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Calvin Klein: How the Fashion Phenomenon Kept His Cool

Calvin Klein designer fashion facts

Calvin Klein on a balcony in Manhattan 23 September, 1977. Courtesy of Condé Nast Archives.

Calvin Klein may be a brand that is decidedly New York in spirit—its go-to styles include all hours denim apparel for zippy urbanites and slinky column dresses—but the fashion house has thrived for four decades due to its global appeal. To celebrate the namesake designer’s birthday (Klein turned 76 in mid November), Vogue Arabia indulges in some #FashionHistory101 to decode how the brand has kept the rolling generations keen on Calvin Klein.

Calvin Klein designer fashion facts

Model in Calvin Klein in the July issue, 1975 US Vogue. Courtesy of Condé Nast Archives.

In 1968, Calvin Klein spent US $10,000 to set up his store that sold understated coats in the York Hotel, New York. Within 12 months, he was featured in US Vogue, and expanded his collection to include blazers, dresses, lingerie, and sportswear. Over a decade later, Klein’s revenues had grown in excess of US $30 million; he was also credited as the key player in the ‘80s designer jeans craze. The fashion house alleged that it sold up to US $200,000 worth of jeans in its first week of sales circa ‘74. The “Calvins” branded underwear represented the next wave of major success for the fashion house, with pop singer Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg starring as the pin-up and menswear designer John Varvatos pioneering the “boxer brief” in 1992.

Calvin Klein designer fashion facts

Model wearing Calvin Klein in the September issue of US Vogue. Courtesy of Condé Nast Archives

The ‘92 famous billboard takeover in NYC starring Kate Moss wearing nothing but a pair of CK Jeans cemented Moss as one of the cutting edge original supers to watch. The campaign also served to boost the brand’s appeal as being one at the tip of the zeitgeist. Booking top models for bold shoots didn’t just sell clothes, it projected the image of the Calvin Klein lifestyle that revolved around in-built confidence and understated styling. Klein served as the pendulum swing from a decadent ‘80s era of high-octane threads and even bigger hair. His early ‘90s collection of long silk slip dresses hit refresh on the power dressing aesthetic.

Calvin Klein designer fashion facts

Calvin Klein Spring 2017. Indigital

Today sees millennial models such as Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid lead the Calvin Klein campaigns. Still at the zeitgeist, classic straight-leg CK Jeans, much like rival brand Levi’s, have dominated the denim market thanks to teen spirit associations from the ‘90s. Fall 2015 was a key campaign for the Calvin Klein brand globally, which saw the fashion house champion a roster of entertainment names (FKA Twigs, Justin Bieber, Kendall Jenner) under the slogan, “I… in #mycalvins.”). and swiftly increased its offering of Calvin Klein underwear.

As the current season collection communicates, coupled with the new wave of Gen Y bulk buying “Calvins” to wear underneath their Vetements threads, Calvin Klein may have had another birthday but the House will be forever young.

Do you prefer early Calvin Klein pieces or current day? Let us know via Twitter @VogueArabia.

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