Bill Blass

William Ralph Blass (June 22, 1922 – June 12, 2002) was an American fashion designer, born in Fort Wayne, Indiana.[1][2] He was the recipient of many fashion awards, including seven Coty Awards and the Fashion Institute of Technology's Lifetime Achievement Award (1999).[1]

Bill Blass
William Ralph Blass

June 22, 1922
DiedJune 12, 2002 (aged 79)
EducationParsons School of Design
Bill Blass Limited
AwardsCoty Award seven times;[1] Fashion Institute of Technology Lifetime Achievement Award, 1999[1]

Early life

Blass was the son of Ralph Aldrich Blass, a traveling hardware salesman, and his wife, Ethyl Keyser Blass.[3]

In his autobiography, Blass wrote that the margins in his school books were filled with sketches of Hollywood-inspired fashions instead of notes. At fifteen, he began sewing and selling evening gowns for $25 each to a New York manufacturer. At seventeen, he had saved up enough money to move to Manhattan and study fashion, and, at eighteen, he was the first male to win Mademoiselle's Design for Living award. He spent his salary of $30 a week on clothing, shoes, and elegant meals.

In 1943, Blass enlisted in the Army. Due to his intelligence and talent he was assigned to the 603rd Camouflage Battalion whose mission was to fool the German Army into believing the Allies were positioned in fake locations, for example by using dummy tanks. He served in this unit at several major operations including the Battle of the Bulge, and the Rhine River crossing.[3]

Fashion career

Blass began his New York fashion career in 1945.[1][2] He was a protégé of Baron de Gunzburg.[4] In 1970, after two decades of success in menswear and womenswear, he bought Maurice Rentner Ltd., which he had joined in 1959, and renamed it Bill Blass Limited.[1][2]

Over the next 30 years he expanded his line to include swimwear, furs, luggage, perfume, and chocolate. In 1967, he was the first American couture fashion designer to start a men’s wear line. That part of his business grew to offer everything from ties, socks and belts to suits and evening clothes. It was made by 18 licensees.[3]

Like many designers, his women’s couture collections lost money but served to promote other parts of his business. By the mid-1990s, his ready to wear business grossed about $9 million annually and his 97 licensing agreements had retail sales of more than $700 million a year.[3]

His clients, many of whom were also his friends, included Happy Rockefeller, Brooke Astor, Nancy Kissinger, Jessye Norman, Gloria Vanderbilt and Patricia Buckley.[3]

The Bill Blass Edition Continental Mark series

Beginning in 1976, and continuing until 1992, Blass lent his talents to the Ford Motor Company for an edition of their Continental Mark series of automobiles. In 1976, he shared model configurations with Emilio Pucci, Hubert de Givenchy, and Cartier. Each year, as goes true fashion, the interior and exterior color combinations would be updated. One of the most popular was the 1979 edition honoring a nautical theme, as did the Blass logo of the time. Small anchors were incorporated into the exterior accent striping and interior accents within the Blass "back-to-back B" design theme. The 1979 through 1983 Mark series Blass models were available with a "carriage roof" giving a convertible top look to the cars. After 1983, the Bill Blass edition became a color option with rear quarter window model designations and a few features that were options on the standard model.

Awards and Recognition

Over the years, Blass won three Coty American Fashion Critics Awards. He won the 1968 Coty for men’s wear. The Council of Fashion Designers of American awarded Blass their Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987 and was the group’s first winner of their Humanitarian Leadership Award in 1996.  He was also named to the International Best Dressed List Hall of Fame List.[3]

New York Public Library

In 1994, Blass gave $10 million to the New York Public Library. In recognition of the gift, the Public Catalogue Room of the Central Research Library at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street was named the Bill Blass Public Catalogue Room.[5]

Retirement and death

In 1999, Blass sold Bill Blass Limited for $50 million to Michael Groveman and retired to his home in New Preston, Connecticut. Blass was diagnosed with oral/tongue cancer in 2000,[6] not long after he began writing his memoir.[7] His cancer later developed into throat cancer, resulting in his death on June 12, 2002, ten days away from his 80th birthday.[2][6]

Blass collected art and was a connoisseur of antiquities and in his will bequeathed half of his $52 million estate, as well as several important ancient sculptures, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[8][9]


"The beauty of being able to draw, or paint, from an early age is that you never feel trapped, least of all by your immediate circumstances."[6]

"The secret of living is not staying too long. I have learned when to leave the party."[10]


  • Dining in Manhattan Cookbook: A Collection of Gourmet Recipes for Complete Meals from Manhattan's Finest Restaurants, with Joan G. Hauser (1983)
  • Bare Blass, edited by Cathy Horyn (2002)

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Bill Blass Biography". Archived from the original on 2007-08-09. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  2. ^ a b c d "Bill Bass Bio". FMD. Retrieved 26 July 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Nemy, Enid (2002-06-13). "Bill Blass, Whose Clothes Gave Casual an Elegant Air, Dies at 79". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-10-30.
  4. ^ Dupont Ronald J, Jr. (1991). "Baron Nicolas de Gunzburg". The Vernon Stories of Jacobus Van Brug. Archived from the original on 19 July 2006. Retrieved 9 July 2006.
  5. ^ Grimes, William (1994-01-13). "Bill Blass Gives $10 Million to Library". New York Times. Retrieved 2014-07-25.
  6. ^ a b c "Bill Blass". The Oral Cancer Foundation. Archived from the original on 2014-07-10. Retrieved 2014-07-25.
  7. ^ Bare Blass book review from Look Online.
  8. ^ Mead, Rebecca (2007-04-09). "Den of Antiquity: the Met Defends its Treasures". The New Yorker: 54–61.
  9. ^ de Montebello, Philippe; Emily K Rafferty (2006). "Report from the Director and President" (PDF). Metropolitan Museum of Art. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 25, 2009. Retrieved 2014-07-25.
  10. ^ Horwell, Veronica (2002-06-15). "Obituary: Bill Blass". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-10-30.

