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Calvin Klein: An American Classic
Calvin Klein is one of the most recognizable brands ever created. His simple act of putting his name on the back of the jeans he made created the designer jeans phase that persisted through the 70s and 80s. The company’s casual clothing, jeans, underwear, and fragrances are international bestsellers to the degree that their cK logo is one of the most recognizable symbols in the world.
A Born Designer
Calvin Klein was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1942. He always had a passion for clothing and taught himself how to draw his designs and sew them together when he was still a child. He attended the High School of Art and Design, and got into the Fashion Institute of Technology, though he never graduated from the latter. Instead, he apprenticed with Dan Millstein, a clothing maker, and worked in other shops, learning how the clothing market worked in the real world.
As one of a number of great designers raised in the Jewish immigrant community of that area of New York, Klein was in the company of such greats as Robert Denning and Ralph Lauren. Young Calvin Klein eventually came to the notice of Baron de Gunzburg, who made sure the name of Calvin Klein would be recognized when the time came. Everyone was already anticipating Klein’s first collection, and they were not disappointed at his first showing during New York Fashion Week. He was claimed to be the next Yves Saint-Laurent.
There are few who can claim to have shaped the fashion industry as much as Calvin Klein. He was quite literally a legend in his own time. It was more than just the cut of his clothes, but the way he sold them, as well. His advertising campaigns were revolutionary at the time, many of them quite controversial. People still talk about the photographs of the teenaged Brooke Shields in a somewhat provocative ad campaign. His marketing also help make the ‘waif’ look epitomized by Kate Moss a big trend of the time.
He launched his first fragrances at the height of his fame – the first one, Calvin, was released in 1981. These were just as popular as his clothing. They were, and still are, so prevalent, that many feel they encapsulate the spirit of the times in which they were launched. Obsession is a great late 80s fragrance, cK One is a scent of the spirit of the 90s, while Euphoria is a fragrance for the 21st century.
Essences of an Era
The first fragrance from Calvin Klein was a definitional fragrance, as so many of his creations were. This woody floral musky scent for men was perfect for the taut and brooding men, full of smoldering masculinity, that his ads tended to portray. It contained a number of citrus notes, with more floral spicy notes at the heart, finished by musky, woody tones.
Obsession was one of the first great fragrances to come from Calvin Klein, as well as one of the first ones to be promoted heavily. It was released in 1985. This perfume opens with mandarin, peach, basil, vanilla, bergamot, lemon, and green notes. It has a spicy, woody heart of coriander, sandalwood, oakmoss, cedar, among other ingredients, and finishes with the seductive scents of vanilla, musk, civet, amber, and incense. It is a deceptively complex, wildly seductive, and wholly feminine scent that is still popular decades later.
Obsession for Men won a FiFi Award in 1987. This companion to the original Obsession for women is fresh, floral, and warm. It is gentler and sweeter than Calvin, without compromising on the masculine aura. It has spicy notes like coriander and cinnamon, with citrus notes from bergamot, mandarin orange, and other fruits, and added warmth from sandalwood, patchouli, vanilla and amber.
CK One was another great breakthrough for Calvin Klein. This was one of the first unisex fragrances every created, and it was just as big a hit as the company’s previous releases. Launched in 1994, this aromatic scent is a truly unique blend of citrus, tropical and green notes, with floral spicy notes at the heart. Cedar, musk, amber, oakmoss and sandalwood form the base of this fragrance.
The Living Legend
Calvin Klein fashions and fragrances were the very heart of culture in the later portion of the 20th century, and the company that bears his name is still going strong. Klein himself has more of a consulting role than a leadership role, but the many enterprises that bear his name, from the CK brands to jeans to underwear to fragrances to jewelry all owe him utmost respect. He is one of the few fashion designers who can truly be said to have changed the world.