Fashion icon Calvin Klein was a transformative cultural influence on a par with his contemporary Ralph Lauren — men who created brands that changed the way people thought about clothes, sex and luxury. (Klein sold his fashion house, later as famous for its fragrances as its clingy jeans and elegant lines, to Phillips-Van Heusen in 2003.) The Calvin Klein brand catapulted to national attention in the early 80s when a sultry young Brooke Shields revealed what came between her and her Calvins — famously “nothing.” Then in a wonderful irony Calvin Klein became even more famous for what actually did come between jeans and the skin: underwear.
By the early 90s it was inconceivable that a beautiful body in a magazine or on a billboard would be wearing anything but Calvin Klein undies. And there were many, from Christy Turlington to Mark Wahlberg to — most notably today — Justin Beiber. The show — and the brand — must go on. Now, like Nike selecting basketball players, Calvin Klein selects underwear models who join an exclusive club. Presently Bieber is king of that club. Calvin Klein himself, the definition of a daring and expert marketer, told CNN Asia recently that “the Justin Bieber thing” his old brand is doing “is brilliant.” Bieber, Klein says, is “right on. Perfect for now.”