Bill Blass

Bill Blass

One of the founding members of the CFDA, was born in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and was the son of a dressmaker. He would become an influential American fashion designer, known for his impeccable and understated designs. Bill Blass said that he remembered his school book margins being covered in doodles of Hollywood-inspired fashion. By fifteen he was selling his dresses to a New York manufacturer and would move to New York to attend the McDowell School of Fashion at 17.

After fighting in WW II, he would return to New York and worked as a design assistant for a short time at Anne Klein. He would go on to work for Anna Miller and her brother Maurice Rentner. Blass began to develop his own clientele, and in 1970 he would buy the Maurice Rentner Ltd., and rename it Bill Blass Ltd.

Blass’ classic style and clean, modern cuts made him a favorite with the New York socialites. He would attend every A-list party and could count influential women such as Diane Vreeland, Brooke Astor, and Gloria Vanderbilt as close friends. His mass appeal would grow quickly as did the number of licensees which bore his name. Blass was a pioneer in regards to licenses, and by the mid-90’s, there were 97 licenses bearing his name. In 1967, he also became the first couture designer to create a menswear collection, perhaps inspired by his own penchant for immaculate and carefully tailored suits.

Beyond well-tailored clothes, he made substantial contributions to causes such as the Aids care center at the Cornell Medical Center, and the New York Public Library. The CFDA would grant Blass a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987 and the first Humanitarian Leadership Award in1996. In 2002 Bill Blass passed away at 79. Fortunately, he had been able to finish his autobiography, “Bare Blass”, to share his story of living the American Dream. “All my experiences, all my yearnings, have been those of a typical American boy becoming a typical American man, except that my focus was on clothes rather than on oil drilling or banking or some other great commodity…It was a typical American success story after all.”