Perfume Directory

cK one (1994)
by Calvin Klein


cK one information

Year of Launch1994
GenderShared / Unisex
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 1042 votes)

People and companies

HouseCalvin Klein
PerfumerAlberto Morillas
PerfumerHarry Fremont
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

This came out in 1989, not 1994. I was on a plane to Munich when another passenger said she worked for the Calvin Klein company and was incidentally carrying a sample of CK One in her purse, which she gave to me. She said it was a unisex fragrance (something new at the time). I thanked her, and have loved CK One ever since 1989.
16th April, 2021
One third Z 14, one third Tuscany, one third CK One. Hello Aussie summer!!
27th October, 2020
This review is going to be a bit contradictory. So was the fragrance.

I shared my boyfriend’s bottle when I was 18 and he was 38. That’s 13 years ago. I still have the memories of a fresh fragrance with citrus and woods, that I found cool in my pseudo-feminist young and free years, but also too masculine for what I was thinking I should smell like. It felt like the notes were chosen to balance each other, to the point of zero, like opposite-coloured lights would make the sum of them look white.
27th October, 2018
This smells almost identical to Azzaro's Chrome, and al-Rehab's Silver. Ok but not great.

04th July, 2018
Reviewing generalist scents always brings up the problem of not only setting the facts strait amongst all the unintelligible and extreme two-liner reviews that either skyrocket or tank the scent's ratings, but also of accurately describing them with enough specifics to make them seem distinct to the reader without smelling them, since generalists are not meant to be distinct by their nature, with cK One (1994) being the ultimate generalist. The hot take version of this review is cK One is essentially an Alyssa Ashley Musk (1968) 2.0, but for more, read on. The mass-appeal fragrance model always existed but not until the 90's did it cast such an impossibly wide net, with new creations resetting all the levels on things from the past and striving to be as inoffensive and unspecific as possible, in an attempt to reclaim respect and acceptance lost by the very brash and ostentatious 1980's. This process began in earnest first with masculine fragrances as male "powerhouse" scents were often the most bizarre and virile, while female-marketed scents were no less loud but commanding in a more charismatic way than by brute force, so they didn't transition into the "fresh revolution" until later on. Calvin Klein is much to blame for this entire changing of the guard, as they were among the vanguard of perfumers offering a new generation of unassuming olfactory pleasantness, but kept going further and further in that direction by using increasing numbers of nondescript custom synthetics (often with fantastic names in the note pyramids) until their perfumes smelled like nothing recognizable in the real world. Removing nature from perfume was relatively easy, as enough blending can achieve that even without synthetics, but the next step in Calvin Klein's efforts to "smell like nothing" would be to remove gender as well, which led to the creation of cK One in 1994. Now to be clear, unisex fragrances actually predate all other kinds of perfume, as fragrances did not have gender, despite being favored mostly by women in western culture for centuries, and only received sexual assignment after insecure guys made it clear they needed their own special scents with reassurance of masculinity if they were to wear any fragrance at all. Many niche and high-end perfume houses have never really taken to labeling their creations by gender until exclusive "for men" fragrances came about, and some still don't assign gender even to this day. However, in regards to mainstream perfume, Calvin Klein deliberately marketing cK One as "unisex" by design became a huge deal and mind-blower to those who didn't know better. The "Age of Eternity" was in full-swing by the advant of cK One, and it's "One for All" attitude spawned a wave of unisex clones from other houses throughout the decade, plus created a cult following that to this day buys up every flanker and seasonal alternate version released.

