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Larry King Live

Calvin Klein Discusses His Fashion Empire

Aired June 5, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, he's the design master of modern elegance with a name known around the world. He's also shocked the socks off folks with some of his ads. He's Calvin Klein, he's here for the hour, he'll take your calls, he's next on LARRY KING LIVE.

It's always great to welcome Calvin Klein to LARRY KING LIVE on -- should be on more often.

But it's always nice seeing you. So much to talk about. You even made the news just for your appearance on the show, right?

CALVIN KLEIN, V.C., CALVIN KLEIN INCORPORATED: Not for our appearance. And this is -- no, this is a very painful, difficult moment for us, Larry, because...

KING: You have filed a major lawsuit against Warnaco. Let me tell you first -- let me read what they said.

KLEIN: Sure.

KING: And then we'll get into you.

Warnaco issued a statement today to us, from Warnaco in response to the litigation of Calvin Klein against them: "The complaint is without merit and we are confident that it will be clearly shown to be just that in court. In our view, it's a desperate attempt by Calvin Klein to cover up and distract focus from the highly deteriorated business state of CKI. Throwing stones at Warnaco is not the answer to CKI's problems, Calvin Klein's failed sale of CKI or the positions Calvin Klein or CKI are in today."

CKI, I assume, is Calvin Klein International, right?

KLEIN: Incorporated.

KING: Incorporated.

KLEIN: That's my -- that's -- we're a design company.

KING: What's the suit about?

KLEIN: Warnaco is one of our licensing partners who has the rights to manufacture and distribute our jeanswear.

KING: They've been doing this for quite some time?

KLEIN: They've been doing it only for the last three years.

KING: So you gave them a contract to make the jeans to your specifications.

KLEIN: We didn't give them -- we had a contract with the company. Warnaco is a public company, it's publicly held, and they bought the rights and the contract that we were in with another company, which was also a public company.

KING: I see, they bought it from another company?

KLEIN: Yes. And repeatedly over the last three years we have tried everything possible to rectify the problems that we've had with this company, in the way they manufacture the product...

KING: You didn't like the way...

KLEIN: ... in the quality of the product. It's not up to standard. It's being compromised. And we have been -- constantly been told that the problems will be taken care of, and this situation gets worse and worse, so we've been misled. I -- it's my job, it's my responsibility, Larry -- and this is what I say in our lawsuit -- to protect the trademark, to protect the designs, to protect the brand. It's important that when the consumer, male, female, when they buy any of the jeanswear product that they know that it is our design.

KING: Well, wait a minute, are you saying that for the past three years, if you bought a pair of Calvin Klein's jeans they were not up to your specifications?

KLEIN: They were not. Often the product was not up to our specifications. The manufacturing company, Warnaco, has disregarded our specifications. We don't even see, often, the product to approve it.

KING: Why did you wait three years?

KLEIN: We've sent -- in one year, we sent 94 letters to the chief executive officer, who is very hands-on in this company, Linda Wachner is her name, and I've sat with her, my partner has sat with her, the three of us have talked, and we have been lied to, and we have been told that these things will be taken care of.

KING: Is this true no matter where you bought the jeans in whatever store, they didn't meet your specifications?

KLEIN: Much of the product that's out there did not meet our specifications and product was altered and designed.

KING: OK, now, they say that they're a major source of royalties for you and they were surprised by this lawsuit. They say they knew exactly where they were being sold, that you had the full list, all the royalty checks came to you, you knew exactly where the money came from and who it went to and who they sold to. That is not the essence of your suit?

KLEIN: Well, we have been told repeatedly that distribution channels would be looked at and rectified; that product changes, a quality of product; also it's a normal design process that we have run into tremendous difficultly with, would be corrected and it has not been.

KING: They continue to make the jeans, though?

KLEIN: They continue to make the jeans, we want our license back, and we want it to be in the hands of a responsible manufacturing company.

KING: That's what the suit's about.

