Childhood & Early Life
Calvin Richard Klein was born to Flo and Leo Stern on November 19, 1942 in Bronx, New York. He was the second of the three children that the couple had.
Ever since he was a child, he intently watched his grandmother who was a seamstress. As such, he soon developed a love for sewing, which only deepened to become his passion and later profession.
Interestingly, when kids of his age played sports, he spend hours sketching designs and sewing fashionable outfits. His mother encouraged his love for fashion and art.
Upon finishing his elementary studies, he gained admission at the High School of Art and Design. Matriculating from the same, he enrolled at the esteemed Fashion Institute of Technology in New York from where he graduated in 1962.
Continue Reading Below
You May Like
Klein’s first step in the professional and glamorous world of fashion came on 1962 as an apprentice worker for Dan Millestein, who owned a cloak and suit house. Enthusiastic and keen, he worked hard day and night to better his own designs. Meanwhile, he designed for other New York shops as well.
In 1968, he collaborated with his childhood buddy, Barry Schwartz, to establish his own company, Calvin Klein. At the time of its initiation, the company was limited to being a coat shop.
Klein bagged his first order from the Bonwit Teller—a large New York City clothing store. Interestingly, the order came as a result of sheer luck. A coat buyer from Bonwit Teller mistakenly got off on the wrong floor of a hotel on which Klein’ workroom was located and wandered into the workroom. Watching him work, she made a huge order worth $50,000.
His first order was a huge hit and earned him rave reviews from both the public and fashion press. The store executives were impressed with his work and encouraged him to expand his line to sportswear as well.
By 1971, Calvin Klein Company had grown dramatically. The establishment traded not just in coats, but sportswear, classic blazers and lingerie in its women’s collection. Within a matter of time, the Klein Empire became huge and highly successful and included couture line-up that provided its female customers highly fashionable custom-made attires.
Klein’s hard work, dedication and commitment to fashion paid huge financial dividends too. From a modest start-up of $10,000, the company’s revenues escalated to $30 million by 1977. At that time, other than women’s wear, the company had licenses for scarves, shoes, belt, furs, sunglasses and sheets.
Not the one to be content easily, Klein ventured forth to expand his business further and acquired license for cosmetics, jean and menswear. Henceforth, the Klein Empire became one of the leading fashion labels, providing customers with an impressive line, all under one brand.
While Klein experienced an uphill climb with his business venture, the journey reached the summit when he launched his first jeans line that revolutionized the way people looked at fashion. His introduction of tight-fitting jeans in the market earned him his first mainstream success and gave him and the brand a cult status.
Just when the world was rolling over the designer-jeans frenzy, Klein ventured forth in the understated and not-much-talked-about men’s underwear market and came up with a successful line of boxer shorts that transformed the way the world looked at men’s inner wear. Augmenting the demand were advertisements and billboards showing nearly-naked models in exotic poses.
Continue Reading Below
By the early 1980s, his once-humble store had turned into a huge empire, with more than 12000 stores across six countries, Canada, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.
The decades of 1990s was dominated by his highly popular perfume lines. His three major fragrances, Obsession, Eternity, and Escape, were huge successes.
Awards & Achievements
Klein has been honoured by various fashion councils from the world over. He struck a hat-trick with the prestigious Coty Awards from 1973 to 1975, becoming the youngest designer ever to achieve the feat.
He thrice received an award from the Councils of Fashion Designs of America in 1981, 1983 and 1993.
In 1983, Klein was listed on the International Best Dressed List.
In 1996, he made it to the list of 25 most influential Americans, published by Times Magazine.
In 2002, Calvin Klein sold his company, Calvin Klein Inc. to Phillips Van Heusen Corp.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1964, Calvin Klein married Jayne Centre, a textile designer by profession. The couple was blessed with a daughter, Marci, who currently holds the profile of Talent Producer for NBC’s Saturday Night Live. His marriage to Jayne ended in a divorce in 1974.
In 1986, he married his assistant Kelly Rector. This union too wasn’t successful for long. The couple separated in 1996 and legally divorced in 2006.