Calvin Klein's Fashion Evolution
Slim-line jackets, perfect coats, seamless bodysuits and liquid silk sheath dresses in neutrals and muted tones; welcome to the minimalist world of Calvin Klein. Sumptuously crafted classics – a creaseless white shirt, the most flattering pants, a nippy bomber jacket or shirtdress to throw on in a rush aren’t just for the office – people really live in these clothes every day of the year.
Of course, the ready to wear collections presented at New York fashion week are only the tip of the Calvin Klein empire iceberg. Jeans, underwear and fragrance make up the holy trinity of a business so lucrative that Klein and his business partner Barry Schwartz were able to sell the company for $700 million in 2003. Easy as it might be for fashion critics to point this out, the global brand as it stands wouldn’t exist at all were it not for Calvin Klein’s flair for design and his single-minded vision. Stories of Calvin’s perfectionism from his employees were legion. Everyone who worked for him had to wear Calvin Klein clothes all the time - and even the paper clips had to be regulation colour.
Although his range of jeans were well-cut and of good quality, it was his provocative ads, shot by photographer Bruce Weber and starring such doe-eyed ingénues as Brooke Shields or Kate Moss in a clinch with a muscle-bound Mark Walberg that created such hysterical demand. Black and white and powerfully sexual, they sparked a furore, but set the brand's identity in stone. Traditionally, during the ‘80s and ‘90s, when new Calvin Klein products were launched, like the fragrance cK1, there would be riot-like episodes of Beatlemania proportions at department stores with displays getting smashed as fans clamoured to get their hands on the merchandise.
Calvin Klein grew up in a typical Jewish neighbourhood in New York. He studied fashion design at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in New York before designing for various brands in the garment district. His first collection was financed by his school friend Schwartz and secured such huge orders he was able to launch the business seriously and began his astonishing upward trajectory from there.
Since Klein’s retirement from the design studio in 2003, the collections have been put together by Brazilian-born Francisco Costa, Klein’s former second-in-command. Although praise for his initial collections was tempered for being too derivative of former minimalist patterns, over the seasons he has branched out into a slightly more architectural look and imprinted his own style on the all-American mega brand.