Fashion buff or not, you probably have used some form of wearable goods designed by Calvin Klein. Whether it’s your polo or that favorite jeans that you pair-up with every other t-shirt, your wardrobe might not be considered complete without wardrobe essentials of CK. The controversial, bold and reckless Calvin Klein has not only made his name in the fashion industry, but even used the “bad” publicity for his own good. As are his words, he always did what he wanted to do. Not being someone to be deterred easily, he always has his way and that is the reason why despite all things notorious, he managed to stay put and rule the fashion industry like a pro.
Calvin Klein: The Designer Who Mastered His Traits
Unlike many fashion designers of his time, Calvin Klein was sorted regarding his career in the lifestyle industry. That clarity led him to pursue his higher education in fashion from Fashion Institute of Technology in 1963. Studying fashion in New York city and working for Dan Millstein, allowed Calvin to master the traits of fashion business and it was in 1968 that he gave wings to his dreams and started Calvin Klein with the help of his friend and partner, Barry Schwartz. The two put forth their skills to the table and took Calvin Klein, the brand to new heights.
Calvin Klein – Early History
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Bronx, a town in New York is where Calvin Klein was born on 19th of November, 1942. Though his father had a grocery store, Calvin had no plan to work on it because his heart was always inclined towards fashion. His mother, a housewife, would often take him to various fashion stores and to his grandma tailoring shop, fully aware that her son had immense talent for designing.
As a young lad Calvin would spend hours sketching; having a keen eye for detail, he would master his art of fashion sketches immaculately. His passion for design took him to High School of Industrial Arts and later the Art Students League. Eventually, in 1963 he ended up in Fashion Institute of Technology. However, he did not receive an honorary degree immediately and was awarded the honor later after his success as a designer. Being one of the major fashion brands that have their headquarters in New York, Calvin Klein has become a staple for casual clothing world wide.
Accidents Can Change Life For The Better
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The man, who introduced the jeans culture and stirred many controversies, worked in several clothing industries before making it big himself. Although nothing happens overnight, miracles do happen and when they do, they can make or break the person. Something similar happened to the fashion guru and his friend who co-founded Calvin Klein in 1968. The magic happened when Bonwit Teller’s buyer ended up in their workshop that too by mistake!
Fascinated by their work and the finesse of their trench coats, he immediately offered them an order worth $50,000, which was substantial for a budding business. It was this deal that changed the game for Calvin Klein and he got plenty of media coverage immediately after the “accidental deal”. Hard work does make magic!
Initially, Calvin Klein played safe by providing what he was skilled in, the coats and the suiting but the adventurous that he was, he wanted to broaden his horizon and cater to the wider audience. Thus, came the casuals that we all are familiar with. From providing daily men and women wear to designing the sportswear line, going bold by introducing the underwear line to make jeans a staple for everyone, Calvin Klein tested waters for everything related to lifestyle and fashion.
His go-getter attitude, though, often kept his name in the headlines, but did not harm his business. If anything, bad or good, both kinds of publicity worked for him and his brand and why wouldn’t it, after all Calvin Klein was limitless and brazen when it comes to achieving his set goals.
How Calvin Klein Changed the Game for Fashion?
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The winner of the Coty Award did not follow the trends, if anything, he defined the trends. When ruffles and all things lace were common for women, CK exhibited his brand with practical wear, ensuring that women look chic in the clothing he designed. His minimal approach to apparels was accepted with open hearts as it shunned the unnecessary drama and made dresses pragmatic for all occasions.
Now a venture that is not solely focused on women or men’s wear, Calvin Klein’s name is associated with everything that is in vogue and part of our lifestyles. Whether it’s your most trusted CK One fragrance that still enchants you or your jeans that you wear to work and parties, be it hoodie that you snuggled in when it’s chilly outside or the comfortable undies, Calvin Klein is part of our wardrobes for one thing or another.
The King of Controversy
It was not solely the apparels but his enthusiasm with marketing that brought him controversies and with it, a lot of sales. His most famous ad campaign, where a swanky Brooke Shield in her early teens commented, “nothing comes between me and my Calvin Klein” received a lot of backlash and the young lady and her mother were pointed fingers at for being so reckless.
The advertisement had a sexual and objectifying connotation to it, which the impulsive teenager could not understand at that time. Calvin, despite the backlash, was not willing to give up so easily and the sales went high reflecting how in reality people were not as angry as they portrayed.
Calvin Klein Besides Being a Designer
While fame is essential to make a name in the industry, it is often not easy to handle it. Calvin Klein was not only spotted for his provocative marketing tactics, but his lifestyle as well. He was too casual with drugs, nightlife and clubbing. In fact, some of his marketing gimmicks were not swallowed easily by the audience who believed he was promoting the substance abuse culture among the young generation. No wonder, some of his campaigns were banned as the government of that time was hard on the drug addiction and wanted to discourage the youth to think of addiction as something cool.
Though Calvin initially defended his campaigns as practical and depicting life, he later admitted to going overboard with his marketing efforts. But a lot of what was depicted in his brand’s advertisements were very much the reflection of his life. His casual partying lifestyle and substance abuse led him to seek help via rehab twice once in 1988 and later in 2003. His erratic behaviors, drug abuse and abduction of his daughter, Marci, impacted him as a person. Though Marci was recovered unscathed, Calvin Klein tried to mend ways and found solace in being a recluse. Once a socialite, he opted to go hermit to get a grip on his life.
The brand too faced many turmoils, but it always stood the test of the times. From facing financial upheaval to always being scrutinized for its marketing campaigns, Calvin Klein faced all that and yet it still stays relevant to the fashion world. It was in 2003 that PVH bought it for $430 million.
Awards & Accomplishments: The Brand that Made Jeans the New Norm of Casualwear
The man might be quirky and famous for his notoriety, but his work related to casualwear deserves all the applause. He made casual wear trendy yet super comfy for everyone to flaunt their style without any hassle. Some of his achievements worth noting are:
- Making $200,000 within a week of launching the signature jeans in 1974
- Winning CFDA award for Outstanding Design for Men and Women wear.
- Being recognized as the best dressed individual in the 1983 list.
- Being awarded CFDA thrice, in 1981,83 and again in 93.
- Bagging American Academy of Achievements Golden Plate Award in 1991.
- Winning Coty Award three times in a row, from 1973 to 1975.
Love him or hate him, but you can’t demean his services to fashion. He may have his ways of dealing with things and that might not be appreciated much, but his goal of being an affordable brand for the masses has won him many loyalties. People may disagree with his marketing stunts and for all the right reasons, but as a designer, he made fashion accessible to all. From perfumes to clothing to home line, his brand has reigned and is still trusted by many – for this he surely deserves a pat on the back!