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Introduce the Development History of Calvin Klein Underwear

The world of fashion underwear is full of well known heavy hitters, but perhaps none more so than Calvin Klein — a name that has become synonymous with underwear in the last 40 years. Since the 1980s, Calvin Klein underwear has been a mainstay on the behinds of the rich and famous and the regular man alike, each with their own stories about what it is like living in “My Calvins”.

Today, we’re going to explore the development history of Calvin Klein Underwear: how the brand began and why their underwear is still so popular today.

The Beginning of Calvin Klein: 1960s

Though many designers seem to appear in two different ways, either they reap the rewards of nepotism and easily make it to the big time, or they are plucked from obscurity and live a fairytale success story. Strangely enough, Calvin Klein was born from a unique situation that seems to cultivate successful fashion designers. Born in 1942, Calvin Klein was raised in a Jewish community in the Bronx, out of which also came fashion designers Ralph Lauren and Robert Denning.

Klein’s designs caught the eye of socialite and magazine editor, Baron de Gunzburg, who took Klein under his wing. With Gunzburg’s help, Klein’s designs were lauded by the rich and famous in New York, and he became a smash hit after his first show at New York Fashion Week.

Soon after, in 1968, Klein opened a coat shop within the York Hotel called Calvin Klein Limited, beginning the foundation of a fashion brand that would soon become famous across the globe.

Calvin Klein Branches Out: 1970s

In the early days of Calvin Klein Limited, the designer offered little other than women’s dresses and coats, but by 1971, Calvin Klein had introduced blazers, sportswear, and even lingerie to his women’s collection, marking his first (but certainly not the last) foray into underwear.

In 1973, Calvin Klein proved on the world’s stage that he was a designer to be reckoned with, winning his first ever Coty American Fashion Critics’ Awards for his womenswear collection. At only 31, Calvin Klein became the youngest ever winner of the award. This shot the company into international stardom, earning up to $100 million (equivalent to roughly $427 million today) in revenue yearly by 1978.

Soon, the company expanded into manufacturing jeans, scarves, shoes, sunglasses, bedsheets, furs, cosmetics, and finally, menswear.

Calvin Klein Underwear: 1980s and 1990s

After the designer and his namesake company’s jeans proved to be a smash hit, Calvin Klein did something that changed the fashion world as we know it: designer underwear. Before now, underwear was a relatively untapped market, as designers chose to focus on items that their logo could actually be seen, namely things that are not worn underneath clothes. However, Calvin Klein set out to create luxury for an otherwise underserved market.

In 1982, Calvin Klein began his first involved foray into the underwear industry by hiring Bruce Weber, a marketer with a proven portfolio, to direct a marketing campaign worth half a million dollars. The marketing campaign used star studded commercials, billboards, and magazine ads to bolster public interest. These advertisements featured a number of stars, the first of which featured Olympic pole vaulter Tom Hintinaus, which was proudly displayed in New York City’s Times Square.

Calvin Klein’s men’s underwear was an immediate success. Bloomingdale’s New York reported that in the first two weeks of selling the brand’s briefs, they had sold over $65,000, even reporting that they estimated that the underwear would sell upwards of $4 million that year alone.

Once it became apparent just how lucrative that Calvin Klein Underwear would be for the company, manufacturers, and the stores that sold them, the brand quickly launched Calvin Klein Underwear for women. Despite the design being almost identical to the ones designed for men, their women’s underwear sold a whopping 80,000 pairs in the first ninety days alone.

In the early 1990s, Calvin Klein Underwear was still sweeping the nation, and even Mark Wahlberg was captured wearing a pair on the cover of Rolling Stone. Whereas other aspects of the brand were failing, the underwear still flew off the shelves.

What Made Calvin Klein Underwear So Popular?

Calvin Klein’s early underwear releases were an undeniable success — but why? They weren’t particularly special. Both the men’s and women’s underwear were simple boxers, produced by Jockey manufacturers. Even with comfortable fabric, the only thing that set Calvin Klein Underwear apart from the competition was the branding, “Calvin Klein” printed all along the waistband.

Nevertheless, Calvin Klein used the “logomania” fad that was sweeping the nation at the time (and had attributed to the success of the brand’s jeans) to create luxury underwear that appealed to the masses with designer brands at a lower price point. Lisa March, author of The House of Klein says that Calvin Klein Underwear changed the market forever, saying that men’s underwear was no longer a simple affair, purchased in 3-packs of titey whities by a wife or mother, creating a market where “the American male [cares] about the brand of something few ever see”.

Sam Diss, a style writer at The Guardian, says, “It gave you a taste of being Mark Wahlberg without the talent or the hours of a gym.”

Now, Calvin Klein Underwear produces a number of different types of undergarments in nearly every style, but one thing remains the same — each bears the same, standout branding that Calvin Klein is known for. Celebrities are still frequently featured in the advertisements, discussing what it means to wear their “Calvins”, and sales show that the brand still dominates in the underwear market.

Want to create the “next big thing” in underwear?

At BKage Underwear, we combine comfort, art, and versatility to help you create the custom underwear of your dreams, whether you want to begin an underwear brand that can compete with Calvin Klein. Our customer service representatives are standing by, reach out today!


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