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The Legendary Fashion Icon

The American fashion house ranging from lifestyle accessories to home furnishings, the fashion industry doesn’t ever go on without a mention of Calvin Klein, of course! The brand has a spanning reputation as the leader in American fashion with dashing aesthetics and innovation. What’s not to let go of is their dazzling advertising techniques, highly making use of celebrity figures by bringing out the best in them. The mighty personality behind all these is none other than the giant in the fashion industry: Calvin Klein.

Calvin Richard Klein was born on the 19th of November, 1942 in Bronx, New York. He was the second of three children of Flo and Leo Stern. His fashion instincts came from his grandmother who was a seamstress, so got the love for sewing from her.

Klein attended the High School of Art and Design, which educated students for jobs in drafting and advertising. He worked hard throughout his youth for a career in fashion and was always busy studying, sketching designs and sewing. Then he attended the Fashion Institute of Technology and graduated in 1962.

Upon graduating, he spent five whole years working through nights and weekends as an apprentice in a coat and suit house in New York City in the means of perfecting his own designs. In 1968, Klein and Barry Schwartz (his childhood friend) created a coat business where he received his first order by pure luck and accident; a coat buyer from Bonwit Teller, which was a large New York City clothing store accidentally wandered into Klein’s workroom and ordered a coat worth $50 thousand, indeed a huge amount at that time.

Thereafter, he received favourable reviews from the fashion press, so with the help of store executives, Klein expanded his business to include women’s sportswear as well. At a time where New York fashion was all about casual hippie-style and miniskirts, Klein provided simple and understated clothing. He was somehow able to secure millions in sales by the early 70s.

His immense popularity started with his designs appearing on the cover of American Vogue in September 1969. By 1971, his women’s fashion collection included sportswear, classic blazers and lingerie. It then further expanded into scarves, shoes, belts, furs, sunglasses and sheets. In 1978, Calvin Klein famous jeans claimed sales of 200,000 pairs on the very first week that they were on the market. Fortune figured Klein’s annual income as $8.5 million a year in 1981. It was in the mid-1970s that Klein created a craze for designer jeans where his name was on the back pocket.

Then in 1980, with a high reach for his designer jeans, he introduced a successful line of boxer shorts for his women and men’s underwear collection. In 1984, his clothes were sold out through 12,000 stores in the US and were also available in six other countries while passing an annual income of $12 million. Then in 1993, he was announced as “America’s Best Designer” owing to his minimalist “all-American” designs.

We can’t go without discussing Calvin Klein’s advertising campaigns indeed! They were most of the time controversial, but at the same time proved to be rather successful. It was the key to Kelin’s success. He kept the media involved in talking about his brand by creating controversial campaigns that were open to dispute. In the id 1990s, his ads featured young teenagers in provocative poses which was the talk of the year at those times.

Calvin Klein furthermore stepped into perfumes with three major fragrances: Obsession, Eternity and Escape which were huge successes. Talking about his design philosophy, they were based on minimalism and he typically uses neutral colours or earth tones which are highly regarded. 

Klein was named one of the twenty-five most influential Americans by Time magazine in 1996, and he also won the Coty Award three times in a row (1973-75), making him the youngest designer ever to do so. In the years 1982, 1983 and 1986, he received the Council of Fashion Designers of America award. His longtime friend and partner Barry Schwartz kept on advising and even guiding the company through financial difficulties in the late 1980s.

Delving into his personal life, it kept crumbling at times. In 1964, he married Jayne Centre but divorced in 1974 after having one child named Marci. Then he married one of his design assistants, Kelly Rector in 1986.

Undoubtedly as one of the greatest and most successful fashion designers of all time, he always leaves inspiration to younger designers with his outstanding collections. From the time he first launched his business up to now, he has come a long way and has become an all-time favourite brand in the fashion industry. Thus, the contribution he has made to the industry is highly notable. Wishing for more successful products from Calvin Klein, we wish him a very happy birthday and a blessed life ahead.

On an ending note, I’ll leave a remarkable quote by Calvin Klein:

“I think fantasies are for the birds. Anything I wanted to do, I did. If there’s something I want, nothing stops me.”

Design by : Shanaka Vishwantha

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