I might be a little stupid, but I had no idea that Calvin Klein is actually the name of the fashion designer himself. But in my defense, the 79-year-old designer is surrounded by mystery – Calvin Klein talks through his clothes and keeps his privacy tight.
But over the years, some interesting information has been leaked, which helps paint the picture of the successful, multimillionaire, fashion-loving man.
The outspoken and controversial designer, who makes few public appearances nowadays, has been married twice. And did you know that Calvin has a famous, award-winning daughter?
Now, let’s dig deeper into this icon, and hopefully, you will learn some interesting facts and the truth about his staggering fortune…
Fled from World War II
Like most people, you are probably familiar with the Calvin Klein fashion brand.
But I willingly admit that I had no idea about the creator behind it and the fascinating story of how one of America’s top fashion designers managed to conquer the world in the 1980s.
Calvin Klein was born in 1942, to a Jewish family in the Bronx, New York.
Unfortunate events on the other side of the Atlantic led the family to the United States. World War II raged in Europe, and Calvin’s father fled his native Hungary to find refuge in New York. Calvin’s mother, Flore, was born in the United States as a child of immigrants from Europe.
But it was Calvin’s grandmother who came to influence him the most. As a young boy, he could sit for hours just watching her work with fabrics and clothes. His grandmother was a seamstress and Calvin developed his love for sewing early on in life.
Calvin, who grew up in the same neighborhood as Ralph Lauren, fell in love with fashion at age 5.
”I was the edgy one,” Calvin told Forbes. “I wanted to look like some tough guy, like James Dean, and Ralph looked like he was from some place, some other foreign country. I remember it distinctly.”
According to Calvin, he was very influenced by his surroundings and that’s where he started to fall in love with minimalism.
“I grew up in an environment that was very baroque, and always loved simplicity and purity. Everything had to be pure, minimal and strong,” Calvin told Huffington Post.
Today, Calvin Klein rarely gives interviews. But in 2017, he talked with Huffington Post about his childhood in the Bronx.
Calvin Klein was not the average guy in the neighborhood – when other kids his age played sports, Calvin thought about designs and sewed.
Encouraged by his mother, he got to live out his love for fashion, and he attended the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan.
At the time, no one could imagine that his face would be known worldwide – especially not Calvin himself.
”I never thought when I started – when I was in school – that I would be running a global company. I was thrilled if I had a job,” he told Cherwell in 2019.
Fed up with designing tacky coats
Calvin graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York in 1962 and did his apprenticeship at a cloak-and-suit manufacturer, Dan Millstein. During the ’60s, he worked at several New York City shops.
But all of a sudden, he quit.
According to himself, he was fed up with designing tacky women’s coats.
”One day I saw a woman walking down the street in the yellow suit with the yellow fox collar and cuffs, a yellow hat, a yellow handbag and yellow shoes – and I quit. I was so sick to think that I had been part of making that outfit possible,” he explained in 1984.
In 1968, Calvin decided to go his own way when he founded his first company with his longtime friend Barry K. Schwartz.
Calvin Klein started as just a simple coat shop and would easily have been forgotten if not for an accident.
Calvin Klein’s first order came when a coat buyer from a major New York City clothing store got lost at the hotel where Calvin had his workroom. She ended up on the wrong hotel floor and walked straight into Calvin’s room. Impressed by what she saw, the coat buyer placed an order for $50,000. That was a very impressive amount at the time, and Calvin’s career kickstarted.
After being praised for his work by the fashion press, critics, and the public, Calvin launched his sportswear line as well. The company started to get a lot of attention, and many described Calvin as the new Yves Saint Laurent – not a bad comparison.
In the 1970s, Calvin Klein would become a dominant player on the fashion scene, and the collection was constantly evolving. The Klein Empire made scarves, shoes, belts, sunglasses, lingerie and eventually took the step to launch cosmetics and menswear.
That small and humble company that Calvin created in 1962 became a money machine with $30 million in revenue by 1977.
The highlight of his career came when Calvin Klein launched his first jeans collection, which revolutionized how people viewed fashion. His world-famous tight-fitting jeans gave Calvin iconic status – it was a whole new world of denim. During the first week of sales in 1974, the signature jeans would gross $200,000.
In the 1980s, Calvin Klein started conquering the world outside the USA, and the fashion brand opened over 12000 in six countries.
