I know, I know…. it’s been a while but I am back now!
Let’s talk Calvin Klein. Surprisingly, he didn’t start off with underwear and sexy clothing like he is famous for today. Ironically, he started with the most non-revealing piece of clothing, coats, and it all began as an accident.

This Bronx born designer was born to Flo and Leo Stern as the second of three children onNovember 19, 1942. Calvin was destined to be in the fashion industry because his grandmother was a seamstress and his mother encouraged his love of art and fashion. Calvin knew what he loved early in life, so while his peers were playing outside he was sketching designs and sewing. He attended the High School of Art and Design. Upon graduation he went to FIT and graduated in 1962. He took up an apprenticeship on Seventh Avenue in NYC for 5 years, he spent that time perfecting his ideas and clothing as well.


It was in 1968 that he and a childhood friend, Barry Schwartz, created a Calvin Klein coat business. How he started is actually very unorthodox. A coat buyer for Bonwit Teller got off at the wrong floor of a hotel and went into Klein’s workroom and placed an order for $50,000.

After his getting rave reviews on his accidental success, he expanded his line to women’s sportswear. Soon after he moved into couture line, Calvin Klein Collection for men and women, CK sportswear for men and women, and CK jeans. He also licensed arrangements for his menswear, coats, accessories, intimate apparel, hosiery, swimwear, eyewear, furs, socks, and fragrances, all under his careful control and management. In the early 70’s he landed the cover of Vogue and in the pages of Harper’s Bizarre.

His jeans and fragrances got him a lot of fans who wanted an affordable ways to get the look of Calvin Klein, his major ones being Obsession, Eternity, and Escape. In 1997 his sales of Calvin Klein jeans was creeping upwards of $500 million.

His jeans were a huge,huge factor in his success. Advertisements with Brooke Shields ( which we may or may not have liked) allows him to sell over 40,000 pairs of jeans per week.

In his own life he married first wife Jayne Centre in 1964 and divorced 10 years later. He has a child from that marriage named Marci. He then goes on to marry one of his design assitant Kelly Rector in 1986 and divorces in 1997.

Calvin and Jayne

Calvin and Kelly

What I am really in love with here is his philospohy. He is into minimalism with neutral tones, designing clothing that works in day and night from season to season.

I was not too fond of his advertising which was really risque, but hey I am sure he knows what he was doing since : A. his sales are going well and B. he studied advertising and drafting in high school. Though his advertising, also referred to as “kiddie porn,” was under heat from Forbes magazine, the FBI and every college course on marketing and communications, he was still successful. However he did pull those ads, but not without the publicity. In a sense the shock value of his ads did work for him and against him at the same time. Who doesn’t like a little controversy huh ?

I do not think that Calvin was a huge fan. He underwent controversial rumors of a gay, drug related life style in addition to AIDs. He toned it down in the 80s and 90s and also started supporting causes such as Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network ( RAINN) and other AIDs related charities.

In addition to harsh rumors, his daughter as kidnapped in the 70’s but she as unharmed. Crazy right ?

In 2003 he sold his company to Phillips-Van Heusen but he still designs for it. Today the company that bares his name rakes in $5 billion in sales per year. Francisco Costa, his Brazilian protege was appointed creative director. Italo Zucchelli oversees menswear and Kevin Carrigan oversees sports wear.

Francisco

Ok, I know you are getting confused. Let’s recap his brands:

  • Calvin Klein Collection (black label, top-end designer line)
  • ck Calvin Klein (grey label, recently repositioned as bridge collection line)
  • Calvin Klein (white label, better sportswear line)
  • Calvin Klein Sport (sports version of the white label line for Macy’s)
  • Calvin Klein Jeans (denimwear line)
  • Calvin Klein Home (high end bedding, towel, bath rug and accessory collections)
  • The Khaki Collection (youthful medium to high end bedding, towel, bath rug and accessories) discontinued in 2008
  • Calvin Klein Golf (launched in late 2007)
  • Calvin Klein Underwear (underwear collections)
  • Calvin Klein: David Perrone Clothing Line(launched in late 2008)

AWARD ME, BABY:

  • 1973 to 1975- won Coty three times in a row ( youngest designer to do so)
  • 1982,1983, and 1986- CFDA award
  • 1982- CFDA Award for women’s and menswear
  • 1993- America’s best designer Award
  • 1993- CFDA both women and menswear Award
  • 1996- Time magazine names him one of the 25 most influential Americans
  • 2001- CFDA lifetime Achievement Award
  • Today he is on the committee of CFDA.

I am definitely feeling his work and he also has some good diversity on his runways. He has worked hard at what he does and built his company up on his own vision of simplicity and sex appeal which, while hated by some, worked out in his favor. The fact that he is still making money in this recession is reason enough to follow in his footsteps. Mr. Klein, you have taught me a lot about success and how it is not about who has the most expensive or extravagant clothing, but who can offer their customers a lifestyle within their clothing. More than just wearing a brand, it’s actually being that brand, living that brand.

LfC1, LfC2, LfC3, LfC4, LfC5, LfC6, LfC7

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I have to admit, I had never heard of Isaac before his run with Target, but I do not feel as bad because most of his success became before I was even born or able to talk properly. In Isaac’s lifetime, success can not simply be measured by mastering one craft but by doing everything you ever dreamed of doing. Isaac is one of the few people who I know that has been thoroughly involved in every aspect of pop culture from movies, to books, to fashion, and television. He has done it all! Let’s take a stroll down the path of his tireless journey.