Do they also make your underwear, too?

KLEIN: They make our underwear, as well, but it has nothing to do with the underwear.

KING: But just to -- are you saying to people, don't buy Calvin Klein jeans tomorrow?

KLEIN: No, I'm not saying to them don't buy Calvin Klein jeans, but what I'm saying is, honestly, as the designer and the company that designs all of this product, we have serious problems as to the quality and the value and the design of the product, and I must take an action. I have to protect our trademark.

KING: That's pretty bold, though, to come on international television and tell me that the product is not up to the standards you want it to be.

KLEIN: Larry, it's -- this is our responsibility. This is my job. If -- I have -- people have to have confidence when they buy the Calvin Klein product. The name Warnaco, the manufacturing name, is not on the product. And we need to see to it that these things are resolved.

KING: All right, is this fairly typical that big designers have companies manufacturing -- you don't have the Calvin Klein manufacturing company of your own?

KLEIN: We do. We...

KING: Then why farm anything out?

KLEIN: It's not farming, it's finding the best possible partner. When Barry Schwartz, my partner and I were childhood friends, and started this business, we decided we were going to go into the cosmetic and fragrance business ourselves. But the truth is we didn't really understand the mechanics of that business. Eventually, we teamed up with Unilever, it's the same Calvin Klein cosmetics company which introduced -- incidentally, we just relaunched our cosmetics and it's been a big hit.

KING: You are back, yes. So before...

KLEIN: The point is you want to find the best partners, the best business partners to manufacture and distribute the products.

KING: That's common, though?

KLEIN: Yes, of course. It doesn't only have to -- we even manufacture some of our own product.

KING: Before Warnaco bought this other company, you were satisfied with the other company? It changed under Warnaco?

KLEIN: There were issues with the other company as well. There is a tendency in the world of the business that we're in, the fashion business, which has now become a global business, you have to stay on top of the factories and the manufacturers and everyone who's involved with producing your product.

KING: I want to ask you what they meant about -- in a minute. We'll take a break, come back, and with so much talk about. Want to talk about design, and a very famous lady who worked for Calvin Klein and, of course, I know that one of the saddest days of his life was the loss of -- right? When you lost her as a worker and sent her out into the world.

We'll be back -- I'll tell you what I mean by that when we come back. Calvin Klein.

Don't go away.


KING: We're back with Calvin Klein.

Are they going to sue you back? Did you -- by the way, did you give them any warning of this lawsuit?

KLEIN: We have been writing letters and having meetings constantly.

KING: So they shouldn't have been shocked?

KLEIN: I -- I mean, you know, I'm very serious and we made it very clear that this has to stop.

KING: In their statement, what did they mean by deterioration of your company?

KLEIN: Well, I don't know what they mean, it is just nonsense, because one -- because we were exploring the idea of selling or merging our company, and really exploring new strategic opportunities with companies around the world. Quite frankly, we did discuss with Warnaco the possibility of a sale, and...

KING: With them buying it? KLEIN: With them. And they offered us $900 million. So if they thought that our business was not as good as they seem to say it is right now, then why would they have offered us almost a billion dollars for the business?

KING: You turned it down?

KLEIN: I turned it down. There was no way.

KING: Why?

KLEIN: Because, once again, it's about the integrity of the product. It's my commitment to the public that -- that the product be as well-designed, of the best value possible, and it's honest. And I couldn't possibly allow to -- what's happened to the jeans brand.

KING: But you realize in speaking like this, someone might hesitate in buying a jean tomorrow? They might very well say, hey...

KLEIN: This is...

KING: ... it's $82, it should be 40.

KLEIN: This is a risk that I think the manufacturing company has taken, a huge risk. And I must do everything that I can do to rectify the situation...

KING: You get a lot of royalties from this company.

KLEIN: We get a lot of royalties. Warnaco represents $1 billion of retail sales -- wholesale sales at Warnaco.

KING: So you could have let it just go, right? Technically?

