A pioneer of designer jeans, underwear and the wholesome, all-American look, Calvin Klein is one of the fashion world’s biggest names – and brands. Born in 1942, Calvin Klein taught himself how to sketch and sew as a boy. He went on to win a place at New York’s High School of Art and Design and the Fashion Institute of Technology and finally launched his own label, in partnership with childhood friend Barry Schwartz, in 1968.
Dubbed ‘Calvin the Conqueror’ by WWD and listed as one of America’s 25 most influential people by Time, Klein has helped shape the casualwear industry and played a key role in modern advertising. He caused a storm of controversy when he had Richard Avedon photograph a pubescent Brooke Shields for his 1979 jeans campaign under the slogan, “You know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.” British waif Kate Moss was to follow, helping to launch his unisex perfume cK one, one of nine Klein perfume lines.
In October 1999, Klein shocked the fashion world once again, when he announced that he was considering selling his fashion house. He was, he said, looking to develop his company “through sale, merger or strategic alliance”. Seven months later, after reported talks with Tommy Hilfiger and others came to nothing, Klein confirmed that he had taken his $1 billion fashion house off the market.
The recipient of many industry awards, including the title of America’s Best Designer of 1993, Klein is also on numerous committees, including the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Now divorced from socialite and photographer Kelly Klein, he has one daughter, Marci. He presents his collections in New York.