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Klein, Calvin

KLEIN, Calvin

American designer

Born: Bronx, New York, 19 November 1942. Education: Studied at Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, 1959-62. Family: Married Jayne Centre, 1964 (divorced 1974); child: Marci; married Kelly Rector, 1986 (separated). Career: Assistant designer, Dan Millstein, New York, 1962-64; freelance designer, New York, 1964-68; Calvin Klein Co. formed in partnership with Barry Schwartz, 1968, daughter Marci kidnapped (released unharmed), 1978; Brooke Sheilds jeans commercial debuted, 1980; men's underwear introduced, 1982; purchased Puritan Jeans, 1983; Unilever secures fragrance license, 1989; company reorganized with help of music mogul David Geffen, 1992; debut of less expensive cK line, circa 1993; jeans and underwear businesses sold to Warnaco, 1994; flagship store opened on Madison Avenue, New York City, 1995; first freestanding cK store, Kent, 1999; second cK store, Manchester, 2000; trademark infringement suit filed against Warnaco, 2000; lawsuit against Warnaco settled, 2001; fragrances include Obsession, 1985, Eternity, 1988, cK one, 1994, cK be, 1996, also Escape, Contradiction, Truth Calvin Klein. Awards: Coty American Fashion Critics award, 1973, 1974, 1975; Bath Museum of Costume Dress of the Year award, 1980; Council of Fashion Designers of America award, 1993; named one of the "25 Most Influential Americans" by Time, 1996; Lifetime Achievement award, Council of Fashion Designers of America, 2001. Address: 654 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10021, USA.

Publications

On KLEIN:

Books

Morris, Bernadine, and Barbara Walz, The Fashion Makers, New York, 1978.

Perschetz, Lois, ed., W, The Designing Life, New York, 1987.

Coleridge, Nicholas, The Fashion Conspiracy, London, 1988.

Milbank, Caroline Rennolds, New York Fashion: The Evolution of American Style, New York, 1989.

Howell, Georgina, Sultans of Style: Thirty Years of Fashion and Passion 1960-1990, London, 1990.

McDowell, Colin, The Designer Scam, London, 1994.

Gaines, Steven, and Sharon Churcher, Obsession: The Lives and Times of Calvin Klein, New York, 1995.

Stegemeyer, Anne, Who's Who in Fashion, Third Edition, New York, 1996.

Le Dortz, Laurent, and Béatrice Debosscher, Stratégies des Leaders Américains de la Mode: Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, Liz Clairborne, Polo Ralph Lauren, et Tommy Hilfiger, Paris, 2000.

Articles

Peer, Elizabeth, "Stylish Calvinism," in Newsweek, 3 November 1975.

Brown, Erica, "The Rag Trade to Riches Rise of Calvin Klein," in the Sunday Times Magazine (London), 29 April 1980.

Cleave, Maureen, "Calvin Klein," in the Observer (London), 7December 1980.

Alter, Jonathan, and Ann Hughey, "Calvin and the Family Firm," in Newsweek, 12 December 1983.

Sherrid, Pamela, "Ragman," in Forbes, 15 February 1982.

Trachtenberg, Jeffrey A., "Between Me and My Calvins," in Forbes, 9 April 1984.

Morris, Bernadine, "Calvin Klein Keeps It Smart and Simple," in the New York Times, 1 May 1985.

Brady, James, "In Step with Calvin Klein," in Parade (New York), 26October 1986.

Hume, Marion, "The Secret of My Success," in Fashion Weekly (London), 27 August 1987.

Brampton, Sally, "Drawing a Klein Line," in Elle (London), January 1988.

Gross, Michael, "The Latest Calvin: From the Bronx to Eternity," in New York, 8 August 1988.

Orth, Maureen, "A Star is Reborn," in Vogue, September 1988.

Howell, Georgina, "Mr. Klein Comes Clean," in the Sunday Times Magazine (London), 10 September 1989.

"Calvin Klein's Obsession," in Cosmopolitan, May 1991.

"Calvin Klein's Bold Strategy in U.S., Europe," in WWD, 19 June 1991.

Behbehani, Mandy, "Nothing Between Success and Calvin," in the San Francisco Examiner, 30 January 1992.

Grant, Linda, "Can Calvin Klein Escape," in the Los Angeles Times, 23 February 1992.

Sloan, Pat, "I Don't Have Long-Term Plans. I Just Act Instinctively," in Advertising Age, 18 May 1992.

Mower, Sarah, "Calvin in Control," in Harper's Bazaar, 11 November 1992.

Hirshey, Gerri, "The Snooty Dame at the Block Party," in the New York Times Magazine, 24 October 1993.

Morris, Bernadine, "Master of Ease," in the New York Times, 6February 1994.

Brampton, Sally, "Calvin Clean," in Marie Claire (London), August 1994.

Reed, Julia, "Calvin's Clean Sweep," in Vogue, August 1994.

Beckett, Kathleen, "Slip-sliding to a Close: Calvin Klein," in the New York Post, 5 November 1994.

Spindler, Amy M., "Klein and Karan: Clothes that Do the Job," in theNew York Times, 5 November 1994.

"New York: Calvin's Minimal Magnetism," in WWD, 7 November 1994.

Spindler, Amy M., "Luxurious Armor by Karan, Klein, Mizrahi," in the New York Times, 8 April 1995.

"Calvin Cool Edge," in WWD, 10 April 1995.

Kaplan, James, "The Triumph of Calvinism," in New York, 18September 1995.

Elliott, Stuart, "To Be or Not to Be? To Young People It's No Question, Klein Says," in the New York Times, 14 August 1996.

Young, Vicki, "Calvin Klein Jeanswear Suing Conway for Infringement," in WWD, 29 August 1996.

Lockwood, Lisa, "Calvin's Credo," in WWD, 22 July 1997.

Ryan, J., "With Quips and Kisses, Wachner Takes Over CK Jeans Business," in WWD, 15 December 1997.

Goldstein, Lauren, "Clever Clavin Sells Suits Like Socks," in Fortune, 23 November 1998.

Lockwood, Lisa, "Calvin's Model Moment," in WWD, 9 June 2000.

"Calvin Klein," in Business Wire, 13 June 2000.

"Calvin Klein's Truth is in the Scent," in Cosmetics International Cosmetic Products Report, August 2000.

Shiloh, Dina, "Calvin Klein Helps to Bring Jordan and Israel Together," in the Times (London), 22 August 2000.

Sellers, Patricia, "Seventh Avenue Smackdown: Calvin Klein and Linda Wachner are Going Toe-to-Toe in a Bitter Suit," in Fortune, 4 September 2000.