KLEIN: Well, but it's my responsibility to fix these things.

KING: And it's my responsibility to ask, what the heck is the difference in a pair of jeans, really?

KLEIN: Well, there are enormous differences. And the truth is, people who enjoy jeans, and jeanswear, because it encompasses much more than just denim, there are different prices of denim, depending on the part of the world...

KING: There's a quality of denim?

KLEIN: Well, it's -- the quality of the fabric is determined sometimes by how long it takes them to make the fabric. There's hand- woven denim out of Japan, I mean, which is very expensive. It's the quality of the fabrics, the amount of time that the fabric is washed and rinsed and scrubbed. And you can do...

KING: Will a better jean wear longer? Do I get my money's worth?

KLEIN: Your money is not -- the money that you pay for a pair of jeans is not just determined by how long it will last, it's by how much effort went into producing the product. It's the design ability, it's the originality of the wash...

KING: The way they do with the pockets and how it looks and the color...

KLEIN: And the finishing and the shade and the effect that you're trying to create. And this is what we do. We're a design company. And this is what our manufacturing partner has undermined in the process.

KING: When you first designed jean, Calvin, who was -- the only one was the one in San Francisco? Who else was doing jeans?

KLEIN: Well, there were always the traditional jeansmakers. There were always the people who that's their business.

KING: Yes, but who's that, though?

KLEIN: Yes, Wrangler, Levi and, you know, Lee...

KING: Yes.

KLEIN: ... the really traditional ones. And what I bring to -- and my design studios and all the designers that we employ and who work with us creating this product, is we bring something -- we bring our own strategy, our own philosophy to -- to the product.

KING: Have you stretched it too thin? Can I get too many Calvin Kleins in too many places? Is Calvin Klein everywhere?

KLEIN: No, we're not. It's -- we're not everywhere, and we haven't attempted to create as many products as I hope we will in the future. I think...

KING: You want to do more?

KLEIN: Oh, absolutely. I think if you do something that's valid and if you do something that's current in terms of style and point of view, and if you could offer people something better in their lives, I think that's kind of a good thing.

KING: But a little kid, you and Barry never thought it would come to this, though?

KLEIN: No, we were going to open up a pet shop when we were kids.

KING: Was it difficult -- did you think the reaction to this lawsuit would be as big as it was, front-page story everywhere? Did you expect that?

KLEIN: It's -- I'm not shocked by the fact that it's such a big story, because I think it's an important story, that the consumer must realize that -- that it's my job to protect what I intended to give them. And I want to see to it that they get what we created. KING: That same quality, is that true in a pair of underwear? Just the way a pair of briefs are made?

KLEIN: Oh, it's about everything. It's about everything. You can have every shirt that we wear, every, you know, piece of wearing apparel. There are all different qualities of product, and at the same time, people who manufacture product in, you know, in huge quantities will pay less through the manufacturing process, and, therefore, can offer sometimes greater value.

KING: Is there any -- before we talk about -- no, let's take a break and come back. Lots of things to talk about.

Our guest is Calvin Klein, one of the world's most successful designers. "TIME" magazine called him fashion's Frank Lloyd Wright.

Don't go away.


KING: One other question still with the lawsuit, just so I don't miss anything, the question of what stores you were sold into, that was not the major essence of this?

KLEIN: It's -- that's also a part of that. It's a part of it, clearly.

KING: That's part of the integrity of the product, tight?

KLEIN: Well, it's part of distribution. I mean, we have a contract with a company, and we both, both parties, have to live up to our contract, And Warnaco is not.

KING: A terrific lady worked for you. You haven't spoken much about it, but it's been some time now, and I'd like you to ask about her because we met her. Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, who died with her husband in that plane crash, worked for you in what capacity?

KLEIN: I really haven't talked -- and you know. I mean, I've not talked about this to anyone and had no idea that you would even ask me. Carolyn was someone I found in Boston, actually, in one -- our Boston store, and offered her a job in New York to work with people that needed some special attention because...


