Today is American fashion designer, Calvin Klein’s birthday. Klein launched his brand in 1968 and has expanded into an internationally-known label which produces clothing, perfumes, and accessories for men and women.
Klein was born in 1942 in the New York City borough of the Bronx. He held an interest in sketching fashion designs when he was younger and attended the High School of Art and Design before studying briefly at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. To concentrate more on developing his design skills by working in the industry, Klein left school and began an apprenticeship with cloak-and-suit manufacturer, Dan Millstein, in 1962. Klein and his friend and finance partner, Barry Schwartz, started Calvin Klein, Inc. in 1968, drawing inspiration from the fresh style of New York’s urban youth. The company was started with just $10,000. Klein also befriended Baron de Gunzburg, who was an editor for several American publications including Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. This introduction led to many others which helped Klein to become fairly well-known with the fashion elite before he even established his first huge mainstream success in the fashion industry.
Originally he meant to focus his efforts on designing women’s coats, but then expanded into sportswear and ready-to-wear women’s clothing. By the 1970s, the Calvin Klein line was becoming increasingly popular, and in 1973, he was the youngest designer to recieve the Coty Award. His fame skyrocketed with the launch of his first designer jeans line. An advertising controversy and success, Klein had young model Brooke Shields photographed by renowned fashion photographer Richard Avedon in the signature Calvin Klein tight-fitting jeans with the slogan, “You know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” The jeans grossed $200,000 in their first week of sales. His well-known and contentious ad campaigns brought him much criticism and attention throughout the rest of his career.
Over the years, Calvin Klein expanded his brand name into menswear, home decor, accessories, and fragrances, including the highly popular unisex scent of the 90s, “cK One.” In 1993, he won both the Menswear Designer of the Year and the Womenswear Designer of the Year awards from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. He was the first designer to win both categories in the same year.
After several decades of success, Calvin Klein sold his brand to Phillips Van Heusen Corporation for over $700 million in 2002, but he still remains positioned as the creative chief. Calvin Klein, Inc. now exceeds $6 billion in sales. The clean designs of Calvin Klein have inspired many other designers including Donna Karan and Miuccia Prada and his designs have been seen on several celebrities such as Gwenyth Paltrow and Julia Roberts.
Happy birthday to one of America’s most prolific fashion designers!