I spent a good solid hour and a half searching the internet for a Black fashion designers that are as influencing as the people I have already written about.

I have to say that this was a challenging task. I did find some designers, but they were all problematic. This brings me to today’s blog post.

Enough explaining, let’s get started.

1. Byron Lars

I am extremely impressed with Byron because his designs are very chic and elegant. He only gives us subtle hints that he is trying to reach out to the urban market, but he doesn’t make that his platform like other designers we know ( won’t name any names).

Born on January 19, 1965 in Oakland, CA he was destined to design after making his own baggy pants in the tenth grade. In high school he made extra money by sewing prom dresses for friends in high school. He attended Brooks College in CA and studied fashion design before heading to FIT. He took an apprenticeship with Kevan Hall and freelanced for Ronaldus Shamask and Gary Gaytas. His strengths in pattern making began to surface quickly. WWD picked up on this young designer and named him Rockie of the year in 1991 after he launched his first collection in 1990. He was working out of his home and a strict budget before calls began to flow in from Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus, and other high end department stores. Next thing he knew, Bloomingdales was giving him a boutique section in its Manhattan store. Sakes Fifth Avenue held an unconventional launch party for his line. For a young designer he was selling better than and outlasting his peers. His fall of 1992 line confirmed him again as a force to be watching in the fashion world.

Why You Don’t Know Him: Licensing his designs to a company called San Siro in 1995 was his mistake. This then made his clothes available in discount stores and outlets. It was the beginning of his first decline in sales since his success. Why go to Bloomingdales and buy his stuff for $230 when you can get it for $39 at an outlet? It was way too early for that.

He then had to quit his business and work for Mattel designing for Barbie. Soon after he gained some of his fame back and began his label called Beauty Mark Label which is a collection of tailored shirts for women. Now he is expanding to include knits, sportswear, dresses, and sexy shirts.

He is doing fairly well in his business now. Thought he was destined for bigger and better things before the licensing mistake, he still pulled himself back up and is trying to make a way for himself, even if he had to sacrifice his run with all the major departments stores for the little boutiques he is sold in now.

2. CD Greene

As a Chi-Town native he was intrigued with art from the very beginning. He was a Fine arts major at The Art Institutes of Chicago with a focus on painting, sculpture and graphic art. It was while he was in school when he was unable to find clothing that fit the way he wanted so he began to design.

His first collection was a Men’s contemporary line that was picked up by Marshall Fields in Chicago ( which is not replaced by Macy’s I believe). His success inspired him to move to NY and take up a entry level job with a women’s apparel designer. With the new job he learned skills that allows him to launch his own label CD Greene, which cloth a lot of Hollywood stars today.

Now he designs exclusively for private clients using each of their personalities to inspire his designs. He still sells some dresses for a couple of thousand of dollars.

Why You Don’t Know Him: To me, the idea that his website is barely functional, he has no collection past fall 07, and the idea that he has stayed in his comfort zone regardless of how much potential he had, kind of bothers me.

His dresses are beautiful and he has the potential to be awesome, but I can not understand why he is limiting himself so much. I do not think there is any excuse why he isn’t a household name like many of his peers who may not be as good as him.

3. Stephen Burrows

As the first African American fashion designer to achieve international acclaim, Stephen Burrows is an inspiration. Born on September 15, 1943 in Newark, NJ he attended Philadelphia Museum College of Art in 1961-1962. In 1969 he launched his ready to wear collection after graduating from FIT in 1966. He was given a boutique at Henri Bendel’s in 1970 called Stephen Burrow’s World. On his way to success he did not fail to bring along a few other notable names with him for the journey.

In 1971 and 1972 he was nominated for the Coty Award as the industry began to take notice. He was then asked to participate in a fashion show in 1973 that would be a collaboration between well known French and American designers. This is when Burrows finally won the Coty Award 3 times , 1983, 1974, and 1977. Quickly he left Henri Bendel to open his store on Seventh Avenue and licensed products like fragrances, sunglasses, and furs.

In 2002 he reopened his Stephen Burrow’s World Boutique in Bendel’s with the party of the season, as dubbed by Vogue. This was followed by a successful run in 2003 on Home Shopping Network. In 2006 he was give The Board of Directors Special Tribute from the CFDA.

He is most known for the “lettuce hems” which was his signature and remains widely used in addition to his bold use of color, structure and fabric weight.

Why you don’t know him: Honestly, there really isn’t any excuse for not knowing Stephen. However, his collections are not heavily publicised. I also believed that not having his own stores around the country to really put his brand in the eyes of the public was a mistake. He worked under different powers for most of his career, for example in Bendels and on HSN, and that took some of his edge off. I wouldn’t buy anything from Bendel’s if it was on HSN all watered down and discounted. I don’t know if it is the money or what that is driving these people to Walmart-ize their clothing before its time.

4. Gavin Douglas

Gavin Douglass ( which is also the name of a Scottish poet and church man) is a Birmingham born designer who takes his precious time when researching, sketching, and making designs.
He won an award in 2004 for Young Avant Garde Designer of the Year in London and in 2006 when he won first place in Fashion Fringe, a prestigious award in London. With his win he was able to get business, legal, and technical support and was able to show his collection at the London Fashion Week in March 2007.

He took a course called Prince’s Trust Business Start Up Course which helped him make a business plan for his label of urban couture, fashion for women who want to express themselves through their clothing.

He showed his debut collection in 2005 at the Caribbean Fashion Week and at the Barbados Fashion week in 2006. He took part in the Mayor of London’s Kulture2Couture show that featured the talents of designers. He show cased his second collection at the Paris Fashion Week in Oct. 2006 and later that year in Brooklyn Fashion Week.

Why you don’t know him: Simple, Press. I have NEVER EVER heard his name mentioned. His clothing is very original and was really ahead of his time. His Spring 08 line has things that I can see celebs and regular people trying to get their hands on today. But if we don’t know him, how do we support him?

I mean he doesn’t even have a website I can look at, his NY mag designer profile is skimp, and I googled,binged, msn searched, and yahoo searched him and only found 3 websites that told me nothing ! I hate to see him fade away forever because he has a lot of potential. Someone get him some PR STAT!

5. Ozwald Boateng

So there isn’t much background on this guy either but there is a website with some info. This gist is that in 1995 he opened his first store and in 1996 he won best male designer from the Trophees de la Mode, Paris. In 1997 he attended his first UK fashion show during London’s Fashion week and was invited to meet the Queen at Windsor Castle.

In 1999 he had the privilege of being the first designer to appear on Question Time with David Dimbleby. The next year he was honored with the British Fashion Award of Top Menswear Designer.

He got his American break when Will Smith work his bespoke to the Oscars and was named best dressed. That same year he won Best Male Designer by the Cologne Fashion Awards.

In 2003 all his efforts paid off when he was appointed by Givenchy as the Creative Director.