KLEIN: Yes, it may be because we were doing clothes for a film or for a personal appearance or certain -- you know, it was really a personal thing.

KING: She had that quality, then?

KLEIN: Oh, she was just a wonderful young woman and beautiful and quite an inspiration to all of us, and a good friend of my family at the time, too.

KING: I know. When she got married, were you surprised?

KLEIN: Well, I just add to this that John was coming up for clothes. I mean, I've known John -- I knew John for a long time, And he was coming up to get some clothes actually, and...

KING: That's how they met?

KLEIN: ... and Carolyn had never worked with -- she only worked with women. And knowing John, I thought, I have a feeling that they might really like each other.

KING: You brought them together?

KLEIN: Yes, and that's really -- let's move on to cosmetics, let's move on to everything else.

KING: No, one other thing in that area -- but it's interesting to learn that you introduced them. And they met in your store, and then she left...

KLEIN: Well, it was at our company, and -- oh, she stayed quite a long time and then moved on to marriage and whatever.

KING: So you had to react terribly to that horrific news.

KLEIN: Everyone reacted. This is tragedy. I mean, this is an American tragedy. I think, you know, to John and his family, I mean, I have chosen not to speak about this because I know how much John and his family craved privacy. And I know what that's like, myself, when your privacy is invaded. And so, you know, other than the fact that every American saw this as a tragedy...

KING: And they belonged to us in a sense? I mean...

KLEIN: Of course. We watched John grow up. We watched him grow up, salute, and, you know, it's part of our culture.

KING: And just one other thing, rumors that they were not getting along, untrue? That can help us.

KLEIN: I would not comment on anything like that, and I think it's -- I think it's just conjecture, people -- you know.

KING: You've been the victim of that, right? What do you -- how do you react now when tabloids take you on? Do you look at as it's part of the scene?

KLEIN: Well, it's -- it's so unpleasant, it can be so awful. It's such an awful price to pay, because I come on programs like this, which I don't do very often, but I talk to the press because I'm introducing a new perfume or I'm introducing the cosmetics collection.

KING: It's part of your business.

KLEIN: I need to convey to the world what I'm doing and why we did it and what's special about it. But at the same time, you're a target. The more well-known you are, you become a target. I've learned to live with it. I mean, at my age now, it really doesn't bother me.

KING: What are they going to do to you, right?

KLEIN: Yes, but you go through, you know, years. The pain, I think, really comes if it affects my family, if it hurts my daughter. My mom just turned 91...

KING: Really?

KLEIN: ... and she watches your program all the time.

KING: Where does she live?

KLEIN: She lives in New York at...

KING: Have you ever sued a tabloid?

KLEIN: I've never sued anyone.

KING: This is your first lawsuit?

KLEIN: This is the first time I've ever sued anyone. I mean...

KING: In your life?

KLEIN: ... personal attacks in the press to me are really not important. This is about the quality of our brand, of our trademark.

KING: We will talk about design, what Calvin Klein product sells the best.

We'll ask that and other things and we'll take your phone call. He's our guest for the full hour.

Don't go away.


KING: Calvin Klein has been called the Zen master of shock advertising. Some folks claim this 1995 jeans campaign imitated child porn. The ads were eventually yanked.



UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Well, there's a reason.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Do you always do what you don't want to do?


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Because we'd like to see what you look like.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: No. OK, I turned around.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Good. But what kind of jeans are those?



KING: You ever sorry about those?

KLEIN: This was five years ago.

KING: It got you an awful lot of press -- negative.

KLEIN: It created something that we completely did not expect. We thought that we were doing something that was a bit on the edge and might be interpreted as fun. It wasn't. I withdrew the ads immediately and apologized, because my intention is not to hurt, offend anyone. My intention is to do creative thing. And in the creative process, sometimes working with photographers, directors and writers, sometimes we go too far. And I think that one pushed a button.

