What other designer could cause such a ruckus over an ad campaign that the Federal Bureau of Investigation would get involved? More importantly, who else could almost singlehandedly trigger a movement of fashion advertising from the traditional harbor of mag- azines to outdoor boards and bus cards?
Mr. Klein's clout in the marketing world comes not so much from his advertising budget as from his bold strokes both in media and creative.
Although the measured media spending for his company, Calvin Klein Inc., was only $2.9 million last year, according to Competitive Media Reporting, the Calvin Klein name was ubiquitous-through his Warnaco-licensed underwear line and the landslide success of the unisex CK One.
Marketing support from Mr. Klein's in-house agency CRK Advertising for the scent alone was $18 million through Calvin Klein Cosmetics, a unit of Unilever's Chesebrough-Pond's. That line made its mark through some untraditional marketing, including distribution in Tower Records stores and media such as wild postings.
But it's not just the Klein name that works fashion marketing magic. Mr. Klein is intimately involved with the whole marketing process through CRK, which handles all products bearing his name, giving them that singularly Calvin Klein mood.
Like them or not, the ads are attention-getters. From the 1980s when he dressed Brooke Shields in a skintight pair of designer jeans and first graced outdoor and transit ads with male models in scanty Calvin Klein underwear, to the TV spots under FBI investigation because they pushed the decency envelope too far, Calvin Klein gets noticed.
"He's always pushing the envelope, and people pay attention to that," says Ron Galotti, publisher of Vogue.
It was Calvin who started the now-growing trend toward transit advertising at a time when most fashion products were sticking to traditional print and TV.
"He's a genius," says Mr. Galotti. "Who else could continue to re-create himself they way he does."
Calvin Klein Inc.
Ad budget: $25 million
Agency: CRK Advertising
Career: After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1962, Calvin Klein rose to the top of the fashion world as a designer, forming his company in 1969. The name has since been associated with jeans, underwear and more recently, perfume, following Mr. Klein's deal with Unilever's Chesebrough-Pond's unit to license his name for fragrances. His campaigns are often outrageous but arty: He's a member of the Museum of Modern Art, along with New York's Whitney and the Guggenheim Museums.