Liz Claiborne, a founder of the company that bears her name and a major designer of American sportswear throughout the Seventies and Eighties until she retired in 1989, died Tuesday morning at age 78. The cause of death was not yet released.
Her obituary will be published in WWD tomorrow. I’ll amend with the link then.
When she was 19, Ms. Claiborne, who had studied painting in Brussels and Nice but never completed high school, won a design contest advertised in Harper’s Bazaar magazine and was inspired to pursue a career in fashion. Her parents did not approve. According to Irene Daria’s book “The Fashion Cycle” (Simon & Schuster, 1990), the family was driving through Manhattan two years later when Ms. Claiborne declared, “I’m staying.” Her father let her out of the car, handed her $50 and said, “Good luck.”
Less known was her second career of environmental conservation and activism.
…by founding a charitable foundation for environmental conservation projects, among them a wildlife preserve in northeastern Tibet; rain forest education programs in Brazil; education and health projects in Kenya; and efforts to rescue elephants in Myanmar, fish and eagles in Madagascar and European brown bears in the Carpathian mountains of Romania…In Montana, where they lived part time, they bought more than 3,000 acres of farmed and overgrazed ranches with the ambition of letting the land revert to its natural state.
Like many of you…
As a designer, Ms. Claiborne did not care to be considered a trendsetter. She placed practical concerns over the glamour of the catwalks and the prestige of designer prices…She created a new foundation for a modern working woman’s wardrobe, which had begun, she once acknowledged irritably, as the bland reinterpretation for women of a man’s navy blue suit and tie. Blouses that closed with frilly bows did not appeal to Ms. Claiborne. Her creative expressions were made of colorful tailored separates that could be mixed with other pieces to create many outfits.
Another profile of Liz Claiborne appears in WWD (sub).