However, it was not just Calvin’s minimal classic designs that made a huge impact – the company’s advertising campaigns received a lot of attention. The provocative and controversial ads gained a lot of publicity, and who doesn’t remember the famous underwear campaign when Brooke Shields asked if people wanted to know what was between her and “her Calvins.”
Brooke Shields was just 15-year-old when she appeared in the ad, saying, “Do you know what comes between me and my Calvins? Nothing.”
Her lack of underwear caused an uproar, and several TV stations soon banned the commercial – but today, Calvin Klein sees it as his most iconic campaign.
”You know there were a lot of people that were offended, but that wasn’t the intentions,” Calvin Klein said in 2019.
In 1979, an advertising campaign for high-waisted jeans was also heavily criticized. Again, people didn’t like how the 23-year-old model Patti Hansen was portrayed and claimed it had a too provocative nature.
“We had someone shoot her on her hands and knees — she had this incredible mane of hair. People were really upset. That didn’t win me a lot of friends, but I believed in reaching people — especially when making products that a lot of people can afford to buy,” Calvin Klein told Huffington Post and continued:
“We never did any of the creative, thinking it would cause controversy… We just thought of creating something exciting that would push the envelope, but not be vulgar.”
Calvin Klein private life
During the peak of his career, Calvin Klein often appeared in the limelight and in New York City nightlife. He was a public figure who often appeared at the legendary Studio 54 alongside Brooke Shields.
But Calvin has also often been described as generally private, and few details leaked about his love life. In interviews, he has refused to assign any specific labels regarding his sexuality, but Calvin has been married two times in his life.
In 1964, Calvin Klein wed Jayne Centre, a textile designer and his Bronx sweetheart. Their union lasted for ten years before splitting up in 1974.
Calvin Klein daughter
The couple had one daughter, Marci Klein, who would become a respected name in the entertainment industry.
Marci has won four Emmy Awards and is a member of the Directors Guild of America and the Producer’s Guild of America.
She’s probably best known for producing Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock. Alec Baldwin has hailed Marci Klein as “the greatest producer in the history of broadcast television.”
Marci has also given some interesting details about her upbringing with her world-famous father. Among other things, Marci has said that she was often ashamed when she saw her father’s name on her boyfriends’ underwear.
Married his assistant
In the mid-80s, Calvin Klein found love again. During a business trip in Italy, he married Kelly Rector and the ceremony in Rome made worldwide news.
Kelly was Calvin’s assistant at the time, but would later become a famous socialite photographer. The marriage caught the interest of the gossip magazines, and there were early rumors that something was odd.
According to some reports, they lived in separate apartments, and there were rumors that the marriage was troubled and eccentric.
But in 1992, Kelly addressed the speculation when she gave an interview with The New York Times.
”I love him,” she said at the time. “I love everything he does. He’s just the best guy in the world. I am his muse. I happen to be very American, look very American. That helps, to fit right into his sense of design and style.”
However, after nine years together, Kelly and Calvin separated in 1996. In 2006, the divorce was finalized.
Calvin Klein boyfriend
Speaking with Forbes in 2011, Calvin Klein revealed that he was dating a man – a model named Nick Gruber. Although Klein didn’t say his name, everyone knew who he was referring to.
”I met someone and fell in love,” Klein said. “He’s a great guy. And I’m now experiencing life in a whole new way, in a fresh way through someone’s eyes who hasn’t seen a lot of what I’ve seen.”
Calvin and Nick Gruber decided to go separate ways in 2012, after dating for two years.
But for the past few years, Calvin Klein has been involved with a new man. According to The Daily Mail, the iconic clothing designer has a boyfriend named Kevin Baker.
Calvin has never commented on the relationship publicly. However, the couple made their first public appearance in 2016, when they came to the red carpet together at the American Ballet Theater’s Fall Gala.
Calvin Klein today: net worth
After selling his company to Phillips Van Heusen Corp in 2002, Calvin doesn’t have to bother about money.
In recent years, Calvin Klein has kept a low profile and he rarely appears in public. The 79-year-old used to live a hectic life in the spotlight – but now he’s living a quiet life in Los Angeles.
According to reports, he owns several estates but resides in a $25 million mansion above the Sunset Strip. In 2021, Calvin sold his estate in the Hamptons for $85 million.
He has a net worth of around $700 million.