The History Of Calvin Klein

The History Of Calvin Klein

The brand, Calvin Klein, is known worldwide for their signature style of high-end simplicity. The designer must-have is most famous for their underwear lines and a collection of timeless fragrances such as Euphoria, Truth and Eternity.


Klein opened his first shop in New York City, 1968. He made a name for himself when a coat buyer mistakenly entered Klein’s shop and ordered $50,000 worth of coats for the department store, Bonwit Teller. He was then thrown into the limelight after one of his coats was featured on the cover of Vogue in 1969.

The fashion designer introduced the idea of accessible luxury to the global market with a line of jeans in the 1970s. His relaxed style instantly became known as the ‘Calvin Klein look’. By 1977, he had also released a collection of scarves, shoes, sportswear, belts, furs, cosmetics, sheets and sunglasses. His understated jeans were in hot commodity and sold over 200,000 pairs in the first week of their release. During the 1980s the brand expanded with a range of underwear that made over $600 million in 1984.

Similar brands suffered during the 1990s due to financial slumps. Despite this, Calvin Klein managed to survive by focussing on underwear and fragrances and he was titled ‘America’s Best Designer’ in 1993.

Early Calvin Klein Designer


Klein managed to keep his name in the press during the 1980s by releasing a string of steamy commercials featuring the likes of 15-year-old Brooke Shields. The star raised eyebrows as she vowed nothing would come between her and her Calvins, causing many to question the appropriateness of the advert. However, the controversy only helped publicise the now-infamous jeans. Years later, the brand’s advertisement has become just as iconic as their products by pushing boundaries and using celebrities such as Mark Wahlberg, Kate Moss, Justin Bieber and Kendall Jenner. In 2008 a racy commercial featuring the Hollywood bombshell, Eva Mendes, was so risqué it was even banned from US television.

Justin Bieber Calvin Klein


The classic brand first released their fragrances in the 70s and 80s but it wasn’t until the legendary scent, Obsession, was released in 1985 that the designer became recognised for his perfumes.  It was reported that he spent a staggering $13 million to promote the product, which was the most they had ever spent at the time but this only helped it become a huge success.

When discussing his thoughts behind the scent, Klein said: “I wanted something direct, sensuous, provocative, which represents the way I feel about women.”

Their following perfume, Eternity, was launched in 1988 and had the enormous budget of $18 million. However, it paid off as it became their most popular fragrance after bringing in a whopping $35 million by the end of its first year.

The label has since expanded these two fragrances with scents such as Obsession Night, Obsession for Men and Eternity Moment.

Kate Moss Calvin Klein


In 2002, Klein sold his company for $400 million to Phillips-Van Heusen (PVH), an American clothing company that owns a variety of brands such as Tommy Hilfiger. This freed the designer from production worries and he continued working with the business as creative lead until he eventually completely separated himself from the brand.

Klein now shares his passion for the industry and wisdom as a founder through talks at universities across the world. PVH revealed the brand made an astounding $9.1 billion in global retail sales through 2017, proving the label continues to thrive to this day.