Why we don’t know him: It is because he did not keep his name out there for a long time after winning all his critical acclaim. He dove very quickly into the creative director position which hinders a person from their own creativity. While he is still making suits he does not have a store in the US and that is why his name is not heard. I still respect his work, but I really wish he would have become his own Givenchy and not gone to work for them.

Born in Detroit, Kevan wanted to be a designers from the age of Seven. After studying at Cass Technical High School in Detroit, there he won first place as “Designer of Tomorrow” which gave him a scholarship to FIDM. When he graduated from FIDM he won the Peacock Award for Outstanding Fashion Design.”

In 1982 he and his wife launched Kevan Hall Couture which is carried in fine department stored nation wide. He received the Great American Designer award from the NAACP in 1989. In 1992 he was honored by the Center of Performing Arts in Southern Cali. He won designer of the year from Gold Coast Fashion Awards in Chicago and in 2005 the “Style maker of the Year” award by Life & Style Mag.

What is really good about Hall is he rejects trends and fads to make a lasting look that comes to life when women wear his clothing.

Why we don’t know him: I have no idea. I think its another case of publicity. His shows are chic and elegant and better than a lot of his peers but he just doesn’t have a lot of hype surrounding him. I can’t understand why, I mean his runway looks are amazing so what is the deal? Though some of his clothing are if-y, that is no different from everyone else’s collection. Let’s support him because he is soo worth it.


So that is the end of my list. Now you can see the industry needs some diversity on the production end as well as in the displaying end ( models), but we are getting there. These designers need our support but they also need to help themselves. More press surrounding their clothing is a plus. You can still focus on the quality of your clothing while shouting off the rooftop that you have arrived, other wise how will we know who you are.

There are other designers like Tracy Reese who had a short run on her own until she ran into production problems then went to work for Magaschoni and made the company a lot of money. Peter Kea who had a lot of potential but stupidly signed over the rights to his name way too soon to his backers. He recently got back on his feet selling clothing in boutiques around the world.

A lot of the issues with these designers is the lack of help that they had getting up in the world. They didn’t have any financial helpers, they didn’t have rich people surrounding them, none of that. These designers are lacking in little areas that if fixed they would have gotten as big or even bigger as some of their peers.

What us rising designers can do is learn from their mistakes so that we can use them as guidelines as we tap into the high fashion world. Remember it’s not always about the money, it’s about making quality clothing and doing something you love, money will inevitably flow in when you work hard and do the best you can.

So to all my black designers, and struggling designers of all races, don’t give up and don’t sell out, just keep pushing to the top with your morals and talents to guide you.

Citations: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10

This wrap dress queen was recently featured on MTV’s The City for one of her many reality tv show collaborations. But she is more than a boss or a fashion critique. Much, much more.

Born on December 31, 1946 in Brussels, Belgium, DVF‘s real name was Diane Simone Michelle Halfin. Her Jewish middle class family consisted of her father was Leon Halfin who was Russian and served in WWII and her mother was Liliane Nahmias, a Greek Holocaust survivor.

She attended finishing schools in Switzerland, Spain and England. In 1965 she went to the University of Madrid and transferred the next year to the University of Geneva in Switzerland and studied economics. It was there that she met Austro-Italian Prince Egon von Furstenberg, heir to the Fiat automobile fortune. They got married in Paris July 16, 1969. When she realized she was to be married to him she decided she wanted a career and make something of herself and not just the girl who married up. Of course, for her wedding she wore her own design that was made by the house of Dior.

In 1969 she worked as an apprentice with Italian textile manufacturer Angelo Ferretti and began making his signature simple jersey dress .

Late 1969 the von Furstenbergs changed location and moved to New York City so the Prince could work on Wall Street. It was in New York that she was making samples out of her dining room of her Park Avenue apartment.

Her top cheerleaders Bill Blass, Kenny Lane, and Diana Vreeland encouraged her to put together a collection of her dresses. In April of 970 she had her first show at the Gotham Hotel in NYC within a moderate price range of 25-100 dollars.

In April of 1972 she established her own manufacturing business to make more clothing on a large scale. Richard Conrad and her father’s $30,000 loan were the keys to Diane’s first showroom on Seventh Avenue. It was there that she created her sweater dress named Angela after the black activist Angela Davis. She then birthed her wrap dress that topped $1 million dollars within the first few months. She was selling 20,000 wrap dresses per week.

Just as her career was taking off her marriage was dying. In 1975 her and the Prince separated and in 1983 they divorced and Diane kept their two children, Alexandre and Tatiana.

Her business only continued to grow after the split. She added more to her line such as furs, jewelry, shoes, scarves, sunglasses and the works, even house wears.

In 1977 she published her book Diane von Furstenberg’s Book of Beauty.

Diane is much like our other business savvy designer, Liz Claiborne, in that she appealed to working women with her clothing. However her approach was to give them more luxurious clothing that would work for them during their work days. As if she wasn’t already doing enough, she even included nurse uniforms and eye glasses which contributed to her $1 billion in sales in the 80’s.

In 1985 she took an unexpected turn and moved to France to live with novelist Alain Elkann and founded a publishing house. 4 years later they broke up and she moved back to the US to her trusty farm in Connecticut that she lived in through her first marriage and break up.

In 1991 she made another book Beds and in 1993 The Bath for celebrity homes and bathrooms. Her commercial success only grew larger and larger with the years. In 1993 she also brought Lowel Nesbitts studio upon the death of the artist. The studio was famous for the figures and celebrities who once gathered there and even had a indoor swimming pool. She used this space until the early 2000’s until it was sold and demolished.

She tapped into the home shopping network by marketing her dresses, furniture and other items on cable TV in the mid 90’s. During her first segment, she sold $1.2 million in the first 2 hours.

In 1997 she published yet another book, this time a memoir ” Diane: A signature Life.” She also relaunched her clothing line this year and her wrap dress was once again warming the hearts of women everywhere.

In 2001 her love life caught up with her career and she married American media mogul Barry Diller, someone who had been off and on with since the 70’s.

Award Center

  • 2006 President of the CFDA
  • 2005 CFDA life time achievement award
  • 1986 May of the City of New York’s Statue of Liberty Medal
  • 1984- 1988 Savvy Magazine Award
  • 1984 Einstein College of Medicine Spirit of Achievement Award
  • 1983 City of Hope Spirit of Life Award
  • 1977 Fragrance foundation award

More recently, actually from today, was the CFDA meeting held to discuss the future of fashion week. What was once a trade show is now becoming a burden for designers and their financially failing lines. It is costing them more then they are getting back and all the designers expressed their concerns to Diane, the president, in a town hall meeting style. Though no consensus was reached, Diane did reassure everyone that she will have a solution before she leaves office.

Well I think Diane is the B O M B D O T C O M because I mean who else do you know modeled a dress after a black activist ? I am honestly love everything she has done and I think she is a woman to emulate. She married up and decided that she wanted to work and be independent, how many times have you heard that. Usually woman take the lazy route when they marry royalty, but not Diane. I’m so loving her Bestey Johnson-esque, Lavin-like clothing. It is fun and well constructed. She knows what women want and she has been knowing that since the beginning of her career.