KING: What emphasis of your product is aimed at you? In other words, is it total Calvin -- I asked you off the air, what percentage is sold to women, what percent to men? You said over 60 percent to women. Your products, over 60 percent are sold to women.

KLEIN: I was talking generally, because it's hard to say, depending on each -- you know, our fragrance business is one thing and the underwear and jeans business is something else. But a large percent -- I always think of myself as a designer for women first. And when I...

KING: All ages?

KLEIN: Absolutely. When you're talking young, to me it's not the age, it's one's attitude. I feel young, you feel young -- you just became a father again. I mean, you know, what are we talking about? We feel in our heads young. And people are living longer, they're in better shape than they ever were, and if you take care of yourself, you want -- you can look good. And I think clothes can reflect that. So it's a young attitude.

KING: So when you're designing, you're not thinking 18 years old?

KLEIN: When I'm thinking about our jeanswear collection, I'm thinking of -- because it gets divided into different categories, a younger group -- we call them juniors in department stores -- then a more sophisticated group -- we call that women's. It depends. I mean, you know...

KING: Everybody in L.A. 65 years old is wearing jeans. Men and women wear jeans. KLEIN: Because they think young. And they're active, and they're outside, and they're involved with what's going on. But it's having a young attitude. I like things to look sexy. I can try to convey that message through my advertising. I convey the message through the cut. I mean, this is what a designer can do.

KING: The cut of a jacket?

KLEIN: The cut of anything, dress, sweater, you know, pants.

KING: Very competitive business, right? I mean, do you have really great years and bad years? You know, do you have a showing in the spring in Paris that bombs?

KLEIN: We -- no, I refuse to show in Paris, because I'm an American designer first. And I feel so strong about the American influence, that we Americans in the world of design have had such a strong influence that most Americans are now designing in Italy, in France. And we've had this amazing influence, and I feel it's important to continue to show here.

KING: Americans a major player in the design scene in the world?

KLEIN: America is a major player -- you know, as I travel around, everyone looks American today. It used to be that I'd be in Rome and you could really see the difference. And, you know, in terms of the way people look, it's American everywhere.

KING: And how about the emphasis on being skinny, that some people say that you're creating eating disorders. People are so desirous of being that -- you know, if you're male, a 32 waist?

KLEIN: We're not creating eating disorders. I mean, you know, I understand that that is a serious problem, you know, and that there are people that do have eating disorder. But it's not because of advertising. I just don't -- I simply don't buy it.

KING: You're not selling it.


KING: Calvin Klein's unisex fragrance CK1 has invaded the Internet. A virtual ad campaign invites consumers to e-mail cybercharacters.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: I don't know what to do any different. He knows I like him. Last Wednesday -- oh, he knows. How could he not know? Unless he's an idiot, which is possible. No, of course he knows. He just doesn't like me. Maybe he thinks I'm ugly. Well, I think he's ugly, but so cute.


KING: We'll be back with more and your phone calls for Calvin Klein after this.


KING: We're back.

Among those who've strutted their stuff in Calvin Klein underwear, rapper Marky Mark.

A warning: This is pretty adult stuff.


MARKY MARK, RAPPER: Shout goes out to my man Calvin Klein for looking out for the drawer. I'm not saying I would do another Fruit of the Loom commercial or nothing like that because they don't make the hike shorts.

These are the '90s, man. They just fit good and they hold me snug.

So I'm about to go get some skin, so I'm not going to put on, like, no silk underwear.

Oh, she got freckles.

Next question.

You know, the best protection against AIDS is keep your Calvins on.

Now that could definitely come between me and my Calvins.



KING: OK, did you got a lot of flak for that?



KLEIN: No. As a matter of fact, he now calls himself Mark Wahlberg, and he's wonderful.

KING: He does OK.

KLEIN: And he's wonderful. I mean, he's wonderful. He's a wonderful actor. And I remember when I sent him the script for the commercial. He said, Calvin, I could do better than that. And he wrote this.

