Perfume Directory

cK one (1994)
by Calvin Klein

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cK one information

Year of Launch1994
GenderShared / Unisex
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 936 votes)

People and companies

HouseCalvin Klein
PerfumerAlberto Morillas
PerfumerHarry Fremont
SupplierFirmenich
PackagingFabien Baron
Parent CompanyBenckiser > Coty Inc > Coty Prestige
Parent Company at launchUnilever

About cK one

This popular fragrance from Calvin Klein kicked off the whole unisex buzz when it was released in 1994. Of course there were unisex fragrances before cK One (4711 by Muelhens for example) but it was Calvin Klein that made it sexy.

Reviews of cK one

A friend brought up CK One yesterday in a discussion. The Calvin Klein names sound the same to me and it only clicked which CK perfume this was when I remembered the advertising campaign. The teenage faux-grunge advertising. Oy.

I’ll tell you how it is that I’ve never smelled CK One before: target marketing works. In 1994 and I was 30, or twice the age of the target audience. I lived in New York and CK One advertising was public. In 1994, before social media, targeting simply wasn’t very precise. Rather than aiming, Calvin Klein flooded. Billboards, television, magazines and newspapers, subway posters. I had to swerve to avoid it. If CK One launched today I’d simply never see it. It just wouldn’t show up in any of my feeds.

CK One was intended for a young audience, but the images were in everyone’s face, so a sort of self-recusal took place on-by-one. The perfume appealed to you or not, depending largely on whether the story being created included you. Imagery that read as cool/aspirational to the 21 year old who found the ads exciting didn’t appeal to me. Thin, world-weary teens playing Peter Pan meets Lord of the Flies? It screamed significance in fashion patois, but the post-grunge styling was years late and a shoddy attempt to cop a style from a subculture. The CK One campaign started a few months after Kurt Cobain killed himself. The notion of Calvin Klein trying to catch some momentum from grunge at this particular time was repugnant.

So I opted out. I was obliged to continue to see the images—I mean, I rode the subways—but that was the end of my participation. The contempt wore off after about a week. Then I just navigated the images until the next thing came along and replaced them—a classic New York experience of my time.

I remember a couple of details about the perfume. It was ‘unisex.’ I was surprised that they made a big deal of it—was unisex that novel an idea? Also, the fragrance was supposed to be contemporary and clean. SO contemporary and SO clean that it was somehow beyond scent.

So I tried CK One ‘cold’ yesterday for the first time. I’ve never read about the perfume itself. I have a bottle of CK One and some 25 year old recollections of the launch.

CK One smells like it was intended to convey hygiene yet go unnoticed. It’s there, but it claims not to intrude into your consciousness. There’s been years of discussion about the contradiction and denial involved in fragrances trying to smell like nothing, so I’m sure applying the notion to CK One is nothing new. But CK One smells like a very specific nothing. It’s conceptual: a ‘clean’ fragrance + a masking fragrance = an impulse of purity. It allows you to feel invigorated without the invasiveness and effort of having to exhibit a clean scent. From the angle of 2017, hygienic fragrances seem very ’90s-specific, but for all I know, CK One invented the approach.

Of course the premise that two opposing olfactory forces will nullify each other doesn’t actually work on a practical level. Instead, you’re left with the remnants of a scent, like dry-cleaning chemicals that cling to your clothing. The perfume ends up locked in a cycle of constantly trying to invalidate itself. It might have been intended to be uncomplicated and undemanding, but it’s no surprise that it smells like effort and tension. (Cute bottle, though.)

It also smells like diet soda and Febreze, which wouldn’t exist for another another 4 years. I give CK One enormous credit for its methodically synthetic tone. It comes across as calculated and legible. I had never smelled it before yesterday, and yet it instantly smelled like an era. If CK One’s goal was to create a new style of fragrance, my experience points out how successful it was.

from scenthurdle.com
20th July, 2017
I could've sworn I reviewed this already. Since it seems that I haven't, I'll do so now.

What else is there to say, but wow? Back in 2015, before my first semester at college was over, I found this at a Burlington. I had only ever used one fragrance prior to getting this, and this is what got me into the fragrance game (I now have at least a dozen fragrances).

I had no idea what this would smell like, but I knew about Calvin Klein because my dad has worn two of their fragrances: eternity and obsession. I had no idea how to tell if it was a "cologne" or "perfume", but I decided to go for it. I tried it on in the car and realized that I had smelled it before. It was (and is) a very popular fragrance. Most of its users are women, but this is also a hit among younger men (like myself).

I think what I smelled was a combination of musk, green tree accord, pineapple and violet. Those scents are what stick out to me. It's a very casual and relaxing scent. As another reviewer has said, it has "90s" written all over it.
06th July, 2017
A really good scent, very crowdpleasing.
Sadly overused and thus not a real compliment getter anymore (I enjoy wearing parfume, I enjoy them a lot more when I can get compliments from them!).
19th March, 2017
Ahh mid 90's every guy had ck one every girl wore tommy girl. I love this smell prolly mostly because of what it reminds me of more than the actual smell. It was clutch in its prime tho! Super fresh scent just makes you wanna gel up your frosted tips, throw on your favorite pair of silvertabs, some addidas superstars!
02nd January, 2017
Amazing how Calvin Klein managed to have green tree accord at every level of the fragrance triangle in cK one. It's a living legend of a scent, controversial and an acquired taste.

Wearing it, I feel sensations of confidence (no doubt from the citrus notes) and comfort. It's a head turner that still sticks out after all these years.

I haven't tried to explore the dizzying array of cK One flankers that have come out since the original came out in 1994 - and I won't knock them until I try them. But cK One is one to check out, man or woman.
24th December, 2016
I actually grew to enjoy One after owning a mini for several years. Surely it is synthetic and a little crowded, but it is refreshing and unisex, which is exactly what it claimed to be, and I like that. Perhaps it's the changing climes and trends making masculine florals so rare which changed my mind on this one, but I really like lily of the valley in fragrances, and to me, it is the most prominent part of One's composition. If the base wasn't so blurred and fake smelling this might have crossed the line from good to great.

Edit: The line has been crossed. I have finally acquired a vintage bottle and am happy to report that it is warmer, more natural-smelling, and that the sourness of the opening is more like aldehydes than chemical tartness derived from added citruses, and the nutmeg is actually noticeable. Admittedly, the difference in vintages is a small gap, and the current formulation is still far more enjoyable than most designer releases over the last two decades, but that little difference in texture and authenticity bridged the gap for me.
11th September, 2016 (last edited: 09th January, 2017)

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