One of the most well-known American fashion brands that influenced youths through its racy advertisements was Calvin Klein. The 50-year-old brand specializes in ready-to-wear clothing, lifestyle accessories, jewelry, watches, perfumes, leather, and home furnishings. The company has a phenomenal market share of 56% in North America and 27% in Europe in the retail segment. In the haute couture and commercial lines, Calvin Klein has a monopoly.
Who is Calvin Klein?
Calvin Richard Klein, who was born in 1942 in New York, is a fashion designer known for menswear, womenswear, cosmetics, jewelry, perfumes, and bed linens. He is a Fashion Institute of Technology graduate and started his career in 1962 as an apprentice designer in a suit manufacturing company. In 1968, he founded the Calvin Klein Company, at a time when the American fashion industry was under depression with its hippie-style clothing.
Calvin started designing simple clothing’s and slowly focused more on sportswear. He was the first designer and the youngest to win the prestigious Coty awards consecutively for three years from 1973-1975. His philosophy of clothing was simple yet stylish. Though the Calvin Klein clothing was expensive, they were elegant, comfortable, and classy. This allowed his brand to strike a chord with fashion-conscious consumers, mainly the younger generation of women and men aged 15 and 40 years and who had high disposable income.
Interesting Calvin Klein facts
Though Calvin Klein was already famous for his successful fashion line, he made more headlines with his advertisements. Some of them raised eyebrows, such as actress Brook Shield’s scandalous blue jeans advertisements. His men’s underwear advertising by actor Mark Wahlberg and models Bruce Weber and Herb Ritts positioned men as sex objects. He also revived the career of actress Kate Moss after her cocaine allegation. His obsession with a fragrance made his ads campaigns controversial. In 1985, he launched a new perfume by Obsession with a whopping $17 million advertising campaign.
The Calvin Klein history
The company, which started in 1968, 25 years down the line, became an iconic American fashion brand. In 1996, Calvin Klein was named among the 25 top influential Americans. The company’s impact was due to its design and its marketing strategies using controversial advertisements. The company grew steadily in the seventies by adding blazers, lingerie’s, accessories, and jeans to the sportswear collections. The eighties saw a frenzy for the Calvin Klein designer Jeans Brand. This was the time when it clocked $8.50 million in 1981 alone. He also introduced boxer shorts for women and underwear for men who changed the American market for men’s underwear and clocked $70 million in a single year.
The spectacular growth continued, and Calvin Klein clothes were sold in 12000 stores in the USA alone and available in six other countries. The company suffered a setback in 1992 when it almost went bankrupt. However, it managed to survive and regain profitability by the late nineties through the success of the CK sportswear and underwear line and fragrance products.
Calvin Klein retail sales crossed $3 billion in 2002. During this time, most of the products were manufactured and sold by other companies under the CK brand as a part of licensed products. The founders sold their brand to Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation (PVH), known as the largest shirt manufacturers in the USA, in 2003. The deal was reportedly for $340 million along with future royalties up to $300 million. Earlier, in 1989, Calvin Klein sold his fragrance and cosmetics lines, which had the famous Eternity and Obsession perfumes, to Unilever.
As a part of the deal with PVH, Klein remained as creative director from 2003 in a 15-year contract though later, he maintained a low profile and published his semi-autobiographical book Calvin Klein in 2017.