KING: Really?

KLEIN: I said, go ahead. Just do it.

KING: Tell the story of when Brooke Shields, that commercial broke. "The New York Daily News" front-page headline was...

KLEIN: Well, the commercial that you just showed before, I mean, it was so -- I remember so clearly, showing it to people when we created the commercial, to our people, and everyone laughed. They thought it was amusing. Of course she was just playing roles and, you know, very kind of sexy. And we ran it on the air, and it caused quite a stir, to say the least. And we had to take them off the air because people...

KING: "The Daily News" ran it as...

KLEIN: "Daily News" had it on the front page and the story that the censors threw us off the air. But on the upper right-hand corner of the front page was Dow breaks 1000. I thought...

KING: Wow.

KLEIN: Isn't it kind of reversed? Dow breaking 1000 seemed to me the big news.

KING: Callumet, Michigan -- we'll got to calls for Calvin Klein -- hello.

CALLER: Good evening, Larry. Good evening, Calvin.


CALLER: I had a quick question for you. With the contributions, Calvin, that you've brought to the fashion industry, do you feel, or hold yourself accountable, if you will, for infusing new trends and concepts into the industry as a whole for the other designers to tap into?

KING: In other words, do you think you're copied?

KLEIN: Oh, I think that's flattering if we are. I mean, that doesn't bother me. And I never could understand why that bothers people. I mean, we're not inventing...

KING: Because you created something that was new and someone else made it for less and looked like yours, that doesn't bother you?

KLEIN: I mean, it happens. You just learn to live with it. And if it continues to happen...

KING: You can't copyright it.

KLEIN: And it's when they stop copying, that's when we're really in trouble.

KING: You can't copyright a design.

KLEIN: No, you can't.

KING: So, therefore, you see yourself a lot copied?


KING: All right.

KLEIN: But if you want the original, if you want it first and if you want the best quality, then you buy it from us.

KING: What makes a good designer? If you are hiring someone tomorrow...

KLEIN: I hire -- I have 200 designers working in my design studios.

KING: What do you look for?

KLEIN: I look for people who really are talented, creative, inventive, modern in thinking and hard working. Because this is -- we're in a very hard, tough business.

KING: Men as well as women?

KLEIN: Oh, yes.

KING: Training for this, is that essential, that you graduate someplace, yes?

KLEIN: People have done it without having formal training in design, but I don't hire people unless they've been formally trained.

KING: You don't?

KLEIN: Do not.

KING: They must have gone to, like, FTI or some...



KLEIN: Or one of the wonderful -- you know, there are many design schools throughout the world, and we constantly -- we work with those schools, and we bring people to New York.

KING: Is there an aspect of Calvin, of you, do you think, that enjoys being controversial, that your commercials are talked about, that kind of likes that?

KLEIN: I don't set out, and we as a company don't set out, to have something become controversial. We -- it may seem rather innocent and naive, but often the goal is to be inventive, creative, on the edge, always thinking about young people and what they might think is cool and of the moment and sometimes provocative and sexy. So that could add up to controversy.

KING: Why enter the world's most difficult competitive business, makeup and skin care? I mean, that's...

KLEIN: Because...

KING: ... that's a killer.

KLEIN: Because the cosmetics industry has been influenced, takes all of their cues traditionally, from fashion designers. So why should -- why should -- why not -- why not women get it right at the beginning, as it's happening, with color?

KING: But isn't it a tough business? That perfume, isn't that a tough business?

KLEIN: Yes, it's all tough. But it's exciting and it's challenging, and that's part of what makes it worth...

KING: Do you get space in the first floor of all department stores which smell like...

KLEIN: We're not in all department stores, because we've started this business off in a small way and we're growing it. But we have wonderful space. But it's about the product, the product itself. I wouldn't have gone into cosmetics if I couldn't offer women something that was special, something that was new and unique.

KING: What -- frankly, between you and me, what's a better lipstick?

