Calvin Klein is the latest company to face a boycott for its acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community after the fashion brand used a bearded, transgender man to advertise a sports bra.
The modeling shoot starring Dutch transgender model Bappie Kortram and first revealed in June 2022, comes shortly after Nike’s collaboration with transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney, who also sparked controversy after announcing a partnership with Bud Light.
The backlash against Bud Light has raged on for nearly two months now as some customers continue to boycott the brand across the United States. Other brands, including LEGO and retail giant Target, have faced similar controversy. After Target released its line of LGBTQ+ Pride Month merchandise, critics called for the company to receive “the Bud Light treatment.”
Though Kortram’s Calvin Klein spot debuted almost a year ago, angered social media users have referred to it as the clothing company’s “new ad.” Kortram and his partner, Jamile posed as part of Calvin Klein’s “This is Love” Pride campaign, Kortram said on Instagram at the time.
“Nothing like a bit of flab and excess bulges to sell a product,” wrote Twitter user Miss Jo.
Conservative influencer Xaviaer DuRousseau also insulted Kortram and Jamile’s weights while bashing their Calvin Klein ad, writing on Twitter: “Does Calvin Klein really think that these are the models we want to see? Wearing @CalvinKlein should make you feel attractive and comfortable—not like you’re obese and mentally ill. This is how companies go BROKE.”
A number of people compared the ad campaign to Bud Light’s collaboration with transgender influencer and activist Mulvaney after the beer company sent her a commemorative can with her face on it to celebrate a year of womanhood. In light of the collaboration, Bud Light’s parent company Anheuser-Busch’s sales have reportedly fallen.
“Calvin Klein envious of Bud Light sales,” wrote broadcaster David Vance on Twitter.
“Too much mental illness in the world,” self-described “conservative talking head” Justin Theory wrote.
“Well, there goes Calvin Klein. Personally, I have always found furry men in bras repulsive but that’s just me!” wrote a conservative Twitter user who goes by Mrs. S, adding that Calvin Klein has been added to her boycott list.
The Twitter account End Wokeness, which has 1.1 million followers, shared images of Kortram’s ad alongside another bralette campaign from the brand featuring a plus-size model.
“‘You look like a Calvin Klein model’ might be the worst thing to tell a woman in 2023,” the account tweeted, getting thousands of likes and retweets in the process.
Comparatively, the comments on Kortram’s Instagram post when he first posted the pictures in June 2022, are almost overwhelmingly positive.
“So cool, liberated and cute,” one person commented. “This almost makes me cry so beautiful and sweet,” another commenter wrote.
After Kortram had said “Happy to see more pictures of myself in bralette,” one commenter jokingly called it a “bro-lette.”
In a statement released reacting to the recent backlash, Kortram said he stands by the ad and shared that he got “top surgery” to remove his breasts a month after the shoot.
“For me, it is important that trans men get to see diverse representation. Representation that shows more than thin muscular bodies, whose top surgery (removal of breast) are nearly perfect.” Kortram wrote.
“Even though I myself have gotten top surgery a month after the shoot, I still look back at this with pride and only focus on the people that felt validated and seen with this shoot. For those who replied with disgust, I would say only a person that loves themselves would be able to celebrate other forms of beauty.”
Newsweek has reached out to Calvin Klein’s global press department via email for comment.