Wilson, Eric, "Calvin Klein: After 33 Years in Businesses, the Designer Remains True to His Quest for Modernity While Searching for What's Next," in WWD, 5 June 2001.

Cojoucaru, Steven, "Behind the Seams," in People, 2 July 2001.

***

An indisputable genius in marketing, a recognized wizard in fashion financing, a charismatic image-maker and image himself, Calvin Klein is the quintessential American fashion expression of the last quarter of the 20th century and still world renowned in the 21st century. The energy of his identification with jeans in the late 1970s and early 1980s, his later frontiers of underwear, and his consistent edge for advertising image in print and media have rendered him a vivid figure in the landscape of American cultural life.

A sleazy, potboiler biography of Klein was published in 1995, titled Obsession: The Lives and Times of Calvin Klein, not only taking its title from his popular fragrance and beauty products line but Klein's chameleon-like ability to be many things in the fashion industry. Years before, Michael Gross had already described Klein's life in New York magazine (8 August 1988) as "an extraordinary odysseya sort of one-man pilgrimage through the social history of modern America." Yet Klein is homegrown hero to young America, the elusive image of the creator as megapower and carnal charmer, the recurrent American worship of those few who achieve absolute power in a democracy. In his decades as a top designer, Klein has established himself as a veritable obsession. He has only intensified this stature in spiraling success that challenges, yet flourishes in, the very visible arenas of fashionable culture.

Is Klein a designer? Suffused with aura and surrounded by negotiationcommercial and socialKlein might seem to have sacri-ficed his essential métier as a designer. Significantly, he has not. His sensibility for minimalist aesthetics, in an active lifestyle with the ethos of sportswear, is as evident today as it ever was. Klein's clothing is as judicious as his marketing is advanced: streamlined clothes worn with ease prevail, with influences as far flung as Vionnet, Halston, di Sant'Angelo, and Armani. Klein's best eveningwear gives a first impression of delicacy and refinement, characteristically avoiding linings and complications, as the wearer enjoys an unexpected freedom and mobility.

Klein's fashion is the quintessence of American fashion expression and tastehis minimal construction promotes mass manufacturing; his ease allows comfortable dressing in all sizes and shapes; his penchant for quality wool, cashmere, cotton, and other feel-good textile luxuries affirms a sense of luxury in clothes otherwise so undistinguished in their simplicity as to pass unnoticed. Although in a 1994 press statement Klein avowed that "Everything begins with the cut," one does not think of cut and construction in the traditional fashion measure of Vionnet or Madame Grés. Klein's spare cut is not truly architectural; it is unobtrusive or, in the words of Bernadine Morris, writing in the New York Times in May of 1985, "without frills."

Klein's marketing of jeans, underwear, and fragrance were consistent in their aggressive even opportunistic address to gender and sexuality. Beginning with 1980 television advertising conceived by Richard Avedon and Klein using young model Brooke Shields, Klein steadily set and stretched the parameters of America's acceptance of overt sensuality in promotion of fashion and in public, with displays ranging from national television campaigns to Times Square billboards, and to print media. Klein's campaigns have been progressive, seeming in each instance to build upon and move beyond the first provocation and the inevitable acceptance of the prior campaign.

Defining the public protocols of the 1980s and 1990s, Klein made a distinct cultural contribution to advertising. He not only took the design of jeans and underwear to new heights, but brought gender into the fray as well. He was unerringly responsible for the surge of gender-sharing fragrances launched in the middle and late 1990s, as well as pushing the envelope with daringly sexual displays in adversitising.

James Brady wrote of Klein in Parade in October 1986: "His success is so enormous, his income so vast, his lifestyle so lavish, that we tend to forget that in life there are no free rides." And so controversy has often surrounded Klein as much as celebrity; but it is incontrovertible that Klein altered the landscape of modern American fashion and its perception as only a genius and a giant canin an epoch of uncertainty and recriminations, Klein's imperfect but ever-upward course prompted dispute and jealousy. Yet he demonstrated, over and over, that his unerring fashion sense would prevail.

Klein's enduring success has been a balance of the no-nonsense fashion designer with the pretentious and unpredictable commercialism of the fashion industry. Since 1994 Calvin Klein Inc. has grown into a fashion empire producing everythingincluding menswear, womenswear, fragrances and skincare products, eyewear, socks, and pillowcases (Calvin Klein Home, a home fashion collection, was introduced in April 1995). Bearing the Calvin Klein name has grown into a lifestyle revered around the world; it is known in countries even where his products are not sold. Klein believes American clothes are an advantage in the global marketplace; nearly 90-percent of his business is through worldwide licensing agreements.

Klein has continued to receive notoriety from the publicity surrounding his advertisements. In 1995 his cK Jeans advertising campaign was pulled because of accusations of child pornography. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani led the uproar in 1999 over a Times Square billboard showing seminaked youngsters. Even though Klein's advertisements are seen as inappropriate, his design philosophy has remained consistentto keep the clothes modern, sophisticated, sexy, clean, and minimal. He once told Time magazine, "I've never been one to see women in ruffles and all kinds of fanciful apparel. To me it's just silly."

Klein confirmed in 1999 that he was looking ways to expand his business. He hired financial advisers to seek opportunities to develop his business through a merger, or by selling or developing other strategic options. Confirmed reports said Prada, Gucci, LMVH, and Ralph Lauren showed interest in purchasing Calvin Klein, Inc. Warnco, which owned the Calvin Klein underwear and jeans businesses, made an offer but the parties failed to agree on control of Calvin Klein trademark usage. In a statement, Klein said the "strongest path to growth lay in remaining an independent, privately held entity." As of 2001, both Klein and his company remained independent and private.

Richard Martin;

updated by Donna W. Reamy

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Calvin Klein

Calvin Klein

One of America's top fashion designers, Calvin Klein (born 1942) first made a name for himself by designing clean, uncomplicated sportswear. But he kept his name before the public by creating sometimes shocking and always news making advertising campaigns.

Klein was born in 1942 in the Bronx, New York, where he spent all his childhood. As a youth he taught himself to sketch and sew. He attended the High School of Art and Design, moving on to the prestigious Fashion Institute of Technology. He spent five years as an apprentice in a coat and suit house on Seventh Avenue in New York City, working long nights and weekends to hone his own designs.