I am also impressed that she takes her business very seriously. For example she did not hesitate to sue Target and Forever 21 for copying her designs. She also speaks out against the unmentionables: underweight models and lack of diversity on the runways. Did I mention that she opens her studio regularly to host cultural events? Honestly, who could be a better role model ?

She is a woman who makes her own money, obtains her own success, stands up for what she believes in , and continues to grow as the years pass by and personally, I NEED to be like that. I’m also definitely not surprised that she is still making money through this recession, only the best of the best are. Her economics background, people-person personality, and eye for what women want are all factors that play into her success through out the years.

I am so impressed with her. That’s the bottom line.

Citations : 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7,

I know, I know…. it’s been a while but I am back now!
Let’s talk Calvin Klein. Surprisingly, he didn’t start off with underwear and sexy clothing like he is famous for today. Ironically, he started with the most non-revealing piece of clothing, coats, and it all began as an accident.

This Bronx born designer was born to Flo and Leo Stern as the second of three children onNovember 19, 1942. Calvin was destined to be in the fashion industry because his grandmother was a seamstress and his mother encouraged his love of art and fashion. Calvin knew what he loved early in life, so while his peers were playing outside he was sketching designs and sewing. He attended the High School of Art and Design. Upon graduation he went to FIT and graduated in 1962. He took up an apprenticeship on Seventh Avenue in NYC for 5 years, he spent that time perfecting his ideas and clothing as well.

It was in 1968 that he and a childhood friend, Barry Schwartz, created a Calvin Klein coat business. How he started is actually very unorthodox. A coat buyer for Bonwit Teller got off at the wrong floor of a hotel and went into Klein’s workroom and placed an order for $50,000.

After his getting rave reviews on his accidental success, he expanded his line to women’s sportswear. Soon after he moved into couture line, Calvin Klein Collection for men and women, CK sportswear for men and women, and CK jeans. He also licensed arrangements for his menswear, coats, accessories, intimate apparel, hosiery, swimwear, eyewear, furs, socks, and fragrances, all under his careful control and management. In the early 70’s he landed the cover of Vogue and in the pages of Harper’s Bizarre.

His jeans and fragrances got him a lot of fans who wanted an affordable ways to get the look of Calvin Klein, his major ones being Obsession, Eternity, and Escape. In 1997 his sales of Calvin Klein jeans was creeping upwards of $500 million.

His jeans were a huge,huge factor in his success. Advertisements with Brooke Shields ( which we may or may not have liked) allows him to sell over 40,000 pairs of jeans per week.

In his own life he married first wife Jayne Centre in 1964 and divorced 10 years later. He has a child from that marriage named Marci. He then goes on to marry one of his design assitant Kelly Rector in 1986 and divorces in 1997.

Calvin and Jayne

Calvin and Kelly

What I am really in love with here is his philospohy. He is into minimalism with neutral tones, designing clothing that works in day and night from season to season.

I was not too fond of his advertising which was really risque, but hey I am sure he knows what he was doing since : A. his sales are going well and B. he studied advertising and drafting in high school. Though his advertising, also referred to as “kiddie porn,” was under heat from Forbes magazine, the FBI and every college course on marketing and communications, he was still successful. However he did pull those ads, but not without the publicity. In a sense the shock value of his ads did work for him and against him at the same time. Who doesn’t like a little controversy huh ?

I do not think that Calvin was a huge fan. He underwent controversial rumors of a gay, drug related life style in addition to AIDs. He toned it down in the 80s and 90s and also started supporting causes such as Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network ( RAINN) and other AIDs related charities.

In addition to harsh rumors, his daughter as kidnapped in the 70’s but she as unharmed. Crazy right ?

In 2003 he sold his company to Phillips-Van Heusen but he still designs for it. Today the company that bares his name rakes in $5 billion in sales per year. Francisco Costa, his Brazilian protege was appointed creative director. Italo Zucchelli oversees menswear and Kevin Carrigan oversees sports wear.


Ok, I know you are getting confused. Let’s recap his brands:

  • Calvin Klein Collection (black label, top-end designer line)
  • ck Calvin Klein (grey label, recently repositioned as bridge collection line)
  • Calvin Klein (white label, better sportswear line)
  • Calvin Klein Sport (sports version of the white label line for Macy’s)
  • Calvin Klein Jeans (denimwear line)
  • Calvin Klein Home (high end bedding, towel, bath rug and accessory collections)
  • The Khaki Collection (youthful medium to high end bedding, towel, bath rug and accessories) discontinued in 2008
  • Calvin Klein Golf (launched in late 2007)
  • Calvin Klein Underwear (underwear collections)
  • Calvin Klein: David Perrone Clothing Line(launched in late 2008)


  • 1973 to 1975- won Coty three times in a row ( youngest designer to do so)
  • 1982,1983, and 1986- CFDA award
  • 1982- CFDA Award for women’s and menswear
  • 1993- America’s best designer Award
  • 1993- CFDA both women and menswear Award
  • 1996- Time magazine names him one of the 25 most influential Americans
  • 2001- CFDA lifetime Achievement Award
  • Today he is on the committee of CFDA.

I am definitely feeling his work and he also has some good diversity on his runways. He has worked hard at what he does and built his company up on his own vision of simplicity and sex appeal which, while hated by some, worked out in his favor. The fact that he is still making money in this recession is reason enough to follow in his footsteps. Mr. Klein, you have taught me a lot about success and how it is not about who has the most expensive or extravagant clothing, but who can offer their customers a lifestyle within their clothing. More than just wearing a brand, it’s actually being that brand, living that brand.

LfC1, LfC2, LfC3, LfC4, LfC5, LfC6, LfC7

So my friend Phillip showed me pictures of the stylist, Aya but it wasn’t until I looked at her website and her portfolio did I see really became intrigued. Honestly she is amazing. She reminds me of one of my favorite bloggers ( Style Bubble) with her quirky, off the wall style, mixing Japanese street fashion with American urban fashion. Which turns out to be a match made in heaven.

Aya was born and raising in Murray Hill, Manhattan. She went to school at Oberlin College and graduated with a double major in Visual Arts and Religion and a minor in East Asian Studies. From that point she took a road never traveled. She got interested in sculpture and began making puppets. With nothing to do with all her creations, she went into the field of performing puppetry. Her imagination grew. Soon after her graduation from college she won the Watson fellowship which allows 30 students to travel and pursue any field of study for a whole year. OMG where is the sign up sheet for that one-in-a-lifetime-opportunity?

With all the resources she had available she was able to travel to Poland, the Czech Republic, France, England, and Japan to study puppet theatre, didn’t see that one coming huh ? After her year abroad she returned to NY to get involved in puppet life with performances for real audiences at La MaMa and St. Ann’s Warehouse.

Though puppetry was a passion of hers , she became bored of the robotic lifestyle of performing 8 times per week. She realized that “you can have a passion about multiple interests, but it doesn’t need to be your paycheck.”

