Calvin Klein, the designer who brought ‘sexy’ to advertising and fashion

Calvin Klein, one of the most important designers of the 20th century, is known as the designer who internationalized sexy fashion and popularized the most controversial advertising campaigns. The creator was born in 1942 in the Bronx neighborhood of New York City, into a Hungarian immigrant family.

Since he was a child, Klein showed a great ability with the plastic arts and, more specifically, with drawing, since he did it with great talent without having had any training. In 1966 he began his design studies at the High School of Art and Design and enrolled at New York’s in 1962. He then spent a few years working with a coat manufacturer in his hometown, where he gained some experience in the fashion industry.

In 1968, Calvin Klein founded Calvin Klein Limited with his childhood friend Barry Schwartz, who lent him the money for the initial investment in the business. The New Yorker’s firm had a great acceptance, and soon was positioned at the height of big brands like Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. In the 1970s Klein gained great popularity for being the pioneer in betting on a line of designer jeans and reinventing the concept of underwear. However, it was not until 1980 that his brand experienced its definitive boom, thanks to an advertising campaign featuring the 15-year-old actress Brooke Shields, with the phrase: “You want to know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.”

This action caused a great stir and controversy among citizens and critics, as it was one of the first suggestive campaigns with sexual content of the time. During the following decade, the brand diversified and its famous line of unisex fragrances CK One was born, as well as Calvin Klein Platinum, Calvin Klein, Calvin Klein Jeans, Calvin Klein Underwear and Calvin Klein Home, among others.

In the 1990s, the American designer continued to triumph thanks to his sober and minimalist collections, free of all kinds of ornaments and decorations. His maxims were clear in everything he did: naturalness, elegance and sensuality. In 1993, Klein received the award for best male and female designer, and in 2001 he also received recognition from this institution for his long career. In 2003, when his company was already a giant in the international market, the designer decided to sell it to the American conglomerate PVH Corp.

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