Today is Calvin Klein’s 71st birthday, and in honor of this fashion mogul’s big day, we’re going to look back at how he rose to such incredible prominence in the industry. Born in the Bronx, Klein may have never finished his studies at the New York Fashion Institute of Technology, but no need! He began his eponymous brand at the ripe age of 26 (and received an honorary degree from the institute in 2003). It’s hard to believe that the brand was essentially launched with only $10,000 — Calvin Klein himself has an estimated net worth of over $700 million today. Hailed for clean lines and simple designs, Klein was dubbed the new Yves Saint-Laurent. He won the Coty American Fashion Critics’ Award just two years after he began the brand and won it three more times in a row afterward.

Though Klein originally began the brand to create men’s coats, his company now encompasses anything from fragrances and cosmetics to nearly everything under the sun in women’s and men’s fashionwear (including underwear — I’m looking at you, Mark Wahlberg). The Calvin Klein brand really hit its stride when the designer developed the tight-fitting jean that would go onto gross $200,000 within the first week of sales. It became known as the first practical and sexy pair of jeans, and Brooke Shields was the face of this new wardrobe staple.

The Calvin Klein brand has come a long way since 1968. Let’s take a look at how he’s changed the face of the industry over the years.

Calvin Klein advertisementCalvin Klein stars in a 1979 advertisement for his brand.

Calvin Klein jeans Brooke ShieldsBrooke Shields rocks the revolutionary jean in this 1981 ad.

Calvin Klein Obsession perfumeCalvin Klein enters the fragrance industry and releases Obsession in 1985.

Calvin Klein jeans Sasha MitchellPhotographer Bruce Weber shoots actor Sasha Mitchell in this 1985 ad for Calvin Klein’s new jeans.

Calvin Klein underwear Mark WahlbergThe famous crotch-grab shot of Mark Wahlberg sporting the brand’s new line of men’s briefs is released in 1992.

Calvin Klein jean jacket Kate MossKate Moss dons the quintessential 90’s jean jacket in this 1995 ad.

Calvin Klein CK 1

Photographer Steven Meisel herds together a group of Calvin Klein models for this all-encompassing shot, taken to promote the brand’s CK1 fragrance.

(All images via VanityFair.com)


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