Written by Harriet Botwright

The iconic lifestyle brand has truly cemented the fashion world since Calvin Klein first provided the American culture with glamorous, minimalistic sportswear. The billion-dollar fashion brand has created countless marketing campaigns that have not only shocked their audience, but continued to obtain a strong following.

As one of the primary leaders in understated but chic fashion, Calvin Klein has continually navigated its way through five decades with timeless essentials. Calvin Klein’s ability to adapt to current trends has allowed the company to make a staggering $9.8 billion dollars (£7.43 billion) worth of global retail sales in 2018. So, who is the mastermind behind all this?

Brief History

The journey started at the York Hotel in New York in 1968 when Klein first set up a shop, creating a collection from coats to dresses with a youthful touch. His expertise was soon recognised as Klein was featured on the September 1969 cover of Vogue magazine.

With his success, Klein started to expand his line by introducing the American DNA – sportswear, as well as branching out into accessories for men and women. Due to the vast amount of products he had to offer and the versatility, Calvin Klein expanded at a staggering rate by raking in over $600 million in sales in 1984.

Klein sold his iconic lifestyle brand to Phillips Van Heusen Corp (PVH) in 2002, but remained the creative mind behind the thriving brand. To many, Klein is believed to be the most successful American designers in the modern age.

Currently, the Calvin Klein brand is consisted of: CK Calvin Klein; Calvin Klein; Calvin Klein Jeans; Calvin Klein Underwear, and Calvin Klein Performance. The tiered-brand strategy provides the opportunity for growth and expansion on their identity through multiple tiers. Who is the genius behind this strategy?

Steve Shiffman


Steve Shiffman accepted the CEO role for Calvin Klein in 2014 and started working for PVH in 2006 as Group President in Retail. It took Steve eight years of hard work from starting at PVH to become CEO of Calvin Klein and obtained this role for five years. With over three decades worth of retail experience, Shiffman was the perfect candidate for this challenging role.

During his time at Calvin Klein as CEO, Shiffman focused on multiple areas for each of the Calvin Klein product lines around the world. These included: product development; marketing, and commercial operations. His skill and expertise were a great asset for Calvin Klein.

“One of the things that makes any company great is a willingness to always learn and evolve,” says Steve Shiffman when talking with IESE Professor Fabrizio Ferraro about learning. “Those who only protect the legacy will struggle, whereas those who are willing to listen and learn will be most successful. The day I stop learning is the day I should leave the job.”

Cheryl Abel-Hodges


Cheryl Abel-Hodges has recently been appointed the new CEO of Calvin Klein from her previous job as Group President for Calvin Klein North America and The Underwear Group. It took Abel-Hodges 13 years from starting with PVH to become CEO of Calvin Klein. This demonstrates the hard work that was put into securing the CEO role and her growth within the company.

With several senior roles, Abel-Hodges was the ideal candidate to take on the role. “I have great confidence that Cheryl is the right person to lead the Calvin Klein brand,” says the chairman and CEO of PVH Corp, Emanuel Chirico. “Her strong management abilities, together with her consistent track record for operational excellence, will provide strong direction for the Calvin Klein team. I believe this leadership change, coupled with our incredible management teams around the world, will allow us to capture the brand’s long-term growth potential.”