Isaac was born October 14, 1961 in Brooklyn, New York and raised in Ocean Parkway New Jersey. He must have been born with a fashion gene because at the age of 4 his mother began to notice his attraction to the details of her shoes. His mother often took him shopping with her at Saks and Bergdorf’s and ,honestly, who can resist falling in love when introduced to these fashion paradises at such a young age. His father was a merchandiser of children’s clothing, so design was nothing new to this semi-traditional Jewish family.

By the time Isaac was 10 years old he had moved back to Brooklyn and had been given his first sewing machine from his father. He made clothing for puppets to wear during birthday party appearances. By 13, he was making clothing for his mom, dad, and his mother’s friend Sarah Haddad.

While in Brooklyn his parents wanted him to attend a Jewish school, however his rebellious personality got him kicked out on numerous occasions. His mother had to come to the school and bail him out of trouble constantly. Finally, Isaac had enough. He enrolled in New York High School for the Performing Arts to persue his passions in drama, music, and dance. Isaac lost 75 pounds his first semester and gained it all back in confidence.

While in high school Isaac took some evening classes at Parson’s. Upon his high school graduation he studied full time at Parson’s developing his skills that would one day land him the title of one of the Best American Fashion Designers of his time.

After his third year at Parson’s, he got a part time internship working with Perry Ellis. Mr. Ellis became his mentor and after graduating from undergraduate, he went to work for him full time. Isaac worked very hard for Ellis and in return her received experience and training that would be priceless in this industry.

After he left Perry Ellis, he worked for Jeffrey Banks and Calvin Klein. Not long after , in 1987, Isaac started his own line with financial support from family friend Sarah Haddad. He began small designing in a small loft and selling from the back of a car. In the spring of 1988 he had his spring show. There were few guests , only there to see if anything interesting would come from this new designer. All the guests were floored with surprise at the fresh feeling he brought to fashion, Isaac became an over night success story. From that moment forward, his life began moving full speed ahead.


He began to win awards and designing costumes for ballets and theater in the early 1990’s. In 1994 he was going to introduce his fall line and his preparations for his line would be filmed for his hit documentary called Unzipped. The documentary was directed by Isaac’s ex lover Douglass Keeve and it was released in 1995. It contained footage from his childhood and footage of his life as a designer working with models and at shows. This documentary took him from beloved fashion designer to beloved celebrity fashion designer.

In 1997 he wrote a comic book series called Isaac Mizrahi Presents the Adventures of Sandee the Supermodel. The series featured the supermodel facing all the stereotypical problems that a supermodel would face in the industry. Critics and fans alike loved his rendition on the life of a model. This was a cherry on top of his sweet career.

Little did he know that in 1998, Chanel, his financial backer, would pull out and cause him to have to shut down his business. He had other options that would possible keep the company rolling, but he decided to move on. Which today has proved to be a good idea.

In 1999 he started in a one-man off Broadway cabaret act that critics called charming and engaging. From there he was given his own talk show on Oxygen where he had a plethora of celebrity guests and a wide array of activities.

Reverting back to designing, he signed a five year deal with Target to design a line of affordable fashions ranging from $10-$70. I have to say that he made some really cute things for target that were sold out in a heart beat. In 2007 he made wedding gowns for Target as well. He made target more than $300 million per year. He also had his own line which he referred to as Isaac Mizrahi to Order where he designs gowns starting at $4,000 a pop.

In 2008 he split with Target and went over to Liz Claiborne to resuscitate her dying line. He has made a fall 2009 line which has won rave reviews. He is now the host of a show called The Fashion Shows on Bravo, which is a different spin to the once hit Project Runway. Isaac has made many appearances on all the fashion forward shows and movies including Ugly Betty and Sex in the City. Today he is in the works of directing his first movies, The Extra Man.

Though we all know Isaac as an outspoken and almost flamboyant person, you can’t help but love him . However, in the 2006 Golden Globes I couldn’t help but shutter with horror at some of the things he was doing, such as squeezing Scarlett Johansson’s breasts, looking down Terri Hatchers dress, and asking people if they had undies on. I am willing to look past that if you are 😦

Recently, Isaac Mizrahi has been named to a newly created role of Senior Vice President, Managing Director at Alma DDB effective July 13, 2009.

Isaac’s Award Center
2002 won the Drama Desk Award for his costume designs for The Women.
1996 won the Eddie for Best Edited Documentary.
1995 won the audience award for best documentary.
1991 won CFDA Womenswear designer of the year award

If you wanna keep up with Issac, watch him at by clicking HERE.

I chose Isaac for my blog because he embodies what it means to follow your dreams and that anyone could do anything as long as they want it bad enough. He had a few hurdles, some avoidable and others not so much, but he came through them better than ever. It is not always about how someone does while they are already successful and loved, but how someone does when they are going through hard times. He has shown his dedication to the arts and his passion to do any and everything he set his mind to. We should all be so lucky to accomplish the things this man has. Here’s to you Isaac, ” Fat is the new black.”