Sep 23, 2008
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Calvin Klein says hard work, talent still count in fashion world

Sep 23, 2008

Calvin Klein - Photo : Jack Guez/AFP

PARIS, Sept 23, 2008 (AFP) - Four decades after launching his label, celebrity fashion designer Calvin Klein offers an upbeat take on his industry as both solidly grounded and still open to hardworking new talent.

"When I started, Wall Street didn't look at fashion in a serious way. They thought it was just about intuitions, whims, changes from season to season," Klein said in an interview with AFPTV.

Today, he said, "you almost can't be in fashion in a serious way unless you're part" of a company listed on the stock market.

If fashion is ephemeral "the business is solid," he said, and based market research.

"It's no longer just designers coming up with ideas out of nowhere. And that's a huge change."

Known particularly for his jeans and seductive underwear ads -- though his CK signature is emblazoned on items ranging from eyewear to sheets -- the 65-year-old US designer founded his company in 1968, just four years after graduating from New York's Fashion Institute of Technology.

He admits there is no easy ride in the fashion world.

"It's a tough business. It's one that you really have to work at -- if you're a very small business, or it's very large. It requires a full commitment. There is no easy way to do this," Klein said.

Still, he said, "I could start today with the same money that I started with in 1968. I know I could.

"You don't need a lot of financing. You don't need all of the things that you do need when you become big and you expand."

Designing clothes may be difficult, "but the world will recognise if you have talent," Klein said, speaking on the sidelines of a recent seminar for American university students in Paris.

Klein's own career has been a rollercoaster. His company skirted bankruptcy in 1992, yet he bounced back to be dubbed America's best designer a year later.

Offering advice to young designers, he said: "Ultimately, you have to be confident. You need to have people believe in you. You have to be a leader. Even if you're unsure and insecure, don't show it."

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