By ROBERT LOHRER
The mission for any brand – be it in golf sportswear or not – is to stay true to an identity, whether that means a design point of view or a core set of values. With that in mind, the people responsible for the launch of Calvin Klein Golf sportswear were, in one instance, truer than a purely struck long iron.
As Calvin Klein Golf is coming to market – with in-shop availability projected for later this year – the team charged with the design, sales and marketing needed to select a model to photograph for a look book and preliminary advertising. That choice was subject to review by those who protect all things related to Calvin Klein. Turns out the gang on 7th Avenue couldn’t be happier. The model chosen, Chris Tschupp (pronounced Chupp), was discovered by none other than Calvin himself.
About 10 years ago, Tschupp, who grew up in Tom’s River, N.J., and is an avid golfer, was playing professional minor league hockey, skating his way through such tertiary winter sports outposts as Roanoke, Va., and Birmingham and Mobile, Ala., of the East Coast Hockey League. He had returned to the New York area for the off-season and was having Sunday brunch with a few friends at a restaurant named Felix in New York’s Soho neighborhood.
“(Calvin) walked up to the table,” Tschupp was saying of that fateful encounter with the legendary designer. “He asked if I was a model. I said, ‘No, I’m a professional hockey player.’ He said, ‘If you’re ever interested in modeling, here’s my card.’ ”
It was a decade ago, but such a life-altering incident, Tschupp remembers how he felt exactly. He was caught off guard and more than slightly perplexed. He confesses to not knowing that Calvin Klein was an actual person, much less a designer.
“Here I was a hockey player, about the most manly thing you can do,” Tschupp says. “And I had no idea there was an actual person with the name Calvin Klein. I thought it was an underwear brand.”
Nevertheless, on a friend’s advice, Tschupp called Calvin back. Klein asked if he could be in his New York showroom the next day. When Tschupp arrived (late because he had been at the gym doing an off-season hockey workout), he was greeted by Klein and, to his slight amazement, a room full of associates seated around a boardroom table. Tschupp visited for a while, tried on some clothes and left. The next day, he received another phone call from Klein saying he’d like to book Chris for his worldwide campaign.
Tschupp again was caught off guard. “I was like, ‘Am I going to get paid for this?’” he said. “I was that far removed from all this.”
With that, Tschupp had laced his skates professionally for the last time. The next day he was paid to be photographed alongside the supermodel Kate Moss. Good work, if you can get it.
Fran Matthews, president of Calvin Klein Golf, coordinated the recent shoot with the photographer Michael Belk, a collaboration that goes back to Matthews’ tenure at Polo Golf.
They used two locations, Alys Beach and Camp Creek Golf Course, a Tom Fazio design, in the Florida Panhandle.
“The concept was to keep it pretty much to golf, but not put it on a golf course for every shot,” said Belk. “We wanted to give it that Calvin style so we shot a lot of black-and-white and pushed the contrast real hard. It’s an image piece, although there are enough tight shots to show the merchandise.
“The golf market has never had anything as modern as Calvin. But the difference is much more the attitude, the minimalism in the imaging. We wanted to present the Calvin image.”
Casting Chris Tschupp was a good place to start.
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Robert Lohrer is Golfweek's fashion editor. To reach him e-mail [email protected]