Alberto Morillas, who even by 1994 had an impressive portfolio of creations, was brought in by Calvin Klein to spearhead the cK One effort, with Harry Freemont, who is also known for a lot of winners in the designer segment. Together, they created a scent that is basically so intent on being gender-neutral from a perfume aesthetics perspective, that it literally comprises notes that act to neutralize each other, making the most anonymous and androgynous of beige pleasantries ever smelled at the time. cK One is constantly fighting itself in the dry down, creating a silent maelstrom of opposing forces that smell both like a dozen things you've smelled before and also none of them simultaneously. This amazing and admittedly confusing feat begins with bergamot, lemon, mandarin, pineapple, papaya, and cardamom, which is a "we are the world" of citrus minus maybe lime, counterbalanced by rounder fruit choices and a meaty spice. The next level of Dante's Inferno in a bottle comes in the form of jasmine hedione, violet, rose, muguet, freesia, and nutmeg, which swings the the composition feminine from all the florals at first but soon swings the pendulum back to the guy side with nutmeg. Green tea, oakmoss, cedar, sandalwood, amber, the only synthetic "Kleinism" in the form of "green tree accord" and finally white musk bring the base into territory inhabited by unisex musk perfumes of the 1960's, without the hippie sweat factor of heavy aromatics. The conflict these accords undertake with each other is less of a free-for-all and more of a standoff a la trench warfare of the first world war. You catch a glimpse of something like citrus, then the fruit holds it in check. Violet and rose begin painting a dainty and dusty feminine picture until nutmeg stamps it out. Cedar and oakmoss begin to anchor the base in barbershop territory until the sweet amber and laundry musk neutralize the effort. The whole thing is literally just checks and balances from top to bottom, which is both exhausting to parse, and ultimately blurs into the perfume equivalent of "apartment white" carpeting. It goes on sweet, bright, then goes floral, and finally ends in clean musk that's hard not to like. High school teens everywhere throughout the 90's obsessed over this, thanks to pictures full of despondent 20-somethings in grungy jeans, white shirts, and edgy haircuts that plastered every subway, bus stop, airport, and magazine insert in the US. Ironically, I remember some total chauvinists back in the day refused to wear cK One because to them, a scent that was unisex was tantamount to just being women's perfume anyway, which was their loss.

cK One set another precedent for Calvin Klein, who already ushered in the serenity that was Eternity for Men (1989), then came along with this scent so everyone and their sister, brother, cousin, or mother could smell clean, unobtrusive, and completely alike. I know it sounds like a fragrance trying to smell like nothing would be terrible, and for many a purist this was blasphemy, but those folks subsequently moved either into vintage scents or niche depending on their economic upward mobility anyway, leaving the designers behind to court the masses, which may have been their end game all along. Who's to say? One thing is certain, there's so much effort and creativity worked into this scent by Mr. Morillas and Freemont, plus so many nearly-imperceptible sides to cK One as a result of it's highly-synthetic blending, that it's hard not to appreciate the artistry here even from a hobbyist standpoint, if not the style of the scent itself. For those who love the puzzle box in the frosted medicine bottle that is cK One, wearings in different temperatures will reveal a great deal of versatility. Like most generalists before and after, you don't really have to think about wearing cK One, and it becomes the "dumb-grab" for the person in a hurry, which itself has moved more units than probably any other reason that can be found in this review. Safe and sexy in one package is the way to sell units, and designers learned from this going forward, gendered or not. The smell of cK One will yield many a compliment by men or women, as was by design, if that's something which interests you, but it is not a very distinguished nor distinguishable smell, so people wanting to be credited for their good taste are looking in the wrong place here. I find cK One to be the height of Calvin Klein's innovative perfume art through artifice approach, and although later 90's output was also nice, including the unisex sequel cK Be (1996), a certain nadir would set in by the mid-2000's that would culminate in their attempts to relearn diversity by the 2010's with mixed results. cK One is still the best of it's line to me despite being the first, because it is still the most sophisticated, well-blended, gender-neutral, and rounded of the cK scents. It's attempts at minimalism is something it's sequels achieve more successfully, at the cost of quality or true unisex appeal. I also like to think the use of cK One encourages moving outside the comfort zones and exploring other possibilities, because one thinks "if I can wear this, what else can I do?". It's cheap, it's pallid, and ends in a simple musk finish, but it's also quite liberating. Cheers!
27th May, 2018 (last edited: 28th May, 2018)
I'd say I approached CK One with the lowest expectations possible. Judging by the reviews, it had been an overdone and highly unoriginal smell that had lost its initial glory to what came after it.

I'm happy to say that isn't true in the least. CK One is a surprisingly fresh and versatile fragrance with pretty strong sillage and good longevity. The citrus-y opening with a hint of pineapple and bergamot is somewhat sweet and leads into a semi sweet floral bouquet with Jasmine and violet as it later quiets down into a soft woody accord that smells like walking fresh out of the shower.

This is the perfect juice for anybody who wants to just spray and go without worrying about the smell. It's the penultimate symbol of easygoing softness and freshness that so many fragrances strive for and never quite grasp. This is the most compliments I've gotten from a fragrance.

Even after all this time, CK One is a winner. Well done, Mr. Morillas. Absolutely recommended.

Longevity: 6-8 hours
Sillage: High
28th April, 2018

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