In 1968 he and close friend and financial backer/adviser Barry Schwartz created a Calvin Klein coat business. The first order was obtained purely, and ironically, by accident when a coat buyer from Bonwit Teller got off on the wrong floor of a hotel and wandered into Klein's workroom. She placed an order for $50,000, which was a hugh amount at that time. Encouraged by the fashion press' exaltations and store executives' support, Klein expanded his line to include women's sportswear.

Klein's world soon included his couture line, Calvin Klein Collection for men and women, CK sportswear for men and women, and CK jeans. He also licensed arrangements for his menswear, coats, accessories, intimate apparel, hosiery, swimwear, eyewear, furs, socks, and fragrances, all under his careful control and management. Of the many categories licensed, denim jeans, along with fragrances, built a large following among consumers who sought an affordable way to attain the designer's cache. By 1997 sales of Calvin Klein Jeans approached half a billion dollars.

Marketing Approach Was Never Subtle

Advertising was a key to Klein's success. He stoked the media with controversy that kept his name in the news. He was the first to design women's underwear that looked like men's jockey shorts. His television ads for jeans starred child-star Brooke Shields, who exclaimed: "Nothing comes between me and my Calvins." In the process, Klein developed a reputation for pushing the envelope of acceptability in his campaigns. Ads of the mid-1990s featured underage teenagers (not professional models) in sexually provocative poses that were particularly risque, and were characterized by many as socially irresponsible. Dubbed "kiddie porn" by the press, the campaign was singled out by Forbes magazine as the worst marketing campaign of 1995. He even attracted government attention: the FBI and Justice Department investigated the company for possible violations of child pornography laws. The ads were universally denounced, but in the end, the Justice Department ruled that they were not pornography. And, yes, Klein pulled the ads, but not before the accompanying publicity had made the Calvin Klein brand name a part of everyday conversation..

His three major fragrances—Obsession, Eternity, and Escape—were huge successes, also due in part to the shock value of advertising. His television ads for Obsession featured British waif model Kate Moss nude with her Italian photographer boyfriend whispering, "I love you, Kate," as she wades through ocean waves, nervously chews her long straight hair, and runs through island huts and gardens to the sounds of beating hearts, insects, wind, and surf.

Advertising for his new fragrances, cK One and CK Be, continued to challenge the public's social conscience, with some reflecting a gritty, hard life reality in which decimated teens (this time older, professional models) appeared to be part of an idealized drug culture. Again, the ads drew criticism; this time, President Clinton admonished the fashion industry not to glamorize addiction, but to speak out against the "heroin chic" style of fashion photography being used. Klein continued to profess innocence, saying that his ads are never meant to shock or create controversy. The ads of the 1990s, according to the designer, represented a departure from phony airbrushed images that were not connected to the reality of today's world.

Design Philosophy Affirmed

While he unceasingly altered his image in the media with the changing times— incorporating rock and roll, grunge, and waif models as well as the homo-erotic and cynical-chic images of drug use conceived by top fashion photographer Bruce Weber—his design philosophy remained rooted in minimalism. At the same time his advertising for jeans and fragrances was being criticized, Calvin Klein clothing was receiving critical acclaim for its clean, modern lines. Time magazine called him the Frank Lloyd Wright of fashion, and named him one of the 25 most influential Americans in 1996.

Klein won the prestigious Coty Award three times in a row (1973-1975), becoming the youngest designer to ever have that honor. In 1982, 1983, and 1986 he also captured the Council of Fashion Designers of America Award. In addition to his professional achievements, he built a financially strong company with the continued advice and help of partner Barry Schwartz who guided the company through tough financial times in the late 1980s. His worldwide empire was rivaled by few designers.

Nicknamed "Calvin Clean"

In his personal life Klein also weathered the times. He married Jayne Centre in 1964 but divorced in 1974. They had one child, Marci. After battling rumors of a gay, drug-related lifestyle and AIDS, he shocked the industry by marrying one of his design assistants, Kelly Rector, in 1986. None of the bad publicity seemed to affect sales. Perhaps coincidentally, Klein assumed a lower profile and quieter lifestyle during the late 1980s and early 1990s. He also began sponsoring programs such as "Unlock the Silence," to support the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN), as well as various benefits for AIDS. In early 1997 his marriage appeared to be faltering, and a separation was announced.

Klein was unquestionably a stylish survivor as he approached the twenty-first century as a top fashion designer, still appealing to his clean-minded, career-oriented customers. But he also reached a growing group of hip teens and twenty-somethings with his increasingly street-chic women's fashions of tuxedo denim jackets, crinkled poet blouses, velvet priestly evening vestments, and Edwardian men's jackets worn with cuffed jeans.

Further Reading

For further information on Calvin Klein and the fashion industry see Fairchild Dictionary of Fashion (1988), McDowell's Directory of 20th Century Fashion (1987), Contemporary Designers edited by Ann Lee Morgan (2nd ed. 1990), and NY Fashion: The Evolution of American Style by Caroline Rennolds Milbank (1989). A 1994 book by Steven Gaines and Sharon Churcher, Obsession: The Lives and Times of Calvin Klein, was reportedly displeasing to its subject. More can be learned by reading the following periodicals: Fortune (January 13, 1997, AdWeek (September 23, 1996), Time (June 17, 1996), the New York Times (February 10 and 18, 1997), and Billboard (September 7, 1996 and January 11, 1997). □

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Klein, Calvin

Calvin Klein

Born: November 19, 1942
Bronx, New York

American fashion designer

One of America's top fashion designers, Calvin Klein first made a name for himself by designing clean, uncomplicated sportswear. He kept his name popular with the public by creating sometimes shocking and always news-making advertising campaigns.

His early years

Calvin Richard Klein was born on November 19, 1942, in the Bronx, New York, where he spent all of his childhood. Klein was the second of three children born to Flo and Leo Stern. The family lived relatively comfortably. His grandmother was a seamstress and he acquired his love of sewing from her. His mother encouraged his love of art and fashion.

Klein attended the High School of Art and Design, which prepared students for careers in advertising and drafting. As a youth, while others his age were playing sports, Klein was busy studying, sketching fashion designs, and sewing. Later he moved on to the esteemed Fashion Institute of Technology, graduating in 1962. He spent five years as an apprentice (a student working toward learning a skill) in a coat and suit house on Seventh Avenue in New York City, working long nights and weekends to perfect his own designs.

In 1968 Klein and close childhood friend Barry Schwartz created a Calvin Klein coat business. The first order was actually obtained by accident. A coat buyer from Bonwit Teller (a large New York City clothing store) got off on the wrong floor of a hotel and wandered into Klein's workroom. She placed an order for $50 thousand, which was a huge amount at that time. Encouraged by favorable reviews from the fashion press and the support of store executives, Klein expanded his line to include women's sportswear.