KLEIN: What is a better lipstick.

KING: Yes, is there -- is the quality of the lipstick the color?

KLEIN: It's the -- there's so much new technology in cosmetics now that -- of course it's color and of course it's quality, but there's all new kinds of technology. These are products that people put on their skin. They should last, they have to be clean, healthy. They have to make you look -- enhance your looks, enhance your beauty, not give you an old-fashioned, made-up look, but rather something that's natural, young.

KING: How important is the tube?

KLEIN: The tube?

KING: The tube, yes, does that sell the product?

KLEIN: The design of the packaging, I think, just has to be a reflection of what the aesthetic is. If it's new and modern, it has to be the design...

KING: No question, but it's always the product that counts?

KLEIN: I believe it's always the product.

KING: Back with more of Calvin Klein, get some more phone calls.

Here's another provocative Calvin Klein ad, this one for Escape.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: They thought I was running away, but I was just running through the night, into the light. All I could see was you. No beginning, no end -- Escape.




UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: I love you, I love you, I love you. Love, love, love. Love is a word that you can't explain -- love.

KATE MOSS, ACTRESS: Between love and madness lies Obsession.


KING: Kate Moss.

KLEIN: Kate Moss, yes.

KING: Done all right.

KLEIN: And that was her boyfriend, actually, who -- I became inspired by their relationship -- at the time was a photographer, and he was completely obsessed with her. And he said, let's make some commercials.

KING: How does that sell product?

KLEIN: It -- my theory, my strategy, is that the commercials, the advertising and the product design, the packaging, all should reflect what the product is about. It's sexy. It's meant to be young. She's young. I mean, it's meant to convey a message.

KING: A concept?

KLEIN: A concept. And it's meant to be, you know, to amuse or to be...

KING: Long Island, New York for Calvin Klein -- hello.

CALLER: Hi, good evening. My question is for Calvin Klein. Back in the early '80s, I did work in the retail -- Ralph Lauren, as a matter of fact. And I was almost fired because I was wearing a pair of Calvin Klein jeans then, when I didn't even know much about Ralph Lauren.

I was calling to find out, will you maintain the jeans that I wore through the '80s up to now?

KLEIN: We reintroduced the original Calvin, the first jean that we did in the early '80s. And it's actually in the stores.

KING: Really? KLEIN: It's a wonderful fit. Yes, it's called the Original Calvin, and it was kind of fun. And Kate Moss was the one who modeled it in our ads.

KING: In a sense, when people buy stuff with your name on it, or CK, they're plugging you. They're walking around advertising you.

KLEIN: You know, that's one way to look at it. But the way we look at it is that people today enjoy graphic design. Graphics are a part of the fashion design, and it's -- and it's -- it's become a thing unto itself whether it's T-shirts or labeling.

KING: Any kind of product you don't make? Do you make hand bags?

KLEIN: Oh, yes.

KING: Anything you don't make in the fashion field?

KLEIN: Well, we're in the home field now, which is something that's so exciting.

KING: Really, sheets? Pillow cases?

KLEIN: We make everything for the bedroom, the bath and for the dining table, dishes, glassware.

KING: You design it?

KLEIN: I have a design studio who works on it. They understand the aesthetic, and I work closely with them. It's so much fun. Next we want to do furniture.

KING: Are you and Ralph Lauren very competitive?

KLEIN: Well, we all compete to, you know...

KING: I guess American designers are you, him, Blass.

KLEIN: But we're competing on the world level today. It's not just -- we're not just competing with American designers. We're competing -- you know, it's a global business. We're selling product in every major region of the world.

KING: What designer do you like?

KLEIN: Well, Ralph is one.

KING: You like Ralph's work?

KLEIN: He's always done, you know, wonderful things. Karl Lagerfeld in Paris is another.

KING: Chanel, right? Is he still with Chanel?

KLEIN: Yes. KING: What did you think of Versace?

