Calvin Klein are best known for their jeans. Or is the underwear. Perhaps it’s their Justin Bieber campaigns. We think it’s time to brush up on our history of Calvin Klein.
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The fashion label was started in 1968 with just $10,000, by Bronx born designer Calvin Klein, and today the brand boasts the estimated annual revenue of $2,858 million. The label started small and originally only sold women’s coats and basic dresses in a New York department store called Bonwit Teller, but within just a year of starting a Klein dress was featured on the cover of Vogue and the fashion world decided that Calvin Klein was the next big thing.
The label moved quickly, eager to capitalise on demand, and expanding its range from coats and dresses to a full 74 piece womenswear collection, a move which led founder Klein to win the Coty American Fashion Critics' Award for three consecutive years. Then the jeans happened.
Dominating the 80’s
You wanna know what comes between me and my Calvin's? Nothing.
Rewind back to the year 1980 and a 15 year old Brooke Shields muttered those immortal words in the first commercials for the label’s new line of jeans. The style was tight, simple, and very popular. In the first week alone Calvin Klein sold 200,000 pairs, a phenomenon which secured their legacy as the creators of the first designer jeans.
It wasn’t just their denim that turned heads. Their provocative commercial grabbed headlines and sensual advertising became seen as their signature style. It was a risky move, and many refused to show their racy adverts, but it proved to be a recipe for success both for their clothes and the young models featured in them. The now famous actor Mark Wahlberg shot to fame after being featured on a Calvin Klein billboard and Kate Moss received an early career boost after the label starred her in their campaigns.
Continuing their reign as the fashion forward label, Klein introduced their men’s underwear range in 1982. In today’s fashion climate this may not sound exciting or shocking, but it was a revolutionary move as they became the first brand to market underwear as being desirable and part of a lifestyle, rather than just a functional necessity. The underwear featured the brand name across the band, a look which still proves popular today with men and women alike eager to own the branded briefs.
I hated suits until I wore a Calvin Klein; they just fit me. – Kid Cudi
In the 80’s Calvin Klein clothes were seen as quintessentially cool and all the celebrities were desperate to be spotted wearing them. Fast forward over three decades later and nothing has changed. Red carpets the world over, including the Grammys and Golden Globes, are still brimming with CK designs tailored flawlessly to the next generation of celebrity bodies.
The relationship between Calvin Klein and big names is in fact the strongest it’s ever been, with famous faces now playing a central role in their advertising campaigns. In 2014 you may have seen their #mycalvins in which they reached out to models, singers and bloggers and encouraged them to tweet an image of themselves wearing the branded underwear.
The social media campaign saw more than 100 celebrities in 15 countries take part, reaching a huge 250 million fans. It was a roaring success but this was just the beginning, with 2015 seeing Justin Bieber send the internet, and teenage girls everywhere, into melt down by standing in nothing but CK underwear in their latest series of adverts.
Calvin Klein Today
Calvin Klein have not only stayed relevant and desirable since their start in the 60’s, but they have truly earned the right to be called a brand by offering customers menswear, womenswear, fragrances, shoes, and accessories both online and in stores. They have also recognised that they have fans in more than just celebrities, which is why they have created affordable items that are also accessible, such as their t-shirts.