The Saga of the Red Couch

Toward the end of the Calvin Klein spring 2024 video shot by Mert Alas of the actor Jeremy Allen White stripping down to his skivvies on a Manhattan roof, Mr. White collapses on a red couch for a nap.

Of course, the very buff Mr. White is the primary draw for the ad campaign, which generated an estimated $12.7 million in media exposure in the 48 hours after it dropped last month and has been seen tens of millions of times on TikTok.

But the red couch is attracting its share of attention, too. It’s the subject of countless memes and TikTok posts, and appeared on “The Drew Barrymore Show,” along with Fernanda Clark, a young woman who won it in a Facebook Marketplace giveaway after recounting to its owner how she had recently been widowed.

“We have the most coveted couch on planet Earth right now,” Ms. Barrymore declared, a life-size cardboard cutout of Mr. White, fully dressed in a black suit, looming beside her. “It makes me want to pose.”

Jeremy Allen White reclining on the red corduroy couch that became the subject of countless social media posts.Credit…Calvin Klein/Mert Alas

What is it about a red couch? The ad campaign harks back to a famous project from the late 1970s. In 1979, the American photographer Kevin Clarke began shooting portraits of subjects interacting with a red couch in curious settings: wild ponies circling it in a Chincoteague Island marsh; a window washer sitting on it outside the 70th floor of the Peachtree Plaza Hotel in Atlanta; an oil rig crew working around it on the Mexican Gulf; seven Daughters of the American Revolution politely posing with it in front of an 1820 mansion on the Natchez River; a NASA deputy associate administrator seated on it in front of the Columbia II space shuttle the day before the Cape Canaveral launch.

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