External links

Aurélie Claudel

Aurélie Claudel (born 7 August 1980) is a French model and actress.

Claudel has been featured on the covers and as well as inside pages of a variety of high-fashion magazines including Vogue (American, Italian, French, German, Spanish, Japanese, Australian), Marie Claire (American, Italian, French, German), Glamour (American, Italian, French), Elle (American, British, French, Spanish, Italian), Harper's Bazaar, Allure, Numéro, Flair, Arena, W Magazine, D Magazine, the Pirelli calendar and the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue.

Claudel has worked with fashion photographers like Steven Meisel, Herb Ritts, Irving Penn, Mario Testino, Patrick Demarchelier, Peter Lindbergh, Craig McDean, Paolo Roversi, Reagan Cameron, Gilles Bensimon, Nathaniel Goldberg, Steven Klein, Wayne Maser and David Bailey.

In addition to her print work, Claudel has appeared in numerous ad campaigns including Ralph Lauren, Valentino, Chanel, Chloé, Armani, Nautica, DKNY, Trussardi Jeans, Nina Ricci, Bill Blass, Oscar De La Renta. Cesare Paciotti, Cole Haan, Sephora, Emanuel Ungaro and Victoria's Secret. She was also the face of Calvin Klein's fragrance, Truth and held a cosmetics contract with Revlon, Ultima, Guerlain and Clarins.

She has also been a runway model for many designers including Victoria's Secret, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacobs, Jill Stuart, Diane Von Furstenberg, Jil Sander, Fendi, Christian Dior, Dolce & Gabbana, Richard Tyler, Christian Lacroix, Vivienne Westwood, DKNY, Nicole Miller, Caroline Herrera, Ellen Tracy, BCBG, Vera Wang, Halston, Bill Blass, Vivienne Tam, Jill Stuart, Cynthia Rowley & Hugo Boss.

Claudel made a special guest appearance in the Ricky Martin video "Private Emotion" directed by Francis Lawrence.

Bill Blass Group

Bill Blass Group replaces what was formerly Bill Blass Limited, a fashion house founded by American designer Bill Blass. Chris Benz is the Creative Director of the group.

Casey Ribicoff

Casey Ribicoff (born Lois Ruth Mell; December 5, 1922, Chicago, Illinois – August 22, 2011, New York City, New York) was an American philanthropist, socialite and the second wife and widow of United States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare and later United States Senator from Connecticut, Abraham Ribicoff. Ribicoff was the President of the ladies auxiliary of Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami Beach, Florida and in 1963 became the first woman to be selected to serve on the hospital's board of trustees.

As a socialite, she was known as a great woman of style who, after years of appearing on best-dressed lists, was inducted into the international Best-Dressed Hall of Fame in 1988. Ribicoff counted among her friends Bill Blass (of whose estate she was the principal executor).

Ribicoff also counted Nancy Kissinger, Barbara Walters, Annette de la Renta, Dominick Dunne and Tom Brokaw among her close friends.

President Jimmy Carter appointed her to the board of the Kennedy Center, a seat in which she served for twenty years.

Charles Nolan

Charles Nolan (June 5, 1957 – January 30, 2011 in New York City, New York) was an American fashion designer. He was the fifth in a family of nine children and was raised in the New City borough of Brooklyn and the New York City suburb of Massapequa, Long Island.

Nolan graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology and then went on to work for the designers Frank Tignino and Bill Haire. Subsequent to those assignments he designed licensed products for Bill Blass and Christian Dior, before assuming leading roles as the Ellen Tracy and Anne Klein concerns.

Nolan was the lead designer at Anne Klein from 2001 until 2003, when he resigned to volunteer for the Howard Dean 2004 presidential campaign. After the aforementioned campaign abruptly ended he launched his own signature line in 2004. The line was available only at his own store on Gansevoort Street in the New York City borough of Manhattan and through an exclusive deal at Saks Fifth Avenue.

Nolan died of cancer of the head and neck on January 30, 2011 at the age of 53. He was the partner of the financial writer and Democratic National Committee treasurer, Andrew Tobias.

Chris Benz

Chris Benz is an American fashion designer. He gained early recognition as a recipient of a CFDA scholarship while attending Parsons School of Design. Benz interned with Marc Jacobs in college, then worked at J.Crew, before launching his own collection in 2007. His signatures include use of color, texture and prints, as well as subversion of traditional dressmaking codes and techniques. His collection is available in stores throughout United States, Canada, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. He was inducted into the CFDA in 2009.Eric Wilson, fashion reporter for The New York Times, singled him out among fashion's "newest darlings" and said the collection "may be the best example of the heightened level of sophistication that is expected of new designers today."Benz's clothes are frequently featured in Vogue, Elle, Glamour, and other publications. In addition to his own fashion line, Benz has partnered with Moscot, the eyewear company, to design a line of frames, and Lancôme to design the "Chris & Tell" Lipstick. He also has a partnership with Redken.

Benz has made numerous television appearances, included among them a week as guest judge on Bravo's The Fashion Show: Ultimate Collection and an appearance on HBO's How to Make It in America. He is also a regular columnist for also