Liz Claiborne (fashion designer)

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Liz Claiborne (fashion designer)
Liz Claiborne (fashion designer).jpg
Born Anne Elisabeth Jane Claiborne
(1929-03-31)March 31, 1929
Brussels, Belgium
Died June 26, 2007(2007-06-26) (aged 78)
New York City, New York, USA
Nationality American
Occupation Fashion designer
Labels Liz Claiborne

Anne Elisabeth Jane "Liz" Claiborne (March 31, 1929 – June 26, 2007) was a Belgian-born American fashion designer and entrepreneur. Claiborne is best known for co-founding Liz Claiborne Inc. which in 1986 became the first company founded by a woman to make the Fortune 500.[1] Claiborne was the first woman to become chairperson and CEO of a Fortune 500 company.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Claiborne was born in Brussels to American parents. She came from a prominent Louisiana family with an ancestor William C.C. Claiborne having been Governor of Louisiana during the War of 1812.[1] In 1939, at the start of World War II, the family returned to New Orleans.[1] She attended St. Timothy's, a boarding school then in Catonsville, Maryland and currently in Stevenson, Maryland. Rather than finishing high school, she went to Europe to study art in painters' studios.[3] Her father did not believe that she needed an education, so she studied art informally.[3]

In 1949, she won the Jacques Heim National Design Contest (sponsored by Harper's Bazaar),[citation needed] and then moved to New York City where she worked for years in the Garment District on Seventh Avenue[3] as a sketch artist at the sportswear house Tina Leser. She worked as a designer for Dan Keller and Youth Group Inc.[4]

Claiborne had a short-lived marriage before marrying Arthur Ortenberg (d. 2014)[5] in 1957. She had a son from her first marriage and two stepchildren from her second.[1]

Liz Claiborne Inc.[edit]

Claiborne, frustrated at the failure of the companies that she worked for to provide clothes for working women,[1] started her own design company, Liz Claiborne Inc., in 1976. It was an immediate success with sales of $2 million in 1976 and $23 million in 1978.[4] By 1988 it had acquired one-third of the American women's upscale sportswear market.[3]
In 1980, Liz Claiborne Accessories was founded by Nina McLemore. Liz Claiborne Inc. went public in 1981 and made the Fortune 500 in 1986 with retail sales of $1.2 billion.[4]

Claiborne listed all employees in the directory in alphabetical order to circumvent what she perceived as male hierarchies.[3] She controlled meetings by ringing a glass bell and became famous for her love of red-- "Liz Red."[3] She would sometimes pose as a saleswoman to see what average women thought of her clothes.[3]

Retirement and death[edit]

Liz Claiborne retired from active management in 1989. By that stage, she had acquired other companies, notably Kayser-Roth, which produced Liz Claiborne accessories.[1]

In retirement, Claiborne and Ortenberg founded a foundation[5] that distributed millions in funding to environmental causes including funding the television series Nature on PBS [1] and nature conservancy projects around the world.

She had been advised in May 1998 that she had a rare form of cancer affecting the lining of the abdomen.[6] Liz Claiborne died on June 26, 2007 at the age of 78, following a long battle with the cancer.[7]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Bernstein, Adam (June 28, 2007). "Liz Claiborne, 78; Fashion Industry Icon". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-07-21. "Liz Claiborne, 78, an American fashion designer who built a billion-dollar apparel enterprise by clothing career women in stylish but casual outfits at moderate prices, died June 26 at New York Presbyterian Hospital. She had cancer. With the backing of a handful of investors, she and her second husband, design executive Arthur Ortenberg, formed Liz Claiborne Inc. in 1976. An immediate hit, the business broke within a decade into Fortune magazine's list of the 500 largest companies in the United States. Her company was the first started by a woman to make the prestigious list." 
  2. ^ MADE L&C Pioneer Awards
  3. ^ a b c d e f g "Liz Claiborne". The Economist. July 5, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-18. "Almost every woman knows the feeling. You get into the lift, and a very important woman in your office enters after you, talking to a very important man. She is impeccable, from polished court shoes to understated earrings. You are not. You are wearing trainers, because you want to be comfortable on city pavements, and a blouse that doesn't quite match the skirt because the one that matched better was too grubby round the neck when you went to find it. Nothing is ironed, and there is a faint stain on the skirt that is yesterday's lunchtime soup ineffectually rubbed off with a Kleenex." 
  4. ^ a b c Business Leader Profiles for Students. Ed. Sheila Dow. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2002. p150-153. 2 vols. "Liz Claiborne"
  5. ^ a b Lockwood, Lisa (4 February 2014). "Arthur Ortenberg Dies". WWD. Retrieved 4 February 2014. 
  6. ^ Wilson, Eric (June 27, 2007). "Liz Claiborne, Designer, Dies at 78". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-07-21. "Liz Claiborne, the designer of indefatigable career clothes for professional women entering the workforce en masse beginning in the 1970s, died Tuesday in Manhattan. She was 78. Her death, at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, was caused by complications of cancer, said Arthur Ortenberg, her husband. Ms. Claiborne learned in 1997 that she had a rare form of cancer that affects the lining of the abdomen." 
  7. ^ "Sportswear designer Liz Claiborne dead at 78". Reuters. June 27, 2007. Retrieved 2007-07-21. "Apparel designer Liz Claiborne, who founded a namesake women's sportswear label that grew into a multibillion dollar global empire, has died at age 78, the company said on Wednesday. Claiborne was ailing from cancer and died at New York-Presbyterian Hospital on Tuesday, her assistant told Reuters." 

External links[edit]