New to Calvin Klein, Raf Simons, has shepherded the next generation of the iconic Obsession family into the world with Obsessed, but its not just the juice that's a total knockout. Simons tapped fashion photographer Mario Sorrenti to revisit the archives of his iconic Obsession shoot with then girlfriend, supermodel Kate Moss, commissioned by Calvin Klein himself back in 1993. "Raf was amazing. He’s so cool," says Sorrenti of collaborating with the creative lead. The resulting rehash is as on point as ever with the cultural zeitgeist: nostalgia. Here, Sorrenti breaks down what went into the making of his and her big break, why they didn't wear sunscreen, and the pure magic of Kate Moss.
I know these pictures were taken over 20 years ago, but they look like they could have been shot yesterday. What memories were stirred up in revisiting this project?
When I was going through all the pictures, it just really brought me back to when Kate and I were together. When I look at the pictures, that’s what I see in them, because I see the feeling in her eyes. It reminds me of when were young and going out and those sort of carefree years where we were just growing up. Also, we were right at the beginning of our careers and we were forging our way forward and these incredible things were starting to happen. Every other month it was like, "Oh, my gosh, I got this job," or, "Oh my God, you got that great job." It was an incredible time. Amazing things were happening for both of us, so it brought me back to all those memories and stuff.
How did the original project come about, when you went to an island together?
There were several people but really I think one of the most important people that orchestrated the whole thing was Fabien Baron. Fabien had just given me a contract at Harper’s Bazaar and I guess he must’ve been doing a lot of stuff for Calvin Klein at the time as an outside ad agency, because Neil Kraft was also the inside agency at Calvin Klein at the time. And so basically, Fabien kind of orchestrated the whole thing because I showed Fabien my diaries. In my diaries there were loads of pictures of Kate on holiday, hanging out, and all that kind of stuff. When I showed it to him, he must’ve just thought that it would’ve been great for Obsession. So we go up to meet with Calvin and show him the diaries, and show him all those pictures. He just fell in love with the diaries and the pictures, and he didn’t even blink. He didn’t even think about it twice. He goes “Do it, just go and do it. We’ll organize it all for you.”
It was pretty clear for me that we needed a sort of abandoned structure to give me a lot of texture in the walls and on the beach somewhere. I wanted to bring a couch, a bed, a little sink, a mirror, and just do very bare essentials that we had in our apartment at the time because what Kate and I were doing at the time is that we were just renting a room in a friend’s house. What we had was a room and the bathroom, so we kind of just replicated our room in this abandoned structure, with a couch, a bed, a sink and a mirror.
Were you in New York at the time when you were renting the room?
We were living in London. I mean it was pretty planned out, I just needed a space to shoot. I knew the type of pictures that I wanted to do were black and white and they needed to have texture and they needed to feel like classic American photography. Art photography was very important to me at the time.
I was first working on my photography as an artist, so when that job came along, I was thinking, "What kind of pictures do I want to take? What do I want to do?" And it was very clear that the type of photographs and portraits that I wanted to try and achieve there. Calvin Klein really made it happen magically. I mean there was a lot of people involved, there was the production company that produced the whole thing, which helped the whole job come together, but ultimately what they did is after we found all the elements was just drop off Kate and I on this island by ourselves.
Was Kate the stylist? Or were you?
Brana Wolf was the stylist. She gave us a bag of clothes and that’s it, she left. Everybody left. They gave us a bag of clothes. I think it had a couple of swimsuits in it, a black little dress, and a tank top. That’s it. What we requested were the things that Kate was wearing all the time anyway. So Brana organized those things for us, put it in a black bag, gave it to us, and was like, "I’ll see you guys in 10 days."
And what did Calvin say when he first saw the film? Did he give you any feedback?
I mean everybody was really, really excited about the photographs from when we started processing all the film and all the video started coming back, all the 16 mm footage started coming back, everybody was just blown away. I mean, it was very different for the time I think.
It was also very personal and I think shoots at that time were like Elle Macpherson jumping on the beach kind of thing. This was a very, very different style for them and everybody loved it. They were super happy. Neil loved it. Fabian loved it. Calvin loved it. They were all very excited about it.
Calvin was the real risk taker at the time. He took a big risk by just sending Kate and I to this place on our own and especially when the pictures came back and the majority of the pictures were all nude and she was naked on the couch and you know that was a big, a big chance and he decided to put that big billboard of Kate naked on the couch in Times Square. That was kind of a big deal.
I have to ask. Did you guys wear sunscreen? Was there any makeup or was it totally bare?
It was no makeup and we didn’t wear sunscreen, no. I definitely didn’t wear sunscreen. i mean, one of the reasons we went for a really long time was because it was very important that Kate got really tan.
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Watch: Photographers “Always Ask” Kate Moss to Take Her Clothes Off