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In 1968, Klein founded Calvin Klein Limited, a coat shop in the York Hotel in New York City, with $10,000. The first Calvin Klein collection was a line of “youthful, understated coats and dresses” featured at the New York City store, Bonwit Teller. In September 1969, Klein appeared on the cover of Vogue magazine.
By 1971, Klein had added sportswear, classic blazers, and lingerie to his women’s collection.
In 1973, he received his first Coty American Fashion Critics’ Award for his 74-piece womenswear collection – the youngest recipient at that time. Klein won the award again in 1974 and 1975. By 1977, annual revenues had increased to $30 million (equivalent to $117 million in 2015), and Klein had licenses for scarves, shoes, belts, furs, sunglasses, and sheets. Klein and Schwartz were making $4 million each. After the company signed licenses for cosmetics, jeans, and menswear, Klein’s annual retail volume was estimated at $100 million (equivalent to $389 million in 2015). In 1978, Klein claimed sales of 200,000 pairs of his famous jeans the first week they were on the market. By 1981, Fortune figured Klein’s annual income at $8.5 million a year. In the mid-1970s, he had created a designer-jeans craze by putting his name on the back pocket. Klein’s design assistant at the time, Jeffrey Banks, has claimed credit for the logo garments, stating that he had the logo from a press folder silk screened onto the sleeve of a brown T-shirt as a present for Klein. The gift was assumed by Schwartz to be part of the upcoming line, and similar logo shirts formed the uniform for the front-of-house staff at Klein’s next catwalk show, leading to buyer demand.
See also – BEAUTIFUL SPORT WITH LACOSTE
In the late 1970s, the company also made attempts to set up its own fragrance and cosmetics lines, but soon withdrew from the market with big financial losses. In the 1980s, as the designer-jeans frenzy reached its all-time high, Calvin Klein introduced a highly successful line of boxer shorts for women and a men’s underwear collection which would later gross $70 million in a single year. Calvin Klein’s underwear business, promoted later in the 1990s with giant billboards showing images of pop singer Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg, became so successful that his underpants became generally known as “Calvins”.
In the early 1980s, Klein changed the American market of men’s underwear—one where most men’s underwear was white, purchased in packs of three by a “wife, mother or girlfriend when they needed to be” to one where “the American male to care about the brand of something few ever see”.
The stunning growth continued through the early eighties. The licensing program, which brought in $24,000 when it was initiated in 1974 (equivalent to $114,769 in 2015), had royalty income of $7.3 million ten years later (equivalent to $16.57 million in 2015). That year, worldwide retail sales were estimated at more than $600 million (equivalent to $1362.01 million in 2015). Klein’s clothes were sold through 12,000 stores in the United States and were available in six other countries through licensing deals, namely Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan. His annual income passed $12 million (equivalent to $27.24 million in 2015).
Financial problems, increased pressure from all sides, disagreements with the licensee of the menswear line and its disappointing sales as well as an enormous employee turnover both within Calvin Klein and its licensing partners led to the first rumors that Calvin Klein Industries, as the company had been known by then, was up for sale. And indeed, in late 1987, it was said that the sale of the company to Triangle Industries, a container manufacturer, had only failed because of the crashing stock market.
Although the company almost faced bankruptcy in 1992, Calvin Klein managed to regain and increase the profitability of his empire throughout the later 1990s, mainly through the success of its highly popular underwear and fragrance lines, as well as the ck sportswear line. During his 1990-1995 stint as Calvin Klein’s head of menswear design, John Varvatos pioneered a type of men’s underwear called boxer briefs, a hybrid of boxer shorts and briefs. Made famous by a series of 1992 print ads featuring Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg, they have been called “one of the greatest apparel revolutions of the century.”Klein was named “America’s Best Designer” for his minimalist all-American designs in 1993, and it came as a surprise in 1999 when it was announced that CKI was again up for sale. Planning to expand its business, the company had been approached by two luxury goods companies, LVMH and Pinault Printemps Redoute, to join Calvin Klein, but nothing resulted. Other potentials like Tommy Hilfiger Corp. and Italy’s Holding di Partecipazioni proved to be similar disappointments because of CKI’s steep price tag of supposedly $1 billion. After seven months and no potential buyer, Klein announced that his empire was not on the market anymore. The company would never manage to go public, which had supposedly been Klein’s plan once.
In mid-December 2002, Calvin Klein Inc. (CKI) was sold to Phillips Van Heusen Corp (PVH), whose then CEO Bruce Klatsky was the driving force behind the deal, for about $400 million in cash, $30 million in stock as well as licensing rights and royalties linked to revenues over the following 15 years that were estimated at $200 to $300 million. The sale also included an ongoing personal financial incentive for Klein based on future sales of the Calvin Klein brand.
See also – SPORTS CAR PORSCHE
PVH outbid VF Corp., the maker of Lee and Wrangler jeans, which had also been interested in the jeans, underwear and swimwear business of CK that had been controlled by Warnaco Group, maker of Speedo swimwear in the US, since 1997. The deal with PVH did not include these businesses, and they remained with Warnaco. Unable to pay debts from acquisitions and licensing agreements and due to bad publicity by a later dismissed lawsuit with Calvin Klein over selling license products to retailers other than agreed upon with Calvin Klein, Warnaco had filed for chapter 11 protection in mid-2001 but eventually emerged from bankruptcy in February 2003.