With that, she moved on to fashion which she believed was parallel to puppetry because in both professions you take a pile of nothing and bring it to life. And that, my friends, is what she does best.

She didn’t come into fashion as a stranger, her mother is head of the Issey Miyake’s New York office, so connections were already in the bag for her. However she doesn’t really do the avante guard scene because she wants to do stories that she is interested in and that her readers will feel is relevant.

Once she got in as the fashion director at Nylon in 2004, she was running her own, personal, life sized puppet show with large teams of people, all the while making clothing come to life.

Let’s Get Personal with Aya’s stye:
Now at Teen Vogue, Aya dished to the Sartorialist about her own style. She considers her mother and grandmother her fashion icons, in addition to Pipi Longstocking ( I can see how that is relevant, men’s shoes, mix-matched shocks, beat up dress, that all seems pretty relevant to Aya’s style.) Her own personal style has a recipe: one part statement piece, on part quirky charming piece, and one part classic piece. She also admits to loving animals prints but she would never be caught wearing fleece. Aya expects herself to wear more white because it wouldn’t get as dirty as it would in NYC.

While in LA she looks forward to supporting young designers, going to farmers markers, cooking, beach time, and exploring the the American west. Her favorite established designers include YSL, Chanel, Alexander Wand, Preen, Mulberry, Balenciaga, and Burberry Prorsum, just to name a few.

Bag by Alexandra Cassaniti

She goes against the grain because her favorite stylish movie is Ma Femme Est une Actrice where the character has one outfit, but Aya believes it was so perfect. Usually people name the generic Devil Wears Prada, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, or Confessions of a Shopaholic. Stylish books she likes are Confessions of a Window Dresser and Excess: Fashion and the Underground 80’s.

As Aya embarks on her new bi0coastal life style as the Senior Fashion Editor at Teen Vogue she enjoys crafts and sewing projects like quilting and applique. She is a master of mixing prints and dressing the best dressed of Hollywood’s Elite. I highly suggest following her on Twitter at . Also check out her web page where she has her entire life’s work. I have taken the liberty of posting a few of my favorite looks that she created.

New Segment: Links for Citation ( I go to Penn so I should know a thing or two about citing my sources. So, I am now going to make sure I don’t forget to list them at the bottom of my posts in a section called LfC.)
LfC 1, LfC 2, LfC 3, LfC 4, LfC 5, LfC 6, LfC 7

Even though Zahra may be a local Philadelphia designer, I am quite positive you heard her name, or you will in the near future. Like Liz Claiborne, she too is a designer and a business woman. She believes that is what makes her stand out, and I think she is right.

On March 11,2009 she opened her first 1,800-square-foot clothing store at 1905 Walnut St selling only her merchandise. Her designs fuse Pakistan and American cultures to make an irresistible and well developed line. How irresistible, you ask? Well so much so that her first line EVER ( Fall 2009) was featured in Glamour Magazine, picked up by 26 boutiques in areas like London, Paris, and NYC, and her clothing is available in show rooms in LA and London.

Zahra is making her way through the fashion world on a different path than most up and coming designers. While others wait for deals from department stores and Boutiques, Zahra opened a boutique of her own. That is a huge investment. She got the start up money the old fashioned way, she saved. While the final price tag on her investment is unknown, she does disclose that it is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Recently, she has secured a loan from the bank in order to open two more boutiques, one in MD and another in Connecticut or Washington.

Her journey to becoming a designer and entrepreneur is also one for the books. She was the daughter of a wealthy Pakistani landowner and she was treated like a princess, she even had tailors that custom made the family’s clothing. After her arranged marriage she moved to Canada to play the role of housewife. After having two kids and pretty mundane life, she and her husband split. She tried to find a job with no moral support from her family.

She landed a job as a loan officer and after only two months she secured her first mortgage and was promoted to Executive Vice President. In 2007 she began researching fashion and from there things began to move full force ahead. With no formal training she did a few sketches of her vision. She then found a pattern maker and sample makers on craigslist, bought a studio in PA and quit her job in April of 2007.

The industry was brutal to this new designer, she was rejected at every show room in NYC. But she did not give up. Which brings us to where she is today, in a fabulous Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia show room with a $6,000 chandelier hanging from the ceiling, ottomans all around, and clothing lining the walls that is affordable and diverse in its fabric and design.

Even if you were not able to make it to her store in Philly , not to worry, she has a shop online website up and running ( yes already) that is ready to take your order nation wide.

Her clothing is unique and I am sure that I can find nothing else like it even if I tried. In every piece I can see a little bit of her heart and soul. Not to mention she traveled around the world to Paris, London and Pakistan to find her fabrics.

This Moorsetown resident is on an express Acela train straight to the top and I won’t be surprised if she is in the 2010 Bryant Park Fashion week Canoodling with Celebrities and Top Designers. Check out her store and website: 1905 Walnut Street, (877) 204-1131,

Also look at her look book here. I guarantee you are going to fall in love with the Fall 2009 line. I promise. As a matter of fact, Zahra, can I please do a pre-order on that cream coat my goodness. Below I going to post some of her pieces that I think are TDF ( to die for). If you don’t already love her, you are about to.







As one of my favorite designers, Oscar de la Renta knows how to make a woman look and feel sexy in her clothing.

He was born in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic on July 22, 1932 to his parents Maria Fiallo and Oscar de la Renta. Oscar studied at some of the most intricate and well respected fashion houses on earth. Before he found his love for fashion he left home at the age of 18 to study painting at the Academy of San Fernando in Madrid. While in Spain he became interested in fashion and started sketching for different fashion houses. He then landed an opportunity to work as an apprentice to Spain’s most renowned couturier, Cristobal Balenciaga. Once Oscar left Spain he went to work as a couture assistant to Antonio Castillo at Lavin in Paris. He was the first Dominican to design for a French couture house.

The well-trained Oscar de la Renta at the age of 31 had major decisions to make. He had to choose between designing custom clothing for Elizabeth Arden and designing ready to wear for Christian Dior. Normal people have to decide between cooking and eating take out for dinner. Oscar was far from normal. His mentor, Diana Vreeland, gave him the advice to get into the ready to wear because that was where the money was. She then said follow up by working for Arden because she will promote him because while working at Dior, you will always be overshadowed by the brand name. And that was the path Oscar followed. After working for Arden for 2 years, he launched his own label.

By 1965 he had a Pink Label and a ready to wear label. It wasn’t until 2001 did he introduce his accessories.

Oscar de la Renta has a high-end sportswear collection OSCAR by Oscar de la Renta, cosmetic cases, eyewear, furs, lingerie, scarves, sleepwear, and swimwear. Additionally he has a men’s collection that includes sports coats, suits, and trousers. He included a home wear addition to his lines as well. As if he did not already have enough products baring his name, he came out with fragrances in 1977 for women and 1980 for men. Oscar reminisced with NY mag saying that at the age of 7 he experimented with making perfume in his back yard. He was fascinated how dewdrops came from flowers, who knew that would be the beginning of his path to success.