Klein's world soon included his couture (fashionable custom-made women's clothing) line, Calvin Klein Collection for men and women, CK sportswear for men and women, and CK jeans. He also licensed arrangements for his menswear, coats, accessories, intimate apparel, hosiery, swimwear, eyewear, furs, socks, and fragrances, all under his careful control and management.

Of the many categories licensed, denim jeans, along with fragrances, built a large following among consumers, who sought an affordable way to attain the Calvin Klein look. By 1997 sales of Calvin Klein Jeans approached half a billion dollars.

Marketing approach was never subtle

Advertising was the key to Klein's success. He kept the media talking about him by creating controversy (open to dispute). He was the first to design women's underwear that looked like men's jockey shorts. His television ads for jeans starred Brooke Shields (1965), who proclaimed: "Nothing comes between me and my Calvins."

Klein developed a reputation for pushing the boundaries of acceptability in his campaigns. Ads of the mid-1990s featured young teenagers in provocative poses that many regarded as socially irresponsible. Klein eventually cancelled these ads, but not before the accompanying publicity had made the Calvin Klein brand name a part of everyday conversation.

Klein's three major fragrances, Obsession, Eternity, and Escape, were huge successes, also due in part to sexually-suggestive advertising. Advertising for his fragrances, CK One and CK Be, continued to challenge the public. Some ads showed teens taking part in what some regarded as an idealized drug culture. At this time, President Bill Clinton (1946) admonished the fashion industry not to glamorize addiction. Klein replied that these ads represented a departure from phony airbrushed images that were not connected to the reality of today's world.

Design philosophy affirmed

Klein's design philosophy is rooted in minimalism (extreme simplicity). He typically uses neutral colors or earth tones (browns), and designs separates (articles of clothing designed to be worn interchangeably with others to form various combinations) that work in many different ensembles, from day to night and season to season. At the same time his advertising for jeans and fragrances was being criticized, Calvin Klein clothing was receiving critical acclaim for its clean, modern lines.

Time magazine named Klein one of the twenty-five most influential Americans in 1996. Klein won the prestigious Coty Award three times in a row (19731975), becoming the youngest designer to ever have that honor. In 1982, 1983, and 1986 he also captured the Council of Fashion Designers of America Award. In addition Klein built a financially strong company with the continued advice and help of partner Barry Schwartz, who guided the company through tough financial times in the late 1980s. Few designers have rivaled his worldwide empire.

Klein's personal life also weathered the times. He married Jayne Centre in 1964, but they divorced in 1974. They had one child, Marci. He married one of his design assistants, Kelly Rector, in 1986.

Klein is known for his "casual chic" clothing, stylish but casual designs created for active women. He is undoubtedly one of the most successful American clothing designers today.

For More Information

Fortune (January 13, 1997).

Gaines, Steven, and Sharon Churcher. Obsession: The Lives and Times of Calvin Klein. New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1994.

Milbank, Caroline R. NY Fashion: The Evolution of American Style. New York: Abrams, 1989.

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Klein, Calvin

Klein, Calvin

(1942-)
Calvin Klein Inc.

Overview

No single individual has helped American fashion come into its own more than designer Calvin Klein. In the late 1960s Klein reinvigorated the fashion industry just when it appeared to have been abandoned by a generation of anti-fashion youth. In 1972 Klein began creating his flexible collections of interchangeable separates that were elegant as well as casual. Known as a designer of jeans, perfumes, underwear, and provocative advertisements, Klein has succeeded in reinventing himself and American fashion with each passing year.

Personal Life

Calvin Richard Klein was born in the Bronx, New York, on November 19, 1942. The son of Leo and Flore Klein, Calvin showed an early interest in fashion design. He rejected more traditional boyhood activities, and chose to spend his time on sewing and drawing instead. He also spent a great deal of time at Loehmann's, a high-fashion discount store in the Bronx, to look at the Norman Norell samples and other designer garments. Klein attended New York's High School of Art and Design and graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1962.

Klein has been married twice. From 1964 to 1974 he was married to Jayne Centre, by whom he has a daughter, Marci. In 1996 Klein separated from his second wife, Kelly Rector, whom he had married in 1986.

Career Details

After leaving school in 1962, Klein apprenticed for designer Dan Millstein in New York City's celebrated garment district. In 1968, with backing from his childhood friend Barry Schwartz, Klein founded his own company called Calvin Klein Ltd., which later changed to Calvin Klein Inc. Focusing at first on outerwear, Klein prospered after receiving a substantial coat order from retailer Bonwit Teller. Several years later, Klein was successful enough to buy out his former mentor Millstein and occupy his offices.

In 1972 Klein expanded his offerings to include women's sportswear. Working in a neutral palette that Barbara Lippert of Adweek once described as "modern, subdued, [and] monochromatic," he introduced a signature line of separates such as sweaters, skirts, dresses, shirts, and pants that could be intermixed for a complete day and evening wardrobe. "I felt that the American lifestyle had changed," Klein explained. "For the most part, women today spend their time and energy working in addition to participating in all aspects of home and community. Their lives have changed and there is little time for wardrobe planning." His clothes were perfectly suited for women who wanted the look of an outfit with the versatility of separates.

In the late 1970s, Klein was known as a young, wealthy, handsome, and talented designer who often appeared in his own advertisements. Sales of his blue jeans began to slowdown, however, until he unveiled a controversial new advertising campaign. The advertisements, which first ran in 1980, featured teenage model Brooke Shields delivering the tag line, "Nothing comes between me and my Calvins." The advertisements were highly effective and his jeans sales nearly doubled. Many were offended by Klein's use of an adolescent model in a sexually suggestive advertisement, however.

With the success of the 1970s, Klein's brand appeal led to a host of licensing agreements for such lines as men's wear, accessories, lingerie, hosiery, and eyewear. He subsequently expanded into fragrances, including such scents as Obsession, Eternity, Escape, CK One, and CKBe. Of these, his unisex fragrance CK One has been particularly successful. Klein also developed a line of housewares.

In the early 1990s, Calvin Klein sold his company's underwear and jeans divisions to reduce debt. Since that time, the firm has prospered and expanded into global markets. Klein is known for his marketing talents and has hired such famous photographers as Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus, Bruce Weber, and Irving Penn for his photography shoots and television commercials.