The transaction between Calvin Klein and PVH was financially supported by Apax Partners Inc., a New York private equity firm, which is said to have made a $250 million equity investment in PVH convertible preferred stock, as well as a $125 million, two-year secured note, all in exchange for seats on the board of PVH.
CKI thus became a wholly owned subsidiary of PVH. In the beginning, Klein himself, who was included as a person in the 15-year contract he had signed with PVH, remained creative head of the collections but then continued as an advisor (consulting creative director) to the new company from 2003 on and has since been more withdrawn from the business. Barry K. Schwartz was said to concentrate on his role as chairman of the New York Racing Association, a horse-racing club. The current President and COO of the CKI division within PVH is Tom Murry, who had filled this position already before the acquisition.
With the fall 2006 Collection runway presentations in New York City, CKI inaugurated an 8,600 sq ft (800 m2) show room space that can seat up to 600 people on the ground floor of 205 West 39th Street, in Times Square South where Calvin Klein has been headquartered since 1978.
In a 2010 report, PVH, who manages the ready-to-wear activities, had estimated sales of €4.6 billion of Calvin Klein products.
In Feb 2013 Warnaco Group was acquired by PVH which united Calvin Klein formal, underwear, jeans and sportswear lines.
The current creative director for Calvin Klein Collection for women is Brazilian-born Francisco Costa who had already worked with Klein directly before the founder’s departure from the company. Costa had taken over the job in 2003.
Italo Zucchelli, a former Jil Sander and Romeo Gigli designer, had collaborated with Calvin Klein for six seasons before he became head designer of the Calvin Klein Collection menswear line in spring 2004.
Kevin Carrigan, an Englishman, is the creative director of the ck Calvin Klein and Calvin Klein (white label) brands and their related licensed products. Carrigan has been with Calvin Klein since 1998.
- Calvin Klein Collection
In the late 1990s the company opened elegant Calvin Klein Collection stores in Paris, Seoul, and Taipei and ultra high-end cK Calvin Klein stores in Hong Kong, Milan and Kuwait City. As of today, there is only one Calvin Klein Collection store operated by CKI. It is located in New York City. Out of the two Calvin Klein Collection stores that existed in the US, the Dallas location in Highland Park Village which had been open for 20 years was closed in mid-2005. The only international location, in Paris, was closed by PVH in March 2006. The New York store, which serves as the company’s flagship store at 654 Madison Ave., remains open still today. Partners maintain Calvin Klein Collection stores in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Mumbai, Seoul, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Dubai and Qatar.
- Calvin Klein (white label)
Specialty retail Calvin Klein stores, designed by New York architecture firm Lynch/Eisinger/Design have been opened at Lenox Square in Atlanta, Beverly Center in Los Angeles; now closed down, Cherry Creek Mall in Denver; now closed down, Natick Collection in Natick, MA; closing down on July 25, 2010, The Mall at Partridge Creek in Michigan; now closed down, Aventura Mall in Aventura, Florida, South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa California. An additional eight stores also designed by Lynch/Eisinger/Design are set to open in 2008. There are also several Calvin Klein Outlet stores, mostly located within factory outlet malls in the US, that sell the white label sportswear and sometimes the Calvin Klein white label at reduced prices but do not carry the Collection lines. It has been reported that Calvin Klein will close all White Label locations within the next year.
- Calvin Klein Jeans
Calvin Klein Jeans stores exist around the globe. Among many other countries in the UK, Germany, Greece, Russia, Brazil, México, Croatia, Egypt, Chile, Argentina, India, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand. They also offer franchisee and opened in Cali last year.
- Calvin Klein Underwear
Signature Calvin Klein Underwear boutiques can be found in Buenos Aires, Cardiff (as of April 2011), Mexico City, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Melbourne, Hong Kong, London, Manchester, Manila, New York City, Shanghai, Singapore, Frankfurt am Main, Munich, Toronto and Hatfield, Metropolis at Metrotown in Burnaby, B.C. (Metro Vancouver).
- Department Stores
The major department stores in the US, including Macy’s, Lord & Taylor and Nordstrom, as well as many small independent stores carry the ck, white label and/or Jeans collections. Some high-end department stores, such as Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenueand Neiman Marcus also carry the Calvin Klein Collection. Notable retailers in the UK offering Calvin Klein include stores such as John Lewis, Debenhams and KJ Beckett. In Australia the dominant retailer is Myer. Calvin Klein products are also found online with particular internet focus on selling Calvin Klein underwear and fragrance.
- Europe and Asia
In Europe, Calvin Klein is predominantly known for its underwear, accessories and perhaps the Collection business, rather than for the medium-priced sportswear lines which are available at select high-end retail stores. In Asia, there are also signature ck Calvin Klein stores that carry diffusion line, aka grey label including womenswear, menswear, accessories.