Calvin Richard Klein, born on November 19, 1942, is a legendary American fashion designer famous for his men’s and women’s wear. He launched his company in 1968, making coats and other sportswear from a New York studio. Klein’s business grew, earning him a slot in “Vogue” in 1969. His career took off, and the Calvin Klein brand expanded into perfumes, underwear, wallets, and jewelry. Many of the marketing strategies and advertising styles used by leading designers today were pioneered by Klein. He set the groundwork for modern American fashion and made an indelible influence on the industry.
The man behind the brand, Calvin Richard Klein, was born on November 19, 1942, to a Jewish family in the Bronx, New York City. His father, Leo Klein, was a Hungarian immigrant, and his mother, Flore, was a second-generation Ukrainian-American. Klein, whose zodiac sign is a Scorpio, grew up learning how to sew from his mother, who was fashion-obsessive. He graduated from the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan in 1960, and in 1963, he graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology with a degree in Fine Arts. Calvin Klein ruled the fashion world for decades. From runway events to underwear and perfumes, the company dominated every sector.
Klein’s first job in the fashion world was dressmaking, but he grew dissatisfied with the work and quit after his boss refused to grant him a $100 raise. His second employment was as a sketcher for coat designer Dan Millstein. Klein learned a lot from Millstein, who took him to haute couture shows in Paris and had him copy clothes patterns. Klein traveled to Hallford Ltd., another coat-making company specializing in synthetic fur, in search of more. But he quickly became tired of this employment as well, and in 1968, he formed Calvin Klein Inc. with childhood buddy Barry Schwartz. The duo grossed a million dollars in their first year of business, thanks to advertisements in “The New York Times.” In 1969, Klein’s designs got featured in “Vogue,” and in 1970, he held his first fashion show on a modest budget of $10,000. It was a huge success; by 1975, Klein’s revenues totaled $17 million.
In the 1980s, he took his brand to television. Klein hired 15-year-old Brooke Shields, who had recently completed a shoot for “Vogue,” to model his range of jeans. The advertising was widely banned by television networks, but the controversy benefited Klein, as royalties increased from $1.2 million in 1978 to $12.5 million in 1980. In 1982, he developed the legendary Calvin Klein underwear line with a $500,000 advertising campaign that profoundly altered the fashion business. Klein would make an even greater splash a decade later when he featured Mark Wahlberg and Kate Moss in billboard photographs and T.V. commercials to promote his new underwear line. Calvin Klein was a global fashion industry behemoth by 1999, with operations in America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Klein and Schwartz revealed their intention to sell the company, which took three years to execute. Klein stayed on in a creative adviser role at first but eventually left the organization.
Klein launches Calvin Klein with partner and childhood friend Barry Schwartz.
Klein becomes the youngest designer inducted into the Coty American Fashion Critics Hall of Fame.
He launches Obsession, a women’s perfume.
Klein completes the sale of Calvin Klein to the company Phillips-Van Heusen.
Why We Love Calvin Klein
He followed his dream
Klein could have been a dressmaker, but that wasn’t his passion, though he’d spent years studying high fashion and working in haute couture shows. He followed his dream to be an edgy, urban designer, producing simple but classy apparel.
He pushed boundaries
T.V. networks often banned Klein’s advertisements for being too suggestive or racy, but they’re also some of the most popular ones. The massive success of the Calvin Klein line is attributed to his creative advertising ideas, choosing famous faces like Kate Moss and Mark Wahlberg to pose as models on giant billboards.
He made jeans look cool
He certainly didn’t invent jeans, but Klein went a long way in making them popular. His laid-back, chic style spurred the designer jeans craze of the 70s. And we can’t forget that iconic ad with Brooke Shields in the 80s.
5 Surprising Facts
His profits went down to $800 million
Klein started his business in 1968 with $10,000 and it is now worth an estimated $800 million.
He has a significant name
Klein was named after John Calvin, the Protestant reformer.
The brand wasn’t always unisex
When he launched his brand, Klein initially targeted men with sports jackets; it wasn’t until the 70s that he started making women's clothing.
He knew Ralph Lauren
Klein and Lauren grew up in the same neighborhood in the Bronx and knew each other.
He was the first to use billboards
He was the first designer to use billboards for advertising his clothes.
Calvin Klein FAQs
Is Calvin Klein a luxury brand?
Calvin Klein is considered a designer brand, but they sit at the lower end of the fashion house spectrum.
Does Tommy Hilfiger own Calvin Klein?
P.V.H. Corp., an American clothing company, owns Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein.
What is Calvin Klein’s net worth?
Klein’s net worth is $800 million.
Calvin Klein’s birthday dates