Calvin Klein has enjoyed acclaim throughout his career. As early as 1973, Klein was chosen by 400 fashion reporters as winner of the Coty American Fashion Critics Award. The citation commented on Klein's "innate but nonconformist sense of classic line . . . and his unique understanding of today's blend of casualness, luxury, and moderate price. " Klein went on to win two more Coty awards in 1974 and 1975, and on June 25, 1975, he was elected to the American Hall of Fame of Fashion. Professional honors continued in the 1980s when Klein won Council of Fashion Designers of America (CDFA) awards in 1982, 1983, and 1986. In 1994 the CDFA presented Klein with unprecedented dual awards for both men's wear and women's wear. In 1996 he was named one of Time magazine's 25 most influential Americans.

Even with numerous awards and enormous commercial success, Klein found himself at the center of controversy again in the mid-1990s. A Klein advertising campaign featuring young, nonprofessional models in intimate poses drew condemnation in 1995. Klein eventually withdrew the advertisements that critics had likened to child pornography.

With the century drawing to a close, Klein was at the helm of an enterprise that in 1996 generated $2.5 billion in wholesale volume. His various lines held worldwide appeal, and Klein boutiques provided retail presence in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Klein told Lisa Lockwood in Women's Wear Daily, "[G]lobal expansion is a strategy that will take us beyond 2000 to accomplish what we've set out to do."

Social and Economic Impact

Calvin Klein almost single-handedly elevated the status of the United States in the world of fashion design. He brought simplicity, elegance, and luxury to clothing at a time in the early 1970s when gaudy economy was the trend. He used natural fibers like cotton and wool in place of the popular and less expensive synthetics of the day such as polyester and rayon. Klein also rejected the wild use of color so prevalent at that time; he favored neutral earth tones.

In terms of fashion design, Klein's greatest innovation could be the look referred to as "casual chic." This style relied on the use of separates that could be mixed and matched to create a variety of outfits. Klein gave these casual clothes his fine attention to detail that had been previously reserved for formal couture. He told Lockwood in Women's Wear Daily, "I've always had a clear design philosophy and point of view about being modern, sophisticated, sexy, clean, and minimal. They all apply to my design aesthetic."

Klein has also been an innovator as a marketer of fashion. His costly and controversial advertising campaigns have, throughout his career, thrust the fashion world into popular culture. The resulting publicity has undoubtedly helped Klein expand his empire from clothing to fragrances and housewares. In the process, he has changed the way fashion is marketed industry-wide. In 1994 he told Bridget Foley of Women's Wear Daily, "If people set out to be controversial, they'll never make it. But if something is really good, interesting, and thought-provoking, you get into risk-taking and pushing boundaries and questioning values, and it can be, in the end, controversial. We need newness and excitement in fashion. That's what it's about—that's what puts the fun in clothes."

Chronology: Calvin Klein

1942: Born.

1962: Graduated from Fashion Institute of Technology.

1968: Established Calvin Klein Ltd.

1972: Introduced sportswear line.

1973: Won first Coty award.

1975: Inducted into the American Hall of Fame of Fashion.

1994: Received dual CFDA awards for women's wear and men's wear.

1996: Named one of Time magazine's 25 most influential Americans.

The social impact of Klein's work extends to the philanthropic efforts he has supported, including donating some of his vast earnings to such programs as the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) and AIDS charities.

Sources of Information

Contact at: Calvin Klein Inc.
205 West 39th St.
New York, NY 10018
Business Phone: (212) 719-2600

Bibliography

Foley, Bridget. "Back on Top." Women's Wear Daily, 4 February 1994.

Ingrassia, Michelle. "Calvin's World." Newsweek, 11 September 1995.

Jacobs, Laura. "Pret-a-Poor Taste." New Republic, 2 January 1995.

Kaplan, James. "The Triumph of Calvinism." New York, 18 September 1995.

Lippert, Barbara. "Calvin Between the Covers." Adweek, 9 May 1994.

Lockwood, Lisa. "Calvin's Credo." Women's Wear Daily, 22 July 1997.

Ozzard, Janet. "CK Jeans Rides Again: Global Push Planned to Cap the Comeback," Women's Wear Daily, 30 May 1996.

Prud'homme, Alex. "What's It All About, Calvin?" Time, 23 September 1991.

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Klein, Calvin

Klein, Calvin

(1942-)
Calvin Klein, Inc.

Overview

No single individual has helped American fashion come into its own more than designer Calvin Klein. In the late 1960s, Klein re–invigorated the fashion industry just when it appeared to have been abandoned by a generation of anti–fashion youth. In 1972 Klein began creating his flexible collections of interchangeable separates that were elegant as well as casual. Known as a designer of perfumes, underwear, jeans, and provocative advertisements, Klein has succeeded in reinventing himself and American fashion with each passing year.

Personal Life

Calvin Richard Klein was born in the Bronx, New York, on November 19, 1942. The son of Leo and Flore Klein, Calvin showed an early interest in fashion design. He rejected more traditional boyhood activities and chose to spend his time on sewing and drawing instead. He also spent a great deal of time at Loehmann's, a high–fashion discount store in the Bronx, looking at the Norman Norell samples and other designer garments. Winning a place in both high school and college, Klein attended New York's High School of Art and Design and graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1962.

Klein has been married twice. From 1964 to 1974, he was married to Jayne Centre, by whom he has a daughter, Marci. In 1996 Klein separated from his second wife, Kelly Rector, whom he had married in 1986.

Career Details

After leaving school in 1962, Klein apprenticed for designer Dan Millstein in New York City's celebrated garment district. In 1968, with backing from his childhood friend Barry Schwartz, Klein founded his own company called Calvin Klein Ltd., which was later changed to Calvin Klein Inc. Focusing at first on outerwear, Klein prospered after receiving a substantial coat order from retailer Bonwit Teller. Within several years, Klein was successful enough to buy out his former mentor, Millstein, and occupy his offices.

In 1972 Klein expanded his offerings to include women's sportswear. Working in a neutral palette that Barbara Lippert of Adweek once described as "modern, subdued, [and] monochromatic," he introduced a signature line of separates such as sweaters, skirts, dresses, shirts, and pants that could be intermixed for a complete day and evening wardrobe. "I felt that the American lifestyle had changed," Klein explained. "For the most part, women today spend their time and energy working, in addition to participating in all aspects of home and community. Their lives have changed and there is little time for wardrobe planning." His clothes were perfectly suited for women who wanted the look of an outfit with the versatility of separates.

In the late 1970s, Klein was known as a young, wealthy, handsome, and talented designer who often appeared in his own advertisements. Sales of his blue jeans began to slow down, however, until he unveiled a controversial new advertising campaign. The advertisements, which first ran in 1980, featured teenage model Brooke Shields delivering the tag line, "Nothing comes between me and my Calvins." Though many were offended by Klein's use of an adolescent model in a sexually suggestive advertisement, the campaign was highly effective and sales of Calvin jeans nearly doubled.

