November 19, 1942
Place of birth
The Bronx, New York
Klein grew up in the Bronx in a middle-class Jewish community; and after developing a fascination with drawing and fashion, he taught himself to draw and sew. He earned a place at New York’s High School of Art and Design and then studied clothing design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, where he met fellow student Jayne Centre. They married in 1964, two years after Klein graduated.
Klein set out to launch his own brand in 1968, in partnership with childhood friend Barry Schwartz. They commissioned a local seamstress to make some dresses and coats, and before long, a merchandise manager at upscale Bonwit Teller department store spotted the designs and ordered $50,000 in stock, which was soon prominently displayed in their coveted windows.
Word quickly spread about Klein and her elegant designs, which began appearing regularly in Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue. This initial success was accelerated by the introduction of his signature classic jeans, which he elevated to designer status by cutting them and branding his name on the back pocket. Aided by a controversial ad campaign featuring a young teenager Brooke Shields (“You know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing”), the jeans were an instant hit, selling more than 40,000 pairs each week.
In 1982, he decided to venture into the underwear market and launched a range of briefs and briefs that provided stylish undergarments for both men and women. Klein followed this up in the late 1980s with the launch of her new fragrances: Eternity and Obsession.
The label soon expanded further to include accessories, swimwear, hosiery, and eyewear, and a diffusion line, CK, was created in the early 1990s. To date, Calvin Klein Incorporated exceeds $6 billion in annual sales. .
Listed as one of America’s 25 Most Influential People by Time, Klein has helped shape the casual wear industry and played a key role in modern advertising. His ad campaigns have caused several firestorms of controversy, often featuring teenagers in sexually evocative poses.
Klein has received many industry awards, including the Council of Fashion Designers of America Award for outstanding design in both womenswear and menswear in 1982; the first designer to win both titles in the same year. His fans include celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Julia Roberts and Helen Hunt.
Now twice divorced, he has a daughter, Marci, from his first marriage.