Calvin Klein jeans


Natalia Vodianova in CK Calvin Klein Jeans Fall/Winter 2003
In 1976 a TV commercial featuring Gloria Vanderbilt wearing blue jeans that she and her business partner, Warren Hirsh, recently put into production, appeared on air during the Academy Awards presentation. Until that moment nobody really thought of jeans as a designer item – they were the workers uniform that originated in Nimes and introduced by Levi Strauss to the American market in 1850s. Even the trendiest bell-bottomed pairs manufactured by Faded Glory and Jordache were hardly in demand among the stylish crowd.

Gloria Vanderbilt jeans ad / fashioned by love
Vanderbilt denims changed it all. Suddenly every woman wanted a pair of jeans with an elegant designer logo on a back pocket. For the fashion industry it felt like an explosion and every designer including Anne Klein, Geoffrey Beene and Bill Blass wanted to have their own line.

Klein toyed with the idea for a while struggling to make the final decision until he was approached by Puritan Fashion, a giant dress company run by Carl Rosen, one of “the kings” in the garment industry who was looking for a designer to license a collection of denim “for the public”. The deal was signed on 29 June 1977. Calvin Klein and Barry Schwartz were offered one million dollars in cash advantage and guaranteed minimum of one million every year for the life of the contract in addition to the royalties for every pair sold.

Designing the first pair didn’t take long for Klein knew exactly what he wanted - indigo-dyed, 100% cotton, straight legged with a shorter rise to accentuate the shape of the bottom and give the jeans an instant sex appeal.

Patti Hansen by Charles Tracy for Calvin Klein Jeans 1979 campaign / fashioned by love
The very first advertising campaign featured Patti Hansen photographed by Charles Tracy. The image of a beautiful blond showcasing her bottom in a seductive pose caused a real scandal among women’s groups and brought $80 million in sales in the first year.

And then came Brooke and her Calvins.

She was 15 when Sheilds got approached by Calvin Klein with an offer to star in his jeans campaign. Brooke was directed by Richard Avedon to play different roles: “a liberated woman, an actress, a teenager, a vamp”… Kleins idea was to advertise the product without actually focusing on it, but rather sending hidden messages to play with people’s imagination.

"Nothing comes between me and my Calvins..." the doe-eyed teen teasingly confessed as the camera followed her... What were those "Calvins"? Nobody ever heard the word before and yet absolutely everyone knew exactly what she meant. It was sexy, forbidden and tempting to be point of becoming an obsession. Everyone wanted to experience that.

Brooke Shields photographed by Richard Avedon for Calvin Klein Jeans 1980 campaign
It worked. In the first week the company sold 400000 pairs of jeans reaching an astonishing number of 2 million sales in a months and bringing £12.5 million in annual royalties. More over, sensual, provoking, beautiful and clever, those adverts caused both demand and controversy, shaping the image of Calvin Klein as a brand and making the clothes even more desirable.

Brooke Shields herself became a celebrity and a star. Her image was associated with jeans so strongly that a few years later she came up with the own line of jeans called “Brookes”.

Kate Moss photographed by Herb Ritts for Calvin Klein Jeans 1993 campaign / fashioned by love
Kate Moss was the next model who got her big break thanks to Calvins. She was casted to become the new face of Calvin Klein Jeans in 1992 after Vanessa Paradis rejected the offer. Unsure about the idea of posing half-nude alongside Mark Walhbergh, the 17-year old hesitated before signing her contract, but eventually took the plunge believing that this would only be a one-off job. The photographs taken by Herb Ritts made Kate Moss a global star.

Kate Moss in CK Jeans campaign Spring/Summer 2000 / fashioned by love
Additional reads: a wonderful article from the Interview magazine, Calvin Klein: Fashion Design Superstar, Calvin Klein, Obsession: the Lives and Times of Calvin Klein, The House of Klein: Fashion, Controversy, and a Business Obsession 

Photo source: Natalia Vodianova in Calvin Klein Jeans Fall 2003 campaign, Gloria Vanderbilt jeans campaign, Patti Hansen by Charles Tracy for Calvin Klein Jeans 1979 campaign, Brooke Shields photographed and filmed by Richard Avedon & Doon Arbus for Calvin Klein Jeans 1980 campaign, Kate Moss photographed by Herb Ritts for Calvin Klein Jeans 1993 campaign, Kate Moss in CK Jeans campaign Spring/Summer 2000

1 comment:

  1. Yes! HaHaHa All I remember when I was a little girl, was Brooke Shields saying "nothing gets between me and my Calvin's" LOL I loved Brooke!