With the success of the 1970s, Klein's brand appeal led to a host of licensing agreements for such lines as menswear, accessories, lingerie, hosiery, and eyewear. He subsequently expanded into fragrances, including such scents as Obsession, Eternity, Escape, CK One, and CK Be. Of these, his unisex fragrance CK One has been particularly successful. He was successful in transforming men's underwear into a fashion statement. Using now famous actors Antonio Sabato, Jr. and Mark Wahlberg as models, Calvin Klein underwear, introduced in 1982, became a sign of masculine sexuality. Klein also developed a line of housewares.

In the early 1990s, Calvin Klein sold his company's underwear and jeans divisions to reduce debt. Since that time, the firm has prospered and expanded into global markets. Klein is known for his marketing talents and has hired such famous photographers as Richard Avedon, Diane Arbus, Bruce Weber, and Irving Penn for his photography shoots and television commercials.

Calvin Klein has enjoyed acclaim throughout his career. As early as 1973, Klein was chosen by 400 fashion reporters as winner of the Coty American Fashion Critics Award. The citation commented on Klein's "innate but nonconformist sense of classic line . . . and his unique understanding of today's blend of casualness, luxury, and moderate price." Klein went on to win two more Coty awards in 1974 and 1975, and on June 25, 1975, he was elected to the American Hall of Fame of Fashion. Professional honors continued in the 1980s when Klein won Council of Fashion Designers of America (CDFA) awards in 1982, 1983, and 1986. In 1994 the CDFA presented Klein with unprecedented dual awards for both men's wear and women's wear. In 1996 he was named one of Time magazine's 25 most influential Americans.

Even with numerous awards and enormous commercial success, Klein found himself at the center of controversy again in the mid–1990s. A Klein advertising campaign featuring young, nonprofessional models in intimate poses drew condemnation in 1995. After critics likened these images to child pornography, Klein eventually withdrew the advertisements.

By the end of the 1990s, Klein was at the helm of a thriving global enterprise. His various lines held worldwide appeal, and Klein boutiques provided retail presence in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. In 1999 he opened his first freestanding jeans store in Kent, England, and planned additional boutiques in France, Italy, Spain, and Saudi Arabia. By 1999 almost 38 percent of his $5 billion in total annual retail sales came from markets outside the United States—a figure Klein hoped to increase to 45 percent by 2001. As Klein told Lisa Lockwood in Women's Wear Daily, "Global expansion is a strategy that will take us beyond 2000 to accomplish what we've set out to do."

In 1999 Klein announced that he and Schwartz, still his business partner, were looking for a buyer for their company—a move that analysts believed was consistent with Klein's wish to further expand his product lines and global markets. Calvin Klein, Inc. is a private company, with sole ownership in the hands of Klein and Schwartz. In 2000 the company had $170 million in sales but pulled in a total of almost $5 billion through licensing agreements between manufacturers of jeans, underwear, and fragrances and its 40 retail stores worldwide.

Social and Economic Impact

Calvin Klein almost single–handedly elevated the status of the United States in the world of fashion design. He brought simplicity, elegance, and luxury to clothing at a time in the early 1970s when gaudy economy was the trend. He used natural fibers like cotton and wool in place of the popular and less expensive synthetics of the day such as polyester and rayon. Klein also rejected the wild use of color so prevalent at that time; he favored neutral earth tones.

In terms of fashion design, Klein's greatest innovation could be the look referred to as "casual chic." This style relied on the use of separates that could be mixed and matched to create a variety of outfits. Klein gave these casual clothes the same fine attention to detail that had been previously reserved for formal couture. He told Lockwood in Women's Wear Daily, "I've always had a clear design philosophy and point of view about being modern, sophisticated, sexy, clean, and minimal. They all apply to my design aesthetic."

Klein has also been an innovator as a marketer of fashion. His costly and controversial advertising campaigns have, throughout his career, thrust the fashion world into popular culture. The resulting publicity has undoubtedly helped Klein expand his empire from clothing to fragrances and housewares. In the process, he has changed the way fashion is marketed industry–wide. In 1994 he told Bridget Foley of Women's Wear Daily, "If people set out to be controversial, they'll never make it. But if something is really good, interesting, and thought–provoking, you get into risk–taking and pushing boundaries and questioning values, and it can be, in the end, controversial. We need newness and excitement in fashion. That's what it's about—that's what puts the fun in clothes." He is known to be the designer of choice for such stars as Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow, Sandra Bullock, and Helen Hunt and has influenced the work of other well–known designers, including most notably Donna Karan and Miuccia Prada.

Chronology: Calvin Klein

1942: Born.

1962: Graduated from Fashion Institute of Technology.

1968: Established Calvin Klein Ltd.

1972: Introduced sportswear line.

1973: Won first Coty award.

1975: Inducted into the American Hall of Fame of Fashion.

1994: Received dual CFDA awards for women's wear and men's wear.

1996: Named one of Time magazine's 25 most influential Americans.

1999: Chosen as one of Fashion Center Business Improvement District's first Fashion Walk of Fame honorees.

2001: Received a lifetime achievement award at the American Fashion Awards.

In addition to his significant influence on fashion and marketing, Klein has supported several philanthropic causes, including the Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) and various AIDS charities.

Sources of Information

Contact at: Calvin Klein, Inc.
205 W. 39th St.
New York, NY 10018
Business Phone: (212)719–2600

Bibliography

"Calvin Klein: Biography." AskMen.com, 2001. Available at http://www.askmen.com.

"Calvin Klein, Inc." Hoover's Online, 2001. Available at http://www.hoovers.com.

Edgecliffe–Johnson, Andrew. "Calvin Klein Invites Bids for Company." Financial Times, 7 October 1999.

Foley, Bridget. "Back on Top." Women's Wear Daily, 4 February 1994.

Friedman, Arthur. "Fashion's Famous: Bill, Ralph, Calvin." Women's Wear Daily, 28 October 1999.

Ingrassia, Michelle. "Calvin's World." Newsweek, 11 September 1995.

Jacobs, Laura. "Pret–a–Poor Taste." New Republic, 2 January 1995.

Kaplan, James. "The Triumph of Calvinism." New York, 18 September 1995.

Lippert, Barbara. "Calvin Between the Covers." Adweek, 9 May 1994.

Lockwood, Lisa. "Calvin's Credo.' Women's Wear Daily, 22 July 1997.