In 2004 he introduced an eyewear line, a lower priced clothing line call O Oscar, and a free standing store on Madison Avenue. During this year he handed over his chief executive title to son in law Alex Bolen but her remains chairman.

At the age of 35 Oscar de la Renta married Francoise de Langlade, the editor-in-chief of French Vogue. She worked as a consultant to Elizabeth Arden and was very prominent in fashion and society. She attracted many rich and famous people to his shows with helped his business incredibly.

After a struggle with cancer she died in 1983. It was that time that he adopted his child Moises, because her death left him without a family.

He remarried to Annette Reed in 1989 who was the former wife of the American Heritage magazine published Samuel Pryor Reed. Her 3 children from that marriage would receive over 50 million in shared and buildings around the world upon their 21st birthday. She was also a socialite who brought a lot of attention to her husband’s brand. However, strangely enough when he first asked her to be married she didn’t jump at the opportunity saying that she thought there was no need. But since he is Latino and he believes in the institution they were married.

Protégé of Baron de Gunzburg, Oscar de la Renta not only contributed significantly to fashion, but he has contributed to the world as well. He was honored by the Dominican Republic with the order al Merito de Juan Pablo Duarte and the Order of Cristobal Color. He also contributed heavily to the construction of a school in Punta Cana. He is a member of The Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, and Channel Thirteen/WNET. He is also on the boards of New Yorkers for children, The Americas Society, ad the Spanish Institute. Another huge extension of himself is that he adopted a child, Moises de la Renta, from the Dominican Republic. He did this well before it became a fad and for all the right reasons.

Today his son is in his twenties and has taken up an interest in fashion. He spends his time like many of his other socialite peers in clubs and hanging out. Moises attended Marymount Manhattan College before dropping out to become a designer. Today he is studying at FIT. HE mad a hipster looking T-shirt as his first try at designing and it sold for $150 with critical acclaim from the top fashion mags. In January he debuted a denim collection in Damon Dashes club called NA. It was successful and his father believes he has a lot of talent, but he has a ways to go and that is why he is in school. Oscar emphasizes to his son that it is nice to have your clothes in Vogue, but the way to make money is to sell to stores that people can buy from. His line today, MDLR is a polar opposite of his father’s clothing but the edge combined to delicate tailoring can only spell success for the young de la Renta.

Mr. de la Renta is a very accomplished designer that has attracted women both young and old to his collections. As a masterful tailor and a skillful designer he is sought after by some of the top people in the world such as Anna Wintour, Laura Bush, Beyonce Knowles and the late Jackie Onassis. Today his business is booming because professional women are buying clothes that she likes and not the boring clothes to fit into a man’s world, as was the case in the seventies.

Today Oscar also has a lot of suggestions from politicians and their spouses. Working with Nancy Reagan and Jackie O, Oscar is no stranger to the white house. For Hillary Clinton he advises that she doesn’t wear black because it makes her look tough. (He reveals to NYmag that he even voted for her husband in addition to Reagan and Bush.) Mr. de la Renta has also been tough on the First lady Mrs. Obama. He wasn’t to pleased that she wore a sweater to Buckingham Palace. This came after her decision against wearing an Isabel Toledo original dress to the meeting with the Queen. He also believes that she should give more support to the fashion industry that is tanking now. While some hard working and deserving designers are practically starving, J.Crew is selling out of the 300$ cardigans worn by the first lady. I understand where he is coming from, but whatever the first lady wears someone is going to be unhappy.

Award Center:
CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year in 2000 and 2007
CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award 1973-1976
President of CFDA 1986-1988
Won American Fashion Critic’s Award twice
Winner of Fragrance Foundation Perennial Success Award in 1991
Living Legend Award from American Society of Perfumes in 1995
Coty Hall of Fame 1973
French legion d’Honneur
Lifetime Achievement Award from the Hispanic Heritage Society
Gold Medal of Bellas Artes form the King of Spain in 2000

I am very impressed with his accomplishments as a designer, but I am even more impressed with his contributions outside of just making quality clothing. This year he was noted for having more diversity on the runway, which is a huge think to me and I appreciate him for that. That is only one thing to add to his list of many selfless and generous acts. The adoption of Moises is something that has really turned me onto Oscar de la Renta. He treats his son as if he was his own blood. He care about him like a father should, he gets upset with unfair media coverage and criticisms of his child. He is supportive, loving, and he is not absent in his son’s life. A lot of fathers and parents in general today need to take note from Mr. de la Renta.

Designers around the world should take notes from his designing skills. None of his pieces look cheap or poorly crafted, that would be simply impossible. The skills he acquired while he was young have been continued to this day in his clothing. No one woman on earth can resist his feminine dresses, beautiful prints, and flattering fit. I definitely can’t.

Oscar, having a sample sale anytime soon?

P.s. don’t forget to follow his pr team on

Wow, I can’t believe I have yet to write about this man whose styling has given Beyonce her futuristic and now trademark look. You see, I love Beyonce, so I absolutely love any designer that blesses her with costumes that would define her Sasha Fierce (and sometimes Beyonce) persona.

But honestly, have you ever seen a picture of this guy? I know I never have and when I was doing my research I nearly choked on my water. What designer do you know makes these kind of costumes ……

And looks like this…..

In his case, we definitely can not judge a book by its cover. But what we can judge Thierry by is his work, which is unique and truly artistic. Personally, when I look at his sketches and his designs I think of Picasso and his cubist (is that a word) paintings. His designs also add in a mixture of robotic characteristics, which in some circumstances could be unflattering for women, but Thierry knows what he is doing. He was so far ahead of his time when he began that not many could actually appreciate some of his best known work. His designs are what people in the 80’s might have believed we would all be wearing in this time of 2009. Heck, I can’t understand why we aren’t all wearing his designs already on a daily basis.

Let’s dig deeper into the life of this unsuspecting designer.

Born in 1948 in Strasbourg, France, Thierry Mugler had an inkling for fashion design all his life. Like Walter Baker, he started off on a different career path , but Theirry’s was a little more unconventional. He trained in ballet while studying design and making clothing for his friends. He attended Lycée Fustel de Coulange, 1960-65, and the School of Fine Arts, Strasbourg, 1966-67.

He also designed on the side while he was a window designer in Paris in 1970. His first lime Cafe de Paris was not made until 1973. He made a woman’s line in 1975, and a men’s line in 1978. His runway garments were really extreme and exaggerated. Unfortunately , his fashion house did not last through the 90’s. And in 2003 his couture collection was shut down.

Before his line was closed he managed to, in 1985, create the costumes for the musical “Emilie Jolie”. He designed clothing that was hip with the times, bat winged shirts and lots of Lycra.

In 1998 he managed to be one of the few French designers to own his own factory and he was the first designer to create a virtual fashion show for the Internet.

