US fashion designer, founder of Calvin Klein Inc., who became known for his simple clothing lines and perfume items. He founded the company in 1968, popularized designer jeans in the 1970s, and revolutionized fashion advertising in the 1980s.
In the 1970s Klein moved into leisurewear, and designed jeans with his logo on the back pocket, which achieved huge popularity, partly through the advertising campaign used to promote them. Facing bankruptcy in 1992, Klein was bailed out by Hollywood producer David Geffen. He turned the company around with a new clothing line called CK and a new perfume added to the Obsession and Eternity ranges. The company was acquired by the Phillips-Van Heusen Corporation in 2002.
Klein was born in the Bronx, New York. Largely influenced by his mother's interest in art and fashion, he started sketching designs for women's clothes as a child. After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1962, he worked as an apprentice for small New York fashion houses, designing clothes in his spare time. In 1968, he founded his own business with a $10,000 loan from his childhood friend, Barry Schwartz. His first break came after a chance meeting with a buyer from US department store Bonwit Teller, who gave him a $50,000 order for his coats as well as publicity in Vogue magazine.
In the 1970s he designed a range of leisurewear which became known as the ‘Calvin Klein Look’. He then revolutionized the blue jeans market by emblazoning his name on the back pocket of millions of pairs and promoting them through a legendary advertising campaign using the US actor Brooke Shields. His later advertisements, such as the 1982 commercials to promote men's designer underwear, provoked a great deal of controversy, and in 1995 Klein withdrew an advertising campaign for designer jeans following allegations that it violated child pornography laws, but did not face prosecution. Klein maintained a high social and business profile (his self-styled wild period, after his divorce) until his daughter was kidnapped (and released, unharmed) in 1978. He was later treated for drug and alcohol addiction.
Klein received the prestigious Coty Award for fashion three times from 1973 to 1975. In 1982, 1983, and 1986 he won the Council of Fashion Designers of America Award for outstanding design.