Ozzard, Janet. "CK Jeans Rides Again: Global Push Planned to Cap the Comeback," Women's Wear Daily, 30 May 1996.

Prud'homme, Alex. "What's It All About, Calvin?" Time, 23 September 1991.

Raper, Sarah. "Calvin's Designs on Europe." Women's Wear Daily, 22 February 1999.

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Klein, Calvin

KLEIN, CALVIN

Calvin Klein was born in the Bronx, New York, on 19 November 1942. He attended the High School of Industrial Arts and the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, where he studied fashion design.

Klein's first major position in the fashion industry was with Dan Millstein, a Seventh Avenue coat and suit manufacturer. He worked there from 1962 to 1964, starting as a pattern cutter and advancing to a full-fledged designer.


Klein's second position was with Halldon, Ltd., where he began to be recognized in the press for his designs.

Klein soon became frustrated by the design restrictions of moderate-priced fashion manufacturers. Encouraged by his parents and financed by his boyhood friend Barry Schwartz, Klein developed a collection of coats and suits under his own label.

Klein's first line was discovered by a buyer from Bonwit Teller, who was so impressed by the collection of finely tailored coats in fresh colors that he sent Klein to meet with Mildred Custin, then president of Bonwit Teller. Custin placed a large order with Klein, giving a jumpstart to the newly formed Calvin Klein Limited.

Early on, the savvy Klein developed relationships with fashion insiders, including the designer Chester Weinberg and Vogue fashion editor Nicolas de Gunzburg. The publicity agent Eleanor Lambert took Klein on as a client and was instrumental in guiding his early career. Klein's first Vogue cover was in September 1969, with his classically cut outerwear featured prominently in the New York fall preview editorial inside. Throughout the 1970s, Klein's designs were noted for their sportswear influence, muted pastel color palettes, and simplicity of design. Looks that are considered classic Klein were introduced at this time: the pea coat, the trench coat, the shirtdress, and the wrap blouse. Klein was also an early advocate of all-occasion or "day into night" dressing, with evening pajamas being his preferred form of formal wear.

As the decade wore on, Klein eased up his tailoring for a relaxed, sexy look. Klein also began to incorporate looks from active sportswear into his collection—swimwear and tennis outfits that could be used off the beaches and tennis courts by pairing them with wrap skirts or pants. Corduroy cargo pants, flannel shirts, and elegant fur-trimmed parkas were shown on Klein's 1970s fall runways. For all his innovations, Calvin Klein won his first Coty American Fashion Critic's Winnie Award—as the youngest recipient ever—in 1973. He won again in 1974, and in 1975 he was inducted into the Coty Hall of Fame. In 1978 Klein began designing a menswear collection that was licensed to Maurice Biderman.

The most groundbreaking piece of sportswear Klein showed on the runway first appeared in spring 1976: a slim-cut pair of jeans with his name embroidered on the back pocket. Although the idea of logo-emblazoned jeans was not brand-new, this was the first time that jeans had shown up on a designer runway. By 1978, with Puritan Fashions as manufacturer, Klein was selling 2 million pairs of jeans per month. The phenomenal success that Klein had with his jeans line was due in no small way to a brilliant and controversial advertising campaign starring a young Brooke Shields.

The 1980s

Klein's designs, even in the excessive 1980s, continued to evoke a minimalist aesthetic, with a relatively restrained use of embellishment and color. The core of the collection was, as always, made up of timeless pieces in good fabrics. The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CDFA) recognized Klein when he won designer of the year awards in 1982 and 1983 for his women's collection. Klein won a CFDA award in 1986 for both his men's and women's collections, the first time a designer had won both awards in the same year.

"I didn't think I was doing anything different from what Voguedid when it used Brooke as a model…. Vogue put $3,000 dresses on her, but it wasn't expecting to sell those dresses to 15-year-olds. It was using her as a model and I was using her as an actress" (Quoted in Plaskin, p. 4).

With the Brooke Shields ads, Calvin Klein forever changed television commercials. Klein spent an unprecedented $5 million on marketing that year. Feminists were enraged by the jeans ads and felt that, rather than sales, the commercials—with slogans such as "You know what comes between me and my Calvin's? Nothing"—would provoke violence against women (Plaskin, p. 62).

In 1982 Calvin Klein launched a men's underwear line. The collection revolved around a standard men's brief, with Klein's name stamped on the waistband. Bold black-and-white photography on the packaging and an advertising campaign featuring celebrity models Antonio Sabato Jr. and Marky Mark in suggestive poses helped make the product appealing to both straight and gay men. The underwear line became a phenomenon when Klein took the same briefs and modified and marketed them for women. Warnaco purchased the underwear division in 1994.

By 1983 Calvin Klein, whose eponymous fragrance had produced a lukewarm reception four years earlier, was ready to give perfume another try. The result was Obsession and, again, with brilliant advertising—television ads directed by Richard Avedon and print ads shot by Bruce Weber—Obsession was a success. In 1986 Klein married Kelly Rector, one of his design assistants. The marriage, as well as the mid-1980s "return to family values" mood, inspired the designer's next fragrance, Eternity. A shared-gender fragrance, cK One, was launched in 1994.

The 1990s

In the 1990s Calvin Klein's worldwide expansion into Asia, Europe, and the Middle East markets brought his name international consumer recognition. The decade also saw Klein revamp the jeans/sport division of the company, creating the cK collection, made to appeal to a younger, hipper customer. Klein had been farsighted enough to realize the importance of archiving his work, so a constant recall of his roots was readily available. The cK line, largely inspired by these vintage collection pieces, was recognized by the CFDA with an award in 1993.

Klein surrounds himself with people who share his aesthetic, and he is known in the fashion world for his intensely collaborative relationships with those who work with him. Most noteworthy is Zack Carr, who was Klein's creative doppelgänger for almost thirty years. Jeffrey Banks, Isaac Mizrahi, and Narciso Rodriguez are also no-table Calvin Klein alums.

The twenty-first century began with litigation between Klein and Warnaco over underwear and jeans distribution. The case was eventually settled out of court. Klein and his partner Barry Schwartz sold Calvin Klein, Inc., to Phillips–Van Heusen in December 2002. Since that time Klein has stepped down as creative head of the company that bears his name and has assumed a consultant role.

The name Calvin Klein represents so many different things—controversial advertising campaigns, the leading name in the designer-jeans phenomenon, stylish boyish underwear for women, and brilliant and ruthless business practices. So much of what Klein designed has become fundamentally what Americans wear that his clothing can rightly be called an American uniform.


