Calvin Klein founded Calvin Klein Inc. with his friend and business partner Barry K. Schwartz, and it quickly grew into a multibillion-dollar company with one of the most profitable and renowned brands in the industry.
Klein’s desire of being a fashion designer began when he was still a youngster. His grandmother was a seamstress, and he loved seeing her work with materials and make lovely things.
Klein was born in the Bronx, New York, to a Jewish family in 1942. His father escaped Hungary during World War II, and his mother was born in America to European immigrants.
Klein’s mother supported his desire and pushed him to enroll at the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan after seeing his son was interested in his grandmother’s art.
Klein matriculated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York in 1962 and began his apprenticeship with Dan Millstein, a cloak-and-suit maker. He also worked in New York for a number of businesses and manufactures. However, he became dissatisfied with the concept of producing something he didn’t like, and he finally left. According to the designer, a specific event prompted him to contemplate creating his own company rather of working for others.
“I resigned when I saw a woman strolling down the street dressed in a yellow suit with a yellow fox collar and cuffs, a yellow hat, a yellow purse, and yellow shoes.” In a rare interview in 1984, Klein revealed, “I felt so ill to think that I had been a part of making that outfit possible.”
The narrative of how his little firm became a fashion empire is a bit of a coincidence. Klein’s little rented showroom was accidentally entered by a representative of the renowned department store Bonwit Teller one day. She must have missed the floor and wound up in Klein’s studio. When she saw his work, she placed a $50,000 order for his jackets.
Klein rose to prominence in the fashion business by building a famous brand that began with women’s jackets and accessories and eventually grew to include menswear, sportswear, jewelry, watches, fragrances, scarves, shoes, belts, sunglasses, lingerie, and just about everything else.
Klein has always had a simple aesthetic. “I was raised in a highly baroque household and have always admired simplicity and purity.” He told Huffington Post that “everything has to be pure, basic, and forceful.”
Klein rose to new heights in the fashion industry when he “reinvented” the jeans and gave customers a completely new experience with his tight-fitting denim. His advertisements, which many people thought were filthy, helped him gain even more popularity. One of ads, arguably the most famous, had Brooke Shields, then 15 years old, wearing the iconic jeans and stating, “Do you know what comes between me and my Calvins?” Nothing.”
In 2019, Calvin Klein told Cherwell, “You know, there were a lot of people who were insulted, but that wasn’t the objective.”
Another of his commercial campaigns, which debuted in 1979, sparked just as much debate as the previous one.
“We had someone shoot [then 23-year-old model Patti Hansen] on her hands and knees because she had this magnificent mane of hair,” says the photographer. People were quite irritated. That didn’t earn me many friends, but I believed in reaching out to people — especially when developing things that a large number of people can afford,” Klein told Huffington Post, adding, “We never did any of the creative because we thought it would generate controversy… We simply wanted to make something spectacular that will push the edge without being obscene.”
Klein has always been a well-liked character in the public eye. In the past, he was frequently seen attending a variety of events, but in recent years, he has been less visible in public and prefers to avoid the spotlight.
Klein, in fact, never divulged anything about his personal life, even at the height of his popularity.
He has one daughter, Marci Klein, who is an experienced producer best known for her work on NBC’s Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock, according to what we know about him.
Klein married his first wife, textile designer Jayne Centre, in 1964. After ten years of marriage, the couple divorced. He then married Kelly Rector in 1986, and they were married for 20 years. Back in the day, their wedding was a hot subject.
She remarked at the time, “I adore him.” “I like his work in every way. He’s just the finest person on the planet. I am his inspiration. I happen to be and appear to be quite American.
That makes it easier to blend in with his sense of design and style.”
In 2011, the well-known fashion designer revealed that he was dating model Nick Gruber.
“I met someone and fell in love,” Klein stated to Forbes. He’s a fantastic individual. And I’m seeing life in a whole new light, as viewed through the eyes of someone who hasn’t seen much of what I’ve seen.”
Klein, who is 79 years old, is currently seeing Kevin Baker after the pair split up in 2012. They first performed in front of an audience in 2016 at the American Ballet Theater’s Fall Gala.
Klein sold his business to Phillips Van Heusen Corp. in 2002. His net worth is estimated to be $700 million.