Monday, July 09, 2007

In Passing ... Liz Claiborne (1929-2007)

On the 26th of June 2008, American fashion designer Liz Claiborne died after a long battle with a rare cancer at the age of 78.

The death of Claiborne, a Brussels-born fashion purveyor who revolutionizes womenswear after Anne Klein was greatly felt by all fashionistas in United States, Canada, Europe and even in Asia and South America.

Born Anne Elisabeth Jane Claiborne on 31st March 1929 to an American banker Omer Villere and Louise Carol Fenner Claiborne in Brussels, Belgium, the direct descendant of William C.C. Claiborne, Louisiana's first governor, spent her teenage years following her parents around Europe and spent her summer holidays in Baltimore or New Orleans with family.

At the age of 19, Ms. Claiborne won a design competition held by Harper's Bazaar and was inspired to pursue a career in fashion. Instead her intention was disapproved by her parents. Her first fashion stint was working with designer Tina Lesser as sketcher and fit model. Later she worked with more dress companies such as Ben Reig, Juniorite and Dan Keller.

While working at Rhea Manufacturing Company, she met her husband Arthur Ortenberg in 1954. At the time, Liz was married to Ben Shultz while Arthur too is a married man but love knows no boundary. The couple started an affair, left the company and married in 1957. In 1976, Claiborne, Ortenberg and two other partners - Leonard Boxer and Jerome Chazen - started founded Liz Claiborne, Inc.

With a startup capital of less than half a million dollars, the company made its first gross profit of $2.6 million dollars in its first year. Her own interpretation of women's sportswear, which is office-friendly and incorporates the a blend of intelligence, strength and femininity plus carefully tailored separates that could be mix and match with other pieces became famous with working American women who were looking for alternative to the expensive workwears as well as something that's business-like and less uptight.

In 1986, Liz Claiborne Inc. made its way on the annual Fortune 500 companies list and it was the first company founded by a woman to enter the list. Claiborne and Ortenberg announced their retirement from the company's management in 1989 and founded a foundation that funds nature conservation projects and environmental causes worldwide.

Today Liz Claiborne Inc's company portfolio includes Ellen Tracy, Dana Buchman, Kate Spade, Enyce, Juicy Couture and it's mens division - Claiborne.

May Ms. Claiborne rest in an eternal peace...

*Photo courtesy of Liz Claiborne, Inc.

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