Ulrich Grimm, global head of non-apparel design at Calvin Klein Inc., is leaving the company, effective Aug. 2.
Grimm has been with Calvin Klein for almost 22 years and previously served as executive vice president, design, shoes and accessories.
During his time at the brand, the highly regarded Grimm built a strong global alignment across its accessories, including some of the licensed categories such as eyewear and watches and jewelry. He oversaw design for accessories, footwear and home.
Reached for comment, Grimm told WWD that following the pandemic, several CKI divisions were restructured, and his position was eliminated. He said he’s planning to enjoy the rest of the summer at the beach and then explore opportunities either in New York or potentially return to Europe for the right opportunity.
“I will always be honored to say that Mr. Klein hired me directly 23 years ago to be responsible for the CK Calvin Klein and Calvin Klein Collection [shoes and then accessories] lines. During my tenure, I have had the pleasure to work side-by-side with such visionaries as Calvin, and later Francisco [Costa] and Italo [Zucchelli], and then with Raf [Simons] and Pieter [Mulier]. Each of them had their own work style and approach, and each uniquely inspired and motivated me to grow and further develop my skills as well as my teams.
“Over the last two decades, shoes and accessories, as well as watches, jewelry and eyewear, have gained further importance in rounding out lifestyle brands. I am proud of what I have achieved and that I have been instrumental in the design of those categories for over 20 years at Calvin Klein,” added Grimm.
A Calvin Klein spokeswoman confirmed Grimm’s departure and said no successor to his position has been named.
Suzanne Barton, chief product officer at Calvin Klein Inc., sent an e-mail to its licensed partners, obtained by WWD, informing them of Grimm’s departure. She thanked him for his “incredible dedication and countless contributions to the brand.” Barton’s e-mail noted that Stephanie Peitz, senior director of non-apparel product management and merchandising at Calvin Klein, will be the point of contact moving forward.
Cheryl Abel-Hodges, chief executive officer of Calvin Klein Inc., was unavailable for comment Thursday. The company spokeswoman said, “Ulrich has been an invaluable and incredibly well-respected associate throughout his 22 years with Calvin Klein. We are so appreciative of the immense talent, warmth and leadership he has brought to our team.”
Industry observers spoke about Grimm’s contributions to the Calvin Klein brand.
“I think Ulrich was extremely dedicated and consistent and deeply understood the brand’s aesthetic,” said Kim Vernon, president and ceo of Vernon Co. and a former chief marketing officer of Calvin Klein Inc. “He was able to manage multiple partners and different price points and maintain consistency.”
“He was really one of the veterans of Calvin Klein and the business. He was one of the stewards of the brand in many ways,” said Robert Burke, ceo of Robert Burke Associates, a consulting firm.
In April 2019, Grimm was promoted to his most recent position. Last year, the brand exited the 205W39NYC high-end collection business and Calvin Klein by Appointment, following Simons’ departure, and that signaled an end to Klein’s high-end luxury business.
Grimm, who was born in Porta Westfalica, Germany, began his U.S. career as a studio designer for Anne Klein and Anne Klein II accessory collections in 1994, and a year later was promoted to senior design director. In 1996, he became design director for the licensee behind the CK Calvin Klein shoe division, responsible for the overall concept and successful launch of the CK Calvin Klein line, and worked closely with the in-house apparel design teams at CKI. In 1997, he was hired by Reed Krakoff at Coach as design director, responsible for updating and modernizing the women’s handbag and shoe collections to target a more fashion-conscious consumer.
In 1998, Grimm joined the in-house design team at CKI as the designer director for women’s and men’s CK Calvin Klein shoes and men’s collection shoes. A year later, he was given additional responsibilities for accessories and women’s collection shoes, and since that point, has been directing all aspects of shoe and accessory design for a wide range of in-house and licensed categories.