Where They Were Then: Calvin Klein
How would you describe Calvin Klein? Classic? Iconic? Brilliant? All the above? Yah, he’s kind of a big deal. Not only is he responsible for over 50 fragrances, but he’s also the guy who brought designer denim to the masses, long before the Sevens vs. Citizens debate took hold. Below, the scoop on his rise to the top. —callia hargrove
1942 – Calvin Klein is born on November 19 in the Bronx, and, as an elementary student at P.S. 80, takes it upon himself to seek out special art classes.
1958 - Klein spends lots of time hangin’ with his grandmother—a seamstress who once worked with the pioneering American sportswear designer Hattie Carnegie—and his equally fashion-obsessed mom. After graduating from the High School of Art and Design, he decides those matriarchs are onto something. Get this kid to F.I.T.
1963 - Klein gets his apparel-design degree and heads off to work for Dan Millenstein, a super-well-known Seventh Avenue coat and suit manufacturer. Any downtime is spent working on his own designs—total start-up mode.
1968 - Calvin and his bestie Barry Schwartz team up to create the first Calvin Klein line, mostly outerwear. In the most amazing “accident” ever (we like to think it was kismet), a buyer from Bonwit Teller, the It department store at the time, gets off an elevator on the wrong floor—the one that houses Calvin’s workroom, duh. Impressed by what he sees, he places a $50,000 order, springing Klein into the fashion world overnight.
1970 - Enough with this outerwear. With encouragement from the press and Bonwit Teller, Klein adds ready-to-wear and couture gowns to the mix.
1973 - On the heels of his success, he wins his first COTY award—and then lands three more in as many years. Vogue says, “If you were around a hundred years from now, and wanted a definitive picture of the American look in 1975, you’d study Calvin Klein.” Um, whoa.
1978 - After a light-bulb moment at Studio 54—hey, it’s the late seventies—Calvin introduces the idea of designer denim, casting 15-year-old Brooke Sheilds to star in the ads. The campaign—”You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.”—stirs up plenty of controversy…and moves 200,000 pairs of jeans the first week they hit the market.
1981 - Deciding to make an empire of this thing, the designer intros his first scent Calvin. Like everything he touches, the fragrance becomes an instant hit.
1984 - Klein decides to conquer the undies market, too, and creates a pair of semi-androgynous briefs for women inspired by his assistant’s admittance that “there’s something sexy about wearing your boyfriend’s underwear.”
1990 - CK, a lower-priced line aimed at 20-somethings like his daughter Marci, hits. The ads embrace the grunge movement and feature PYTs like Kate Moss and Mark Wahlberg—well, Marky Mark. This was before we were meant to take him seriously.
1994 – Klein creates the world’s first unisex fragrance, CK One, which is so major that it ends up in the Fifi Fragrance Hall of Fame.
1995 - It’s time for a store! A Greek revival building on Madison Ave. will do, no?
1996 - Cher Horowitz brings down her father’s wrath when she bounces down the stairs in a white Calvin Klein slip dress that becomes so cultish that it’s rereleased 15 years later.
2003 - On the heels of an honorary doctorate from F.I.T, Klein sells his co. to Phillips-Van Heusen for, oh, over 400 million dollars. He vows to continue to head of creative.
2012 - Calvin is chosen as one of Time’s top 100 fashion icons of all time. As if you didn’t see that coming.
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