Calvin Klein was educated at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York from 1959-62. He then acted as assistant to Dan Millstein for two years, before becoming an independent designer. He also spent a number of years designing clothing for other New York stores.
Calvin Klein married Jayne Centre in 1964 and the pair had one daughter.
In 1968, Calvin Klein set up his own business, Calvin Klein Inc., with a friend Barry Schwartz. Barry dealt with the business side of the venture, while Calvin designed. Initially, the company was started to design and sell women’s coats, but a substantial order from a Bonwit Teiler soon led to recognition for Klein in the fashion world. The company was established with just $10,000.
He added a sportswear collection to his coat designs, and by the 1970s his clothes were increasingly popular, including a full women’s ready-to-wear collection.
In 1970, Calvin Klein was presented with the COTY award and was honoured with the prize for the next three consecutive years. By 1977, less than ten years after the brand was established, Calvin Klein Inc. was generating revenues of $30 million a year.
During the 1970s, Calvin Klein is said to have instigated a revolution in advertising when he launched his jeans range – the original designer jeans. This new range was advertised as wholesome, sexy and practical, using the model Brooke Shields.
1982 saw the introduction of Klein’s men’s underwear range, which was also revolutionary, in that this was the first time that men’s underwear had been marketed as being desirable, rather than merely functional.
Klein married Kelly Rector in 1986. However, the pair divorced ten years later. He is currently dating the young male model Nick Gruber.
The 1970s and 1980s also witnessed the launches of several fragrances from Klein, including ‘Obsession’, ‘Eternity’, and ‘Escape’.
During the 1980s he was included on the International Best Dressed List and scooped several awards from the Councils of Fashion Designs of America.
In 1993, Calvin Klein broke the mould again, when he introduced his unisex scent, ‘cK One’.
In that same year, Calvin Klein won the Council of Fashion Designer of the Year Award, for outstanding design in both women’s and men’s wear; he was the first designer to win both categories in the same year.
In 2002, the brand was sold to the Philips Van Heusen Corporation, with Klein remaining as the company’s creative chief.
Today, Calvin Klein Inc. is an international business, with separate divisions for Europe, Asia, and Japan. There are also three lines within the Calvin Klein empire: The Calvin Klein Collection (men, women, and home); cK for men and for women; and cK jeans, providing for men, women, and kids.
Klein’s simple, elegant designs are worn by many celebrities, including Gwyneth Paltrow, Sandra Bullock, and Julia Roberts.
As well as fashion, Klein is interested in politics and has donated a considerable amount of money to Democratic Party candidates over the last three decades.