He didn’t let the collapse of his fashion line stop his creative genes. He went into business with a skincare company called Clarins to make fragrances, which Mugler’s company is best known for today. Sometimes he even outsells Chanel No. 5 in France, how unimaginable is that? But honestly, I am def. sure all his money comes from perfume. Check out this list of fragrances( and I am not even sure it’s the whole thing):

Angel 1992 Women The first oriental gourmand fragrance[vague]; the #1 perfume in France and the #8 perfume in the US (according to NPD Research[vague])
A*Men 1996 Men Known as “Angel Men” in US/Canada and Middle East due to trademark issues
Innocent 1998 Women Known as “Angel Innocent” until 2004
Mugler Cologne 2001 Unisex Inspired by a soap; contains proprietary “S-molecule”[vague]
B*Men 2004 Men Currently[vague] being phased out of retail distribution
Angel Garden of Stars 2005-06 Women Floral versions of Angel (peony, violet, lily, and rose)
Alien 2005 Women First new Mugler women’s fragrance not based on the Angel concept; modeled by Tina Baltzer
A*Men Summer Flash 2006 Men Men’s fragrance based on A*Men
Mugler Cologne Summer Flash 2006 Unisex Adds a cooling ingredient to Mugler Cologne
Innocent Summer Flash 2006 Women Women’s fragrance based on Innocent
Innocent Secret 2006 Women Made for Victoria’s Secret stores
Perfume: The Coffret 2006 Unisex Movie tie-in to Perfume: The Story of a Murderer; consists of 15 fragrances; price $700 US
ICE*Men 2007 Men Faced by Greg Plitt; launched worldwide in April 2007 (March 2008 in US)
Eau de Star 2007 Women Launched worldwide in April 2007 (October 2007 in US)
Miror Miror! 2007 Women A line of five women’s fragrances; limited distribution and priced higher than other Mugler products
Innocent Illusion 2008 Women A flanker of Innocent
A*Men Pure Coffee 2008 Men Flanker to A*Men with Arabica Coffee note
Angel Sunessence 2009 Women Summer light version of Angel
Alien Sunessence 2009 Women Summer light version of Alien

With his fragrance market success, he reopened his couture line in 2008, spear headed by Rosemary Rodriguez, even adding some eye glasses to his portfolio.

Outside of the consumer market, he has signed up with Cirque du Soleil in 2003 for its show “Zumanity” which is Cirque’s first show for an adult audience. Good, don’t let all those muscles go to waste !

He also published two books on his designs Thierry Mugler (1988) and Fashion Fetish Fantasy (1998).
, inspired by Stalinist propaganda ( hmm). He directed a video in 1992 for George Michael’s Too Funky featuring Mugler’s famous motorcycle dress.

Let’s talk about his biggest venture here in the US– collaborating with Beyonce to do all her costumes for the multi-million dollar I AM.. Tour. Beyonce chose him after viewing his designs in the Metropolitan Museum for the Art’s Costume Institute Superheroes exhibit in May of 2008. ( Hmm I wonder if that inspired some of the songs on her album) Mugler will make 58 pieces for Beyonce, her dancers, and her band. However, he won’t contribute all of her looks, she has to save room for her Dereon Line. He will serve as the creative advisor of the tour, designing some lighting and even choreography for her shows. Additionally he will direct three portions of the production, Dangerously in Love, Ave Maria, and The Finale. ( Let me just add, those were the best parts of the show, loved it! )

Thankfully, Mugler’s fashion house has revived itself and come back in full effect. We can see his influences in many other designers line Balenciaga, Dolce and Gabbana and McQueen. However no one has managed to come close to his style. He is the only designer I know that can make an outfit which needs no one accessory. Not a hat, not an earring, not a bracelet, nothing. No wonder during the Beyonce concert all her jewelery was flying off, her Thierry Mugler outfits were simply rejecting them.

Thierry has done everything from design, dancing, photography, publishing, and made fragrances. He hasn’t let anything stand in the line of his desires and dreams. We all need to take note from him, because even though his line did fail at one point it came back stronger than ever. Additionally, he didn’t quit on life after that set back, but he moved on and kept the creative juices flowing. In recognition of his hard work and dedication Thierry Mugler was invited to sit on the Comite Colbert; thereby joining the top 75 French companies that share the passion for excellence, creativity, and luxury in the production of their merchandise.

However, his contributions to the fashion world have been amazing and untouchable. He has worked with the idea of shaping a perfect woman, not perfecting the shape of a woman, which is very different. His designs are well engineered and structured making them look anything but cheap or affordable. His strong, bold, and non conforming designs are unmatched in the industry today. Have you ever heard of a Thierry Mugler look a like/knock off? Yeah, me neither.

So Thierry, thanks for staying strong through all your struggles and obstacles. You have taught me that no matter how many things go wrong, so much more can go right if you stay focused. You also have earned my highest praise for your work on Beyonce’s wardrobe and concert. You have totally revamped her look and her appeal and frankly I love it. You’re the modern day Picasso if he designed clothing and I wouldn’t want you in any other way.

p.s. How about coming out with a work out tape… I could def use some of your muscles!

Today I am going to feature a lesser known designer than the Dolce&Gabbana duo, Mr. Walter Baker. He started his line in 1991, but from the looks of his Designer Profile on, he seems fairly new.

Walter is not your typical, run of the mill designer/CEO. He started off his adult life in Finance. He left finance in order to pursue his true passion, fashion design, and we are ALL so glad he did. Plus I don’t blame him, who wants to crunch numbers when you can sketch gorgeous clothing and watch it come to life. How could Mr. Baker even consider finance with his talent ,impressive collection of original artwork, luxury watches and limited edition pens, that just screams creativity.

Walter Baker has made a huge success of his brand which can be described as contemporary, fun, and great for all occasions. He takes pride in his designs and their ability to “go from day to night without popping a stitch.” He truly knows what a woman wants and how to make her look and feel gorgeous with a flattering fit and a hip design.

What I love about him is that he doesn’t cut corners. He uses expensive fabrics to convey his message through his clothing. His signatures are jackets and feminine tops and dresses. He focuses on details in his clothing to give women confidence and style, which he believes are common trends that connect women all around the world.

What are his secret weapons? His sketchbook and his digital camera which he never leaves home without. No wonder his styles are so universal, he gets his inspiration from the streets of New York, London, Milan and Tokyo.

For the future, he wants to expand his WALTER brand with footwear, eyewear, and home furnishings. THE WHOLE SHABANG.

His designs can be seen on some of the trendiest celebrities, in high end department stores, and in fashion and gossip magazines EVERYWHERE, just check his press page. What I can’t understand is, why isn’t there more interviews and press on Walter Baker himself? I want to know more about him, his inspirations and more about fashions influence on him as a youngster. I want the whole nine yards.

I usually have way more to say about the designer , but there just isn’t that much information to work with, so I am going to talk more about his clothing.

The WALTER line has a lot of different looks. It can be punk and grunge with a lot of edge or it can be sweet and flirty. He can do it all !! I am also loving that he is bringing diversity to his runways. I see women of all colors and heights and that just fills me with joy and happiness.

