Miraculously, his work hadn’t suffered—which says a lot about Klein’s extraordinary sense of responsibility to his company—and, for the most part, neither had his public image.
There were “morning after” phone calls among insiders reporting of antics, kept just among friends out of protection and love for him.
Our first taped session took place in Southampton at his large, turreted Gothic mansion, which sits on one of the best sites on Long Island, facing both the ocean and Shinnecock Bay.
The designer had recently finished temporary renovations, removing every arch, squaring off planes, getting rid of all the pink and black and gold—wiping out all traces of the monstrous renovation executed by a previous owner—and coating the whole place in a Calvin-approved shade of white (it’s never simply white), so he could bear to live in it while he figured out what to do with the joint.
While some designers look down their noses at bottom-line concerns, or at least pretend to, Klein, because he had this double perspective, was able to nail the forward.
In that way, he has been a great and canny pop artist, like Andy Warhol or Madonna.
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I brought this up with him during our talks, and he laughed. By the time he was done with his company, more than three decades after he founded it, people’s ideas about fashion had radically changed. Klein, who was born on November 19, 1942, grew up in a Jewish immigrant family in the northern part of the Bronx, near Riverdale.
He said that he hated the idea that people at shows would feel pressured to give him a lot of phony baloney. He rarely mentions his older brother or younger sister, but they all lived in very close quarters in the apartment where he spent his entire youth.
As Klein talks candidly about the trauma of letting go, Ingrid Sischy connects the fashion icon’s life to his designs. ” Adding to the embarrassing public nature of it all, the New York City Council soon passed a “Calvin Klein” bill, which increased the fines for unruly fans who interfere with games; one of the most powerful names in fashion was now associated with streakers and bottle throwers.
Five years ago, when Calvin Klein was in the process of selling the fashion-and-design company that bears his name, family and friends were worried. For all his celebrity and off-and-on notoriety, Klein the man is extremely shy, so private, such a paragon of discretion, and so old-fashioned and correct in the department of manners that this episode must have been agonizing for him.