Calvin Klein: 'I wanted someone who was natural, always thin'
Calvin Klein used waif models because he found the trend for plastic surgery at that time "distasteful".
The American designer gave a rare interview in New York City on Monday night, as part of the new series Fashion Icons with Fern Mallis. Anna Wintour was among the guests who gathered to hear the usually-quiet designer discuss his illustrious career.
Calvin famously cast Kate Moss to appear in many of his advertisements, which many see as the start of the waif epidemic.
He opened up about why he made the decision to use her.
“The reason for Kate [Moss] and this whole group of women I found that someone named ‘waifs’ was because before that, a lot of women were getting breast implants and doing things to their buttocks. It was getting out of control. I just found something so distasteful about all that,” he explained. “I wanted someone who was natural, always thin. I was looking for the complete opposite of that glamour type that came before Kate.”
Calvin discussed his beginnings in the fashion industry including his first job designing coats and suits. His boss was a “nightmare” who would be grumpy until midday and criticise anything Calvin drew.
He eventually fought his way to the top, and is proud of all he’s achieved. He knows he’ll probably be remembered for his iconic underwear, something he’s come to terms with.
“My second wife Kelly worked with me in the design studio for a long period of time and she was greatly responsible for us doing underwear… I still wear it. And I wear other people’s underwear, too, because I want to check out the competition,” he said.
“[My daughter Marci] was quoted in Time or Newsweek to something of the effect of, ‘Every time I go to bed with some guy, I’m looking at my dad’s name on their underwear.’ I said to my psychiatrist at the time, ‘I don’t think that’s very funny.’ And he said, ‘Lighten up.’”
In 2003, Calvin hit the headlines when he behaved erratically at a Knicks basketball game at Madison Square Garden. He entered rehab shortly afterwards, and it’s something he’s happy to talk about.
The 68-year-old has struggled with addiction but insists too many people use such a problem as an excuse for bad behaviour.
“I struggled with addiction and lots of people do. That was really a shameful, horrible moment. It had nothing to do with work. I’ve done enough therapy and enough work on myself. Addiction is not caused by stress on the job, even though lots of people in the fashion industry have suffered from the same problem. It’s not about the work,” he said. “It has more to do with your childhood and lots of other things. You’re always in recovery. You’re always aware that this is something you don’t want to do, whether it’s drugs, sex, food. There are lots of addictions.”