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Calvin Klein’s New Cologne Pairs with the Fresh Face of Richard Madden

Image used with permission by copyright holder

It doesn’t take a rocketman to see that Calvin Klein’s selection of actor Richard Madden for its new Defy fragrance is a great choice. Announced Thursday, July 1, the former Game of Thrones star will be forevermore linked with the scent, which follows a long company (and industry) tradition to personify their fragrances. As one might expect, the announcement was followed by a promotional video and a slew of imagery.

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The 35-year-old Scottish actor, who previously played Robb Stark in HBO’s GoT and agent John Reid in the Elton John biopic Rocketman, joins some truly rarified air as a CK fragrance face. The company has a long history of tapping some of Hollywood’s most in-demand men for its campaigns, and past spokesmen include Ed Burns (Eternity, 2014), Jake Gyllenhaal (Eternity, 2017), Charlie Hunnam (Reveal), Alexander Skarsgård (Encounter Fresh), and Jamie Dornan (Free), among many others. Beyond its fragrances, the company has come up with some truly iconic ads featuring men across generations wearing its clothing and underwear, including Mark Wahlberg in its boxers and Justin Bieber’s blatant plagiarism of the Wahlberg concept, just to name a few.

“It’s been an exciting opportunity to partner with Calvin Klein on this new launch for Calvin Klein Fragrances,” Madden said in a release. “Making the Calvin Klein Defy campaign was an amazing experience; I’m excited about this partnership and our work together.”

Crafted by Anne Flipo (Burberry, Coach, Giorgio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, and just about everyone else), along with Pascal Gaurin and Loc Dong, Defy skews toward the woody, with a Haitian-sourced vetiver oil, and it’s featured in an asymmetrical glass bottle with a denim-blue box and cap, the latter two of which are an homage to the company’s legendary jeans.

Calvin Klein isn’t the only fragrance company to tap Hollywood leading men to epitomize their scents; Dior is probably the greatest example of doing it right, right now, and it’s practically sunk a mint into Johnny Depp, utilizing the famous Disney actor since its scent’s release in 2015. Some say they can still hear Depp burying his jewelry in the desert as a buffalo wanders by.

While Calvin Klein Defy won’t hit Macy’s and other department stores until August, the hype machine is fired up, and we expect to be seeing wall-to-wall playback of Madden’s new ad in front of every YouTube video we watch until then (which, to be clear, we don’t necessarily view as a negative). Will the scent become a tentpole fragrance for Calvin Klein, as CK One and Eternity have been? Or will it fade like a seasonal scent, with Madden’s mug the only reminder? We’ll withhold judgment until August, but in the meantime, we’ll enjoy Madden as the latest in a long line of leading men to rep the brand.

Jon Gugala
Features Writer
Jon Gugala is a freelance writer and photographer based in Nashville, Tenn. A former gear editor for Outside Magazine, his…
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