His youthful, yet fun clothing also makes me want spring to stay all year round. But hey, I can wear whatever I want, whenever I want because STYLE HAS NO RULES!

I do have to say it is insanely hard to work the website and hopefully he is working on that because I really want to see his whole collection large and in LIVING COLOR.

The reason that I chose to write about Walter Baker is that he found his inner designer while in a career that he obviously did not enjoy. The part I think is amazing is that he didn’t stay in his career, hating it, he got up and did something about it. I love his initiative because he could have easily written off fashion designing as a side hobby, not worthy of the devotion of his entire life . He sacrificed a good paying job and threw away years of education to seize his dream and that, to me, is admirable.

Carpe Diem, WALTER, Carpe Diem!

Don’t forget to follow the WALTER brand on

❤ More Pics Below

omg. I am back. Miss me much ?

So let’s get down to it. Today we are gonna chat a little about a pair of designers that have truly become household names, Dolce and Gabbana. Now usually I do not frequent but I had to in order to do my research and, let me tell you, I am now addicted. What I have learned is that, if I was a male, I wouldn’t wear anything but Dolce and Gabbana. I mean for goodness sakes, they make a man look sexy in what looks like construction clothes. And they completely trashed the memo that jean shirts were out…

As men after my own heart, they start their own trends while staying true to their overall purpose and vision of their line. And to top it off they received a hilarious product placement in the new movie Bruno so I absolutely had to dedicate a blog post to them.

As the tycoons of 2 successful lines, Dolce&Gabbana and D&G, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are Italian born sweethearts. With clients that are among some of the best dressed people in the world,these two men are heavily influential, but they weren’t born this way. Let’s take a look at their journey to the top.

Starting with Domencio Dolce (above) who was born on September 13, 1958 in Polizzi Generosa near Palermo, Sicily. He remained in Sicily to studied fashion design and gained experience through his parent’s clothing business which focused on clothes for everyday wear, a far shot from his line today. His father’s profession as a tailor was a huge inspiration for him to get into fashion. He uses design as a way to capture and bring to life the things he dreams about and to translate the dreams of others into wearable art.

Stefano Gabbana (above) was born in Venice, Italy on November 14, 1962. He, on the other hand, studied graphic design at a University in Milan. He became interested in designers when he was young, in particular Fiorucci. However he went to a University because he also desired to go into advertising. Upon graduating he dabbled in advertising and quit after he found his heart wasn’t in it. It was then that he came to learn the art of fashion during a hands-on experience as an assistant with an atelier in Milan.

It was at this atelier in Milan in 1980 where the D&G duo met. Both interested in fashion and in each other , they inevitably hit it off. Stefano and Domenico did freelancing work to sharpen their skills for the adventure they would embark on six yeas later, their own line. Stefano claims that though he learned a lot from the atelier in Milan, he learned the most from Domencio about fashion. They decided early on that women would be their target market to get them out of the land of freelance and in their own fashion house.

They formed an informal partnership in 1982 by freelancing for other companies. They were then able to break out and indeed they tried to make a name for themselves, but they were not getting noticed. They recall their first show in a tiny apartment, using friends as models and without the help of any professional PR people. They even held shows in fast-food joints, the invitations were shaped like hamburgers.

Their quirky antics received some attention and got them a spot in 1984 Milan fashion week, in the New Talent Fashion show in 1985. People fell in love. In 1986 they launched their very first women’s line, Dolce&Gabbana, further solidifying their union. Soon after they opened their premiere boutique in Japan.

Their style his a bit of history behind it, which makes it so unique. They believe that men’s and women’s clothing should have a touch of the opposite gender in them. Their reasoning was that in the 16th century men wore make up and heals and women were wearing manly suits and flat shoes. They use this theory to make their clothing, moving away from modern trends where clothes enforce gender distinctions. Additionally, they attribute the style of their line to their differing tastes. Dolce and Gabbana have such different tastes that they are able to cover a lot of bases in the market. Together, they both love style and feel of southern Italy and that is seen in their designs.

With their increased popularity came a Dolce&Gabbana men’s collection in 1990 and a brand new boutique in Milan. In 1994 they launched a less expensive women’s line, called D&G. They continue the same themes of their “one taste… not what is trendy” clothing. They say that it’s better to stick with your own style or otherwise, e la morte a.k.a. DEATH. ( I tried to tell you guysss)

Though Dolce and Gabbana gained popularity on their own, they received a great deal of attention after designing 1,500 costumes for Madonna’s World Tour in 1993, The Girlie Show. They even designed a backdrop for the entire tour.

In 1995 they published a book called 10 years of Dolce and Gabbana which paid homage to their first decade of fashions, which an intro done by Italian actress Isabella Rossellini. Her endorsement made their popularity spread rapidly, requiring all the celebs had to get their hands on a Dolce and Gabbana piece. Following their success, they published their second book in 2003 called Hollywood.

In 1997 they reported making 400 million Euros which is about 800 million dollars. They tried to tell everyone they would retire, but that was promise they did not keep, THANK GOD.

Ok so evidently the two were romantically involved since about 1985, but they publicly announced it in 2000 right before buying the Villa Volpe in 19th century palazzo in the center of Milan to live together.

However in 2005 they split and moved into separate apartments. They reassured everyone that their label would not be effected and rest assured, it definitely was not. Their professional connection proved to be made of a non-rusting metal thread.

It was also in 2005 that they reported making 597 million pounds, just about 1 billion dollars.

Today Dolce is in a relationship and Gabbana is single. They both live in the same building but on different floors.

Too Much Drama For Your Momma —

In other drama news, in January 2009 G. Armani had some beef with Dolce and Gabbana saying they copied a pair of silk pants form his Milan Fashion week. Dolce and Gabbana released a statement saying ” For sure we have much to learn- but certainly not from him.”

The drama continues on July 9th their public relations director Ali Wise was arrested on felony computer hacking charges. She was held in cell with no A-list treatment for one night. According to Page Six she was caught using a “computer to unlawfully engage in wiretapping, for eavesdropping, and for computer trespassing to commit felony,” in laymens terms that probably means she was trying to get into someone’s email to be nosey. Shame on you Ali for bringing any type of negative attention to Dolce and Gabbana.

