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Calvin Klein campaign featuring pregnant trans man sparks online debate

By Don-Alvin Adegeest


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Image: Instagram ©Calvin Klein

Calvin Klein, the PVH-owned fashion giant known for its slick and groundbreaking advertisements, has sparked a new controversy with its latest campaign, which features a pregnant transgender man.

As part of its global Mother’s Day campaign, Brazilian couple Roberto Bete, a trans man in the last stage of pregnancy, and partner Erica Feeha, were featured in what Calvin Klein said is a campaign that spotlights the realities of new families.

Calvin Klein’s Instagram post was flooded with positive comments supporting its stance on inclusivity, which shows a carousel of images of various families, from single mothers to interracial couples.

In one caption the couple state: “We can reproduce biologically or from the heart…our place is to love and be loved.”

While some users hailed Calvin Klein for embracing modern families over traditional archetypes, other were less complimentary, writing “cancel,” “blocked,” and “no longer purchasing this brand.” One user wrote: “Meanwhile your clothing and products are made in countries where people in the LGBTQ community would be punished or killed by the laws they uphold. This is nothing more than virtue signaling and furthering an already horrific divide in our country.”

In a statement Calvin Klein responded: “We embrace this platform as an inclusive and respectful environment for individualism and self-expression. At Calvin Klein, we tolerate everything except intolerance — any intolerant commentary will be removed, and any accounts issuing hateful statements may be blocked.”

Controversy in its DNA

Ever since 1980, when Calvin Klein’s highly critiqued denim advertisement featuring a teenaged Brooke Shields in super tight jeans, the company continues to regularly spark debate and conversation. Shields' famous line “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing”, was at the time sexually suggestive and even banned by several countries.

In 1992 it was the controversial ad featuring a seventeen year-old Kate Moss posing topless alongside Mark Wahlberg, a longtime face of Calvin Klein Underwear. Many thought Moss was too young to be topless on billboards and on television. Just a few years later, a campaign shot by Steven Meisel appeared to feature a street cast group of young models in jeans and vests, auditioning for what was suggested to be an adult film. It faced a backlash from child welfare authorities and the American Family Association, despite the models being legal age.

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