the same exercise and tell me what you think, that would be nice =)

    I think that ck one itself in today's market may not be as fashionable as when it was launched, but it is still relevant!

    The fact that it is still a reference for some of the new and oldest launches (Chrome is one of the best seller for male fragrances in the US!), reinforces the fact that it is one of the most universally appreciated fragrance for quite some time… and therefore… a classic!

    I was thinking though… what if adding some coconut? or creamy woods? A la “Feminite du Bois” and “Sensuous” way?

  31. Anonymous says:

    Agree it's a classic, and I still like it too! Haven't tried the Max Mara on skin and so far haven't been able to snag a sample, but if I do I'll try them together.

  32. Anonymous says:

    Definitely you should try the new Max Mara!!! It has a lot of musks, and some spices as well (coming from a pretty nutmeg note), the fragrance blends into the skin after a little bit and leaves this milky, musky, creamy feeling, so comfy!!! It could become addictive if there were not so many other things to try!

    Please let me know your thoughts on the fragrance when you get a chance to try it =)

  33. Anonymous says:

    Will do — although don't know if I'll be able to get a sample or not.

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