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Calvin Klein – Calvin Klein’s Success Story
Born on November 19, 1942, Klein was taught by his mother to love fashion. He often accompanied her when she went shopping in New York for affordable clothes. He knew from an early age that he wanted to be a fashion designer and learned to draw and sew.
Before he was twenty, he graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. He married Jayne Center and began working as an apprentice sketching European coat designs for his employer Dan Millstein to copy. However, Klein scorned the idea that it was normative American practice to imitate European fashion and was eager to start his own company. He believed that original fashion ideas could come from the States, and he was just the innovator to make it happen. But the realization of his dream seemed far away as he had financial problems and worked part-time in his father’s grocery store to earn some extra money.
Starting a business
Calvin Klein Ltd. was founded in 1968. Klein took a $10,000 loan from a friend and used $2,000 of his own money to get it off the ground. Instead of looking for success, he stumbled upon it. His first order came from a coat buyer for the department store Bonwit Teller, who got off the elevator on the wrong floor and saw Klein’s work. The buyer was impressed and ordered $50,000 worth of coats. Additionally, an editorial was written in Vogue praising Klein’s designs. Klein’s reputation was quickly established.
Five years after founding Calvin Klein Ltd., Klein moved beyond just designing coats to offer women a less expensive alternative to flashy European fashion with sportswear identified as “The Calvin Klein Look.” Men were also attracted to Klein’s comfortable outfits and masculine designs.
He was honored with Coty awards by the fashion press in 1973, 1974 and 1975 for his achievements, and his fortune grew as the public continued to buy his muted clothes. But success troubled his home life, and Klein and Center divorced in 1974. Klein embarked on a period of partying and irresponsibility. Now a prominent public figure, Klein could be found nightly at Studio 54, but his carefree days came to a halt in 1978 when his daughter Marci was kidnapped. Marci returned home safely, but the incident scared Klein so much that he turned away from the publicity he had once so doggedly sought.
Building an Empire
It was through an exciting ad campaign in 1980 featuring a 15-year-old Brook Shields in tight jeans and the line “Nothing comes between me and my Calvins” that pushed Calvin Klein Ltd. forward again. This now widely imitated, sexually motivated form of advertising was immediately condemned by feminists as pornographic. Through this experience, however, Klein learned that there is no such thing as bad press; an astonishing 200,000 pairs of the close-fitting Calvins were sold in the first week. In 1982, Klein was sued over an advertising campaign in which men wore nothing but briefs emblazoned with the name Calvin Klein. Although some magazines refused to print the ads, the underwear sold incredibly well.
Due to the advent of AIDS and the effect it had on the promiscuity of the 1970s, the demand for sexy, body-hugging jeans declined. The debt Klein had accumulated by 1984 nearly brought down his fashion empire. Using $80 million in junior bonds, Klein refinanced the debt, leaving his company at great risk.
Klein remarried in 1986. However, addicted to vodka and valium around this time, Klein was admitted to a rehabilitation center in the Caribbean. By the time he got out, he was facing bankruptcy, but David Geffen, a friend from Klein’s Studio 54 party days, helped him out financially and gave him a chance to start over.
Saved from destruction, Klein immediately went to work churning out various products. CK’s brand of more affordable designer clothing and, like Richard Branson, the licensing of the Calvin Klein name for sunglasses and other fashion accessories propelled the fledgling Klein back to the top.
Controversy surrounding one of Klein’s advertising campaigns in 1995 again prompted the FBI and the Department of Justice to investigate Klein for violating child pornography laws. Klein halted the campaign and eventually the Justice Department ruled in his favor.
With CK perfume and his CK jeans back to success and the money rolling in again, Klein is undoubtedly the picture of a survivor who could have self-destructed, but through a lot of good ideas combined with good luck and diligence, he became one. from the world’s leading fashion designers.
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