See alsoAvedon, Richard; Brands and Labels; Vogue .

bibliography

Carr, George. Zack Carr. New York: Power House Books, 2002.

Gaines, Steven, and Sharon Churcher. Obsession: The Lives and Times of Calvin Klein. New York: Carol Publishing Group, 1994.

Horyn, Cathy. "The Calvinist Ethic." New York Times Magazine, 14 September 2003, 64–69.

Marsh, Lisa. House of Klein: Fashion, Controversy, and a Business Obsession. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley and Sons, 2003.

Plaskin, Glenn. "Calvin Klein: The Playboy Interview." Playboy, May 1984.

Reed, Julia. "Calvin's Clean Sweep." Vogue, August 1994, 236–241.

Gretchen Fenston and

Beth Dincuff Charleston

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Klein, Calvin

KLEIN, Calvin

(b. 19 November 1942 in New York City), legendary fashion designer who, in the later 1960s, pioneered casual chic in sportswear with high-quality natural fibers, slim silhouettes, and neutral or earthen colors.

Klein was the second of three children of Leo, a grocer, and Flo (Stern) Klein, a supermarket cashier. The family lived along the Mosholu Parkway section of the Bronx in New York City, a neighborhood populated by garment workers or proprietors of small local shops. His maternal grandmother, Molly Stern, was a seamstress for the dress designer Hattie Carnegie, and his mother was a fashion-conscious clotheshorse who often took her son to a local Loehmann's, where she bought designer labels at discount prices. At Loehmann's, Klein would closely examine the garments to see how they were constructed. From early childhood he sketched, often comic-book characters or women in fancy gowns. For one early birthday, his grandmother Molly gave Klein a sewing machine, and he designed and sewed an entire wardrobe for the dolls of his younger sister and her friends.

From kindergarten through ninth grade, Klein attended Public School 80, where he excelled in art and always carried a sketchbook. His mother always made sure that the young Klein was impeccably groomed and dressed. He was the neighborhood trendsetter, even in kindergarten, where he wore light-colored shirts with a bow tie. By age twelve he was taking life drawing and sketching lessons on weekends at the Art Students League in Manhattan.

Klein then attended the High School of Industrial Arts in Manhattan. It specialized in various trades, and Klein majored in fashion illustration. Among his classmates there were the fashion illustrator Antonio and the poet-photographer Gerard Malanga. After graduating in 1960 Klein took a summer job at a Bronx amusement park and then entered the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). After studying for one year at FIT, Klein was discouraged with his talents and became a copyboy in the art department of Women's Wear Daily, the bible of the fashion industry. For six months he tried to become an illustrator for the publication, but no one there was interested in his sketches. He did learn, though, about fashion as an industry.

Klein reentered FIT, where his acquired tastes for his later career were formed. His passion for expensive fabrics tended toward natural yarns of cotton and silk. "I hate polyester!" he would often tell later interviewers. Also, his preference for assignments emphasized his later trademark muted shades of browns and beiges. After his graduation from FIT in 1962 and several odd jobs in New York City's fashion district, Klein became a sketcher and then a design apprentice for Dan Millstein, whose plush showroom building is now occupied by Calvin Klein, Inc. He learned the nuts and bolts of manufacturing garments, including quality control and rapport with buyers. Millstein introduced Klein to haute couture by taking him to Europe to view the Paris collections. In 1964 Klein married Jayne Center, and they had a daughter (who was briefly kidnapped for ransom in 1978).

In 1965 Klein began work at Louis Shlansky's Halldon Ltd., a fake-fur coat manufacturer. Klein designed moderately priced coats in tweeds, gabardine, and wool twills. Klein's design room was right off Shlansky's showroom, and he was introduced to all the merchandise buyers. Klein's work began appearing in industrial publications, including the influential Tobe Report, which in 1967 noted that Klein was "one of the more aggressive and imaginative young coat and suit designers." That year Klein began to formulate samples for his own line of women's garments. Klein has always been primarily an idea man. Until then, he had little actual practice in constructing and tailoring clothes, but he learned the tricks of those trades over weekends for several months from Shansky's pattern maker, Abe Morenstein. Also that year he was offered a position with the sportswear firm of Bobbie Brooks.

Klein was advised against the move by Barry Schwartz. Schwartz and Klein had been inseparable best friends since they were five years old and dreamed of getting rich together. While Klein attended FIT, Schwartz studied business at New York University and then worked in his family's supermarket business. In 1968 Schwartz persuaded Klein to become partners with him in what was initially called Calvin Klein Ltd. The company operated first out of a small suite of a Seventh Avenue hotel and then bought out Millstein and moved into his building at 205 West Thirty-ninth Street.

During the late 1960s American fashion as fashion was at a low ebb. The fads then were dressing down, hippie style, or the "mod" look of miniskirt and plastic boots. Klein wanted a classic look in which garments would have muted pastel shades and crisp, precise lines and silhouettes. In 1969, while still located at his hotel suite, Klein had few orders. By sheer luck, the vice president of the chic department store Bonwit Teller, Donald O'Brien, happened to see a rack of Klein's garments near the hotel's elevator. That chance occurrence led Klein to show his garments to Mildred Custin, the president of Bonwit. That encounter became legendary in fashion history. Not only did she offer Klein his first substantial order of $50,000 retail, but she also agreed to give him $10 more per garment if they were of the same high quality as the samples. Custin wanted his clothes exclusively, but Klein was able to convince her that other stores also were interested. Shortly after Bonwit's order, a scout for the buying service William Van Buren and a buyer for the chic Washington, D.C., chain Garfinckel's also placed orders. Klein's career was launched.

By the end of Klein's first year in business, his shipping orders exceeded a million dollars. Until 1972 he designed two-piece suits and coats; that year he began sportswear that translated Parisian couture into trimmer proportions more appropriate for American women. He began licensing deals in 1974. That year he and his wife divorced. He married Kelly Rector on 26 September 1986. In 1978 Klein began his menswear collections. Since the late 1960s Klein's garments have pioneered casual chic at a time when American high fashion was in a slump brought about by younger women wearing informal clothes. His clothes, first for women and then for men, became known for high-quality natural fibers, elegant and trim lines, and subdued earth tones or neutral colors. "I design for the new look," Klein once commented, "but with an everlasting feeling."

A biography of Klein is Steven Gaines and Sharon Churcher, Obsession: The Lives and Times of Calvin Klein (1994). See also John Fairchild, Chic Savages (1989), and Barbaralee Diamonstein, Fashion: The Inside Story (1985).

Patrick S. Smith

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