Born to Leo and Flore Klein on November 19, 1942 in Bronx, New York Calvin was named Calvin Richard Klein. Interested in fashion since childhood, he chose to spend his much time on sewing and drawing instead of enjoying other traditional boyhood activities. 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 designer samples. Calvin attended New York’s High School of Art and Design and graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1962.

After leaving school, Klein apprenticed for designer Dan Millstein in New York City’s celebrated garment district. In 1968, Klein and his childhood friend Barry Schwartz launched an apparel line of men and women’s coats in name of company called Calvin Klein Ltd., which later changed to Calvin Klein Inc. Their company soon got a substantial order from the buyer Bonwit Teller, which marked their success and beginning of their recognition in the fashion industry.

Klein expanded his offerings to include women’s sportswear and by 1970s, Klein’s sportswear line had expanded to include women’s apparel, and a whole ready-to-wear signature line of separates such as sweaters, skirts, dresses, shirts, and pants that could be intermixed for a complete day and evening wardrobe.

From classic, sharp designs available mostly in neutral tones, Klein revolutionized the fashion industry with a basic, minimalist style, much the same way as Ralph Lauren has become a staple in the fashion world. But it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s that Klein introduced a whole new concept of designer jeans at an affordable price. Teenage model Brooke Shields, clad in her tight Calvin Klein Jeans, made it known to the world that “nothing stood in the way of her and her Calvins.” And women worldwide proved that they agreed with young Brooke.

And Klein’s revolutionary skills didn’t stop there. In 1982, Klein introduced Calvin Klein Underwear, which turned the perception of men’s underwear to one of a fashionable item that suggested sex appeal.

Klein then moved to a fragrance line, with the introduction of popular fragrances such as Obsession, Eternity, Escape, and Contradiction since the late 1970s. Klein was also the first to release a line of unisex fragrances, Ck One, only underscoring his role as a pioneer. With suggestive advertising that linked sex and sexuality to scents, Klein used the power of advertising to make his fragrance line a phenomenal success and an everlasting brand.

Not only a fashion visionary, Klein has also become known as a marketing genius who changed advertising by continuously pushing the envelope a little further. His controversial ad campaigns started in the late ’80s with the Brooke Shields ad, to the waify Kate Moss modeling Ck One and his lingerie/innerwear line in the ’90s. Klein has become notorious for the nudity, blatant sexuality, and use of underage, prepubescent models in his ads, which have not hurt his success in the least.

Klein has received many accolades for his work and contribution to fashion. He won the Coty Award in 1973, 1974 and 1975 (making him the youngest designer to win these awards), and was awarded the Council of Fashion Designers of America Award for design in women and menswear in 1982, 1983, and 1986 (making history as the first designer to receive both awards in the same year), as well as the CDFA in 1993 for both women and menswear, and the America’s Best Designer of 1993 Award. A member of numerous committees, such as the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Klein is the designer of choice for celebrities such as Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow and Helen Hunt, and has influenced designers such as Miuccia Prada and Donna Karan.

Rightly known as “Calvin the Conqueror“, he is counted as one of Time’s 25 Most Influential People in America.

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. 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.


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.

Not to miss:

Presenting CalvinKlein Spring/Summer 2010 Women Collection