KLEIN: I liked him as a person, I mean, very much. And he was a really good designer who changed his moods from very clean and minimal to kind of very fun, sexy and sometimes kind of outrageous. But he was prolific. Mark Jacobs is another really fine designer, an American designer. There are lots of people out there.

KING: A lot of good young ones coming along, too?

KLEIN: Well, yes, and I think we need the stores to support them. We need the stores to really support young talent...

KING: Buy them.

KLEIN: ... and buy the product and develop them.

KING: Back with our remaining moments with Calvin Klein on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE right after this.


KING: Any big regrets?

KLEIN: None.

KING: None?

KLEIN: No, I'm so excited to this day and looking forward to the future about all the new prospects and areas that how -- you know that we have open to us throughout the world.

KING: None?

KLEIN: And I have no regrets.

KING: Quitman, Georgia -- hello.

CALLER: Hi, Larry.


CALLER: This is for Calvin.


CALLER: Calvin, out of the New York A list, social list, who would you like to most dress, from W and womanswear.

KING: Good question.

KLEIN: I've never been interested in dressing people who are on the social list. I've always been interested in dressing what I call the modern American woman and women around the world who really are influenced by this modern American working woman. She's active, she's young, you know, she has a family, and all of that. She's not necessarily on the social list. If I think of young people, it's more Hollywood today, Gwyneth Paltrow.

KING: Do you want your stuff at the Academy Awards?

KLEIN: Well, when it's a friend. For instance, I've been dressing Gwyneth Paltrow for a long time. And, you know, she's someone special. She's someone who I like.

KING: You won't loan out seven dresses?

KLEIN: No, I won't loan out seven dresses.

KING: But they do that -- everyone does that.

KLEIN: I don't do that. I just think it's a waste, and I think it's dishonest, and I think it's -- I only want to work with people who really like to wear what I design. And, therefore, we will design something special for them if we have a relationship. But otherwise, it becomes a business.

KING: A good young designer, can good young designers design for either sex?

KLEIN: Yes, they should...

KING: You have, of course, but I mean, can...

KLEIN: Yes -- OK, but I don't see why not. I mean, it's just that some people have a feeling for one as opposed to the other. It's fun for me to work with men's clothes because I can try everything on. With women's, I'm looking at, you know, beautiful women and I'm asking them, well, does it feel good? Does it -- you know, how does...

KING: This may be hard. Was there in your career -- had to be -- a bomb, an item you thought would be, this can't miss, wait until we show this, this is going through the roof?

KLEIN: You know, when we first -- way back in -- gosh, I guess it was in the late '70s, I decided to enter the fragrance and cosmetic business. We did it ourselves. And that was a big disappointment. We really hurt the stores. I mean, the makeup artists loved the product. But we didn't understand how to manufacture it and distribute it properly, and it was very complicated. It wasn't that the product wasn't good...

KING: And so the mistake was marketing wrong?

KLEIN: It's a business -- it's a business like any other business, and the product must be good. But there are lots of other issues that concern.

KING: Are women harder to please than men? Generally?

KLEIN: They're more interesting to work with.

KING: Really? KLEIN: Yes. Women really love -- and they have such a wider variety of what they -- what they would wear, whether it's underwear or outerwear, it makes no difference.

KING: So they're more fun?

KLEIN: And what's more beautiful, what's more exciting than giving something, helping someone look really beautiful?

KING: Always great seeing you, Calvin.

KLEIN: Thanks, Larry.

KING: Thanks for coming on board.

KLEIN: Thank you for having me.

KING: Calvin Klein. It's his age, we live in it -- I like that line.

Tomorrow night, Tonya Harding will be here. The young lady who seems to always get in trouble will be with us tomorrow night, and she'll be taking your phone calls.

We invite you to stay tuned for CNN NEWSSTAND. Our girl Greta Van Susteren will be there taking phone calls live tonight.

We thank Calvin Klein. I'm Larry King. For the whole crew here in Los Angeles, thanks for joining us and good night.



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