Here’s a rundown of their awards:
  • The Woolmark Award for the most innovative Men’s collection in the year 1991.
  • Dolce & Gabbana Parfum” awarded the international prize of the Perfume Academy as the best feminine fragrance of the year in 1993
  • Dolce & Gabbana Pour Homme” awarded the international prize of the Perfume Academy for the best masculine fragrance, best packaging and best communication of the year in 1995
  • In 1996 it won “Oscar des Parfums” Award which was the first time a Frnch Award was given to an Italian fragrancefor its “Dolce & Gabbana Pour Homme”.
  • In 1996 and 1997, they were the recipients of the “Designer of the Year” award voted by the readers of the British magazine FHM.
  • In 1997, Dolce & Gabbana was awarded the footwear designer of the year by the American magazine “Footwear News”.
  • In 1999 they were the recipients of the “Style Award” assigned by Russian Harper’s Bazaar.
  • In 2001 they received the “T de Telva” award for best international designers; assigned by the Spanish magazine Telva.
  • In 2003, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana were honored in New York as Best Designer of the Year at the prestigious GQ Men of the Year Awards for outstanding achievement in men’s fashion design. In the same year they were honored in New York at the Fashion Group International’s 20th Annual Night of Stars for outstanding achievement in Italian design
  • In 2004 they were voted as the “Best International Designers” by the readers of British Elle vote for Elle Style Awards.
  • In 2004 they were recipients of the German ‘Leadaward 2004’, the most important advertising prize in German speaking countries, assigned for the Fall/Winter 2003/04 advertising campaign. In the same year they received first prize as the best website in eyewear category at Annual Interactive Key award in Milan.
  • In 2004, at the Università Bocconi in Milan, Dolce & Gabbana received the “Premio Risultati 2004” award for the company’s financial performance and best financial statements during the four-year period of 1999-2002, and for its strategic positioning and development prospects.
  • In 2005, Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana are presented the ‘GQ Men of the Year Award’ for best international designers by Russian GQ.
  • In 2006, Dolce & Gabbana were presented in Hamburg the Leadaward 2006, considered one of the most prestigious German awards for the Best Advertising Campaign of the Year (“Swinging London,” women’s campaign Fall / Winter 2005/06).

Some quotes to remember that are relevant to this blog and your life:

“I like time… Repetition dosen’t exist” – Dolce

” If You Envy Other People You Don’t Grow” – Dolce

A little taste of the Spring 2010 men’s line !

Her motto: “fit the way you live”

I am certain that you have heard her name more than once, maybe you and your mother have even worn clothing that bares her name, but what else do you know about her? Well she was a pioneer in the business world who paved the way for women like me to own our own companies.

Liz Claiborne, also known as Anne Elisabeth Jane Claiborne, was the first woman to become chairperson and CEO of a Fortune 500 Company. The road that led her there is one less traveled. Let’s take a closer look!
Liz was born in 1929 in Brussels, Belgium. Her family was prominent in Louisiana with an ancestor named William C. C. Claiborne who was the Governor of Louisiana during the War of 1812. When she was 10 her family returned to Louisiana. She attended a boarding school in Maryland, however instead of finishing high school her father, a banker, sent her to Europe. She was to study art informally since he did not believe Liz needed a formal education. Though her parents wanted her to become an artist, Liz knew she wanted to be a designer ever since her mother taught her how to sew.

When she was 21 she won the Jacques Heim National Design Contest sponsored by Harper’s Bizarre and jumped at the chance to move to New York the first moment she could. Unlike many other designers she did not attend Parson’s or a fancy design school, she merely worked as a sportswear sketch artist for Tina Leser and as a designer for Dan Keller, Youth Group Inc, and Johnathan Logan.
At the age of 47 she became frustrated with the lack of clothing for working women. Her boss at the time would not entertain her idea of mix and match coordinated sportswear for women, so she began her own company. She started with $50,000 of her and her husband’s savings money and $200,000 from other investors and more than quadrupled their investments.

Liz Claiborne Inc., established in 1976, was an instant success making $2 million the first year and $23 million 2 years later in 1978. By 1988 she had captured one third of the women’s upscale sportswear market. In 1981 her sales reached $117 million. Absolutely amazing for someone who did not even finish high school, isn’t it ?! Even more amazing was the in 1985 with retail sales of $1.2 Billion she was considered a fortune 500 company. Part of this incredible success can be accredited the the baby-boomers who were graduating from college and going out into the working world in the 80’s. Her company also received recognition as one of the best managed companies in the highly competitive area of women’s fashion.
Another reason for her success was that Liz Claiborne knew exactly what she wanted. She demanded that her clothes be placed together in department stores, something that was unheard of at the time. That decision has impacted the way that department stores are organized today. Thanks to Liz, we don’t have to go searching all over the place to put together a Liz Claiborne outfit.
Liz not only had influence in the business aspect of clothing but in the design aspect. She believed that women shouldn’t be confined to boring colors in the work place, she wanted to add fun and color to their wardrobe which would expand their work attire options. She designed clothes of quality and at an affordable price point so that working women could buy them, wear them, and feel great in them. She didn’t play into trends, her style was relevant across the different age groups and withheld its relevance during the changing seasons.

Liz and her second husband/co-founder, Art Ortenburg who was a textile manufacturer and consultant, retired in 1989 from management after acquiring other companies. During her retirement she donated millions of dollars to environmental organizations, she was definitely a forward thinker because we certainly need those funds today. Additionally, she founded the Liz Claiborne Foundation in 1981 to focus on ending domestic violence and promoting economic self-sufficiency for women and positive development for girls. She also lent her time to Parson’s School and The Fashion Institute of Technology as a lecturer.
In 1990 Claiborne and her husband were elected to the National Business Hall of Fame. She also received an induction into the National Sales Hall of Fame in 1991 and an honorary Doctorate degree from the Rhode Island School of Design the same year. At the 2000 American Fashion Awards presented by the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Claiborne received the humanitarian award for her environmental work, more specifically for helping to fight the ivory trade in Africa.
Sadly, in 1997 she was told that she had a rare cancer that affected the lining of her abdomen. In 2007 she passed away after her struggle with cancer, at the age of 78.

Her legacy still lives on today through CFDA’s scholarship to Seniors earning a degree towards fashion design who have showed that they are addressing the lifestyle of working women in 2010. This merit based scholarship is worth $25,000 towards a student’s second semester in senior year or college expenses.

I have to say that I am impressed by the way that she handled the business aspect of her company. Her timing and the quality of her work combined made her a huge hit. She even sold over 15,000 units of a velour peasant blouse. Amazing right!? I would have never thought that her company had this much success. I just remember shopping with my mother before my freshman year in high school, buying 10 Liz Claiborne skirts that were all amazingly adorable and 10 dollars each. Not only that, but recently I went to and typed in my size ( which is a double digit) and got 61 pages worth of clothing, 61! That is astonishing. What is more surprising is that all of my options were cute, affordable, and multifunctional ( wearable for work or for play)

Though some may have said her line never had edge, they can no longer say that today because of the fabulous new addition to their team, Isaac Mizrahi. To add a little extra flavor, her company also acquired Luck Brand Jeans , Kate Spade, Juicy Couture, Kenzie, Kenzie Girl, Monet and Marvella. It also holds the license to DKNY jeans and DKNY active. If that’s not edge, I don’t know what is.

Please, let’s all take a lesson from the late, great Liz Claiborne who impacted not only the fashion world, but the business world, the environment and much much more. This woman was truly amazing. I will continue to wear her brand with honor and pride.

Here’s to you Liz, you ROCK!

Enjoy some pictures of the Fall 2009 Line styled and designed by Isaac Mizrahi. He has kept her same theme and modernized it!