The name Calvin Klein is easily one of the most popular in the field of fashion today. Many feel the name is synonymous with fashion and that makes it hard to imagine that the company has only been around for less than 50 years. In that time though, they've made some huge strides in getting fashion to the masses, and they have become one of the most well known brands in the world.
Founder and namesake of the business Calvin Klein founded the company in 1968 under the name Calvin Klein Limited. In the early days, it was a relatively simple coat shop operating from the York Hotel in NYC. The first items they sold were coats and dresses aimed specifically at youth. It proved to be a popular store, and soon Klein was getting some very quick recognition.
By the 1970s, they had added quite a few different types of items to their lines including sportswear, blazers, and even lingerie. They put quite an emphasis on making fashionable clothing for women at this time as well, and Klein actually became the youngest recipient of the Coty American Fashion Critic's Award specifically for his 74-piece women's line. He actually won the award several times. This, coupled with a continually growing reputation, quality clothing, and more and more recognition helped his company to gain annual revenues in excess of $30 million by 1977. In addition to their regular clothing, they also had licenses for a number of other products including belts, shoes, sheets, scarves, and even sunglasses.
The company continued to grow, and it was in the 1980s that they really started to become popular for their underwear, and later for their underwear ads. The way they started to brand their undergarments suddenly made men care about what they were wearing, even though it was not an item of clothing that most other people would see. This showed the intelligence of the way they were branding, and it showed just how powerful it could be. This also helped with their growth throughout the 80s. By the mid-80s, their underwear lines were bringing in more than $7 million alone. When factoring in sales of all of their other products at retail stores, they were making more than $600 million.
Of course, as with most companies, they have had some financial troubles in their time, including issues with the licensees of their underwear lines. They have had some years of disappointing sales, and they were actually close to selling the company in 1987. They were on the verge of selling to Triangle Industries, a company that made containers, but the sale never went through. Some speculate that the only reason the sale didn't pan out was because of the stock market crash that happened right around the same time.
Though they had gone through this tough time, they were able to come out of it and regain their reputation. The underwear line continued to be popular, partly as a result of the "Marky Mark" campaign. They developed a popular sportswear line called CK, and they also developed a fragrance line. This was actually the second attempt at fragrances - the first was a failure, but that did not stop them from trying again and succeeding.
While they were able to become financially stable again, Klein did eventually sell the company. In 2002, he sold to Phillips Van Heusen Corp for $400 million cash and $30 million in stock, with another estimated $200 to $300 million in licensing deals.
The company continues to thrive and to sell a wide variety of different products today. They have many different types of clothing for men and women, as well as accessories and fragrances. Despite the company being owned by someone other than Klein, the name is still there and it still carries with it the same respect and authority in fashion that it always has. The brand is still in many of the same retail stores that it's always been in, and it has a very popular and thriving online sales component as well. The power of their branding has helped to drive their online sales.