Calvin Klein History Case Study


Calvin Klein has since become a powerhouse in the fashion industry. But, the brand has had an ample share of ups and downs. These challenges make Calvin Klein history cumbersome; a history that spread through over half a century of fashion. However, how the brand managed to test and transform the global perception of culture through experimentation in fashion, media, product design, etc., is worthy of significant study. The truth is, some artists and designers have been able to master the art of riding on history’s wave—Calvin Klein is one. For example, the case at the New York City Skyline gestured in black, gray, and white represents the brand’s bold gesture at libidinal, optimistic, and aspirational force.

Today, if you say the words “Calvin Klein” out loud, you will have succeeded in creating the vision and imagery of attractive bodies in classic clothes. That’s the effect the Calvin Klein brand has successfully constructed in people’s minds. In the words of Calvin Klein himself, the mastermind of this great brand—“Creating an image was a vital aspect of my work to the world.” That goes to show that the brand has been intentional about what it aims to achieve. And to a great extent, it has succeeded in achieving it, though it strives for more. The following paragraphs of this article attempt to educate you on how the Calvin Klein brand has fared so far in transforming the global perception of fashion.

  • Calvin Klein History and Fun Facts
  • Advertisement—Calvin Klein Turning Key Strategy
  • Calvin Klein Decided to Sell his Business
  • What Makes the Calvin Klein Brand Popular?
  • Can we Consider Calvin Klein a Designer Label?
  • Why are Calvin Klein Products so Expensive?

Calvin Klein History 

Calvin Klein, today, has become a household name – best known for its mastery with fashion products such as jeans, underwear, and perfumes. However, the brand’s tentacle spreads beyond these products. It covers a wide variety of products, including towels, bags, shoes, jewelry, etc. it also covers fashion accessories such as belts, wallets, and sunglasses. They all come in different colors and styles to meet the target audience. However, the Calvin Klein we know today wasn’t always the big name it has become, there was a time of humble beginning.

With only $10,000 starting capital, Calvin Klein, a rising fashion designer, in 1968, opened a coat shop. But, he seems to be strategic about the location of his shop, choosing a space in the New York Hotel. As a result, thousands of people viewed his designs in a short while. What seems noticeable and fascinating to many people is that his coat came in a simple design, and they were fashionable; his target was the young crowd.

The year that followed, he appeared on the cover of the trendy fashion magazine; that’s Vogue. By then, Calvin Richard Klein had gained significant knowledge in fashion and design. He attended the High School of Art and Design, enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology, and graduated in 1963 with a degree in Fine Art. This knowledge, combined with his experience working at a dress-making company combined to help build his brand.

The Growth and Expansion of the Brand

So, in the late 1970s, Calvin Klein and his brand soared to a new height. He began to add new lines to his brand as early as 1971, which birthed the blazer, women’s lingerie, and sportswear collection. By his commitment to innovation and design, between 1973 and 1975; three years consecutively, he won the Coty American Fashion Critics’ Award (Coty Award). By 1977, the brand reached an annual turnover of $30 million. Calvin did it by increasing advertising and adding scarves, furs, sunglasses, and other fashion items to the collection. There seemed to be a lot they could do in the 1970s. Though they started by selling products targeted at women, they later started menswear for sale. That was when they added jeans and many other items we know of Calvin Klein today.

In the 1980s, Calvin Klein’s jeans design began to gain popularity, especially among young people. The same year, the brand introduced both men’s and women’s underwear. It became so successful that it brought in over $70 million in the first year of introduction. Not long, people colloquially began to refer to underwear as “Calvins,” which was a significant milestone in Calvin Klein History.

Calvin Klein Decision to Sell his Business

Now that Calvin has his key to fast sales, the brand opened more stores in America and other countries worldwide. Calvin Klein had more than 12,000 stores across places such as the UK, Australia, Ireland, and Japan. And by 1993, he became America’s Best Designer. However, Klein put up the company for sale in 1999.

Several other companies, such as Tommy Hilfiger, LVMH, etc., we’re interested in buying the company; however, none came close in their offer to Klein’s $1 billion asking prices. However, in 2002, the brand eventually got sold to Phillips Van Heusen Corp—though not for the asking price. Klein had to settle for an estimated $30 million in stock, $400 million in cash, and $300 million worth of royalties to be received over the next 15 years. 

At first, Calvin kept his role as the creative lead, but he changed to the creative adviser and eventually left the business. Today, Calvin Klein plays no part in the Calvin Klein brand. 

Arguably, Calvin Klein is famous for the high quality of clothes and accessories. However, many will argue that the flirty and casual branding style the company uses makes it popular and keeps customers coming back. When you look at how the brand has conducted itself over the years in terms of campaigns, adverts, and catwalk shows—there seems to be an undeniable and intentional pull throughout all of them. However, Calvin Klein’s countless accessories and collections’ quality cannot be ignored. So, while their marketing style plays a primary part in the brand’s success, product quality takes the larger share.

Can we Consider Calvin Klein a Designer Label?

Considering the luxury accessories and high-quality product range that Calvin Klein offers, we can conclude that the brand is truly a designer label. However, compared with other premium luxury brands and fashion houses such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel, etc. Calvin Klein sits at the lower end of the fashion house spectrum. The brand is more aspirational than high street options.

Why are Calvin Klein Products so Expensive?

Calvin Klein products and accessories are, without a doubt, expensive. Many wondered why it is so, considering that the brand is more aspirational than other luxury brands and fashion house products. To try and understand the “why,” we can look at it from five perspectives;

The first is that Calvin Klein is a premium brand. That’s because not everyone can afford to buy the brand’s product. They may not be as expensive as Tommy Hilfiger or Hugo Boss, but they are not available to the general audience. Secondly, Calvin Klein provides status. People buy the brand’s product because it shows that you have class and money to afford luxury products. This is because its products is not something the common person can afford. Thirdly, the underwear products are sexy: the brand sells the sexy idea to the audience. They also provide comfort, support, and quality. The fourth reason is that Calvin Klein has a loyal customer base.

A study provided by a luxury institute concluded that rich men love Calvin Klein products and love to buy them. Lastly, Celebrities love Calvin Klein. Kate Moss and Mark Wahlberg are the faces of Calvin Klein in the early days. But in recent times, Justin Bieber is the face of the brand. Therefore, other celebrities feel comfortable wearing the brands’ products.


Unlike many brands that existed in the 90s, Calvin Klein has survived the test of time. They continue to grow more successfully. The brand introduces a new collection and uses its laidback, casual, and celebrity marketing strategy to record great product success to date.

Was This Article Helpful?

Calvin Klein History Case Study The Calvin Klein history shows it is one luxury brand that have survived several controversies that would have brought down some brands. Find out how.
5 1 5 1

You're Never to Cool To Learn New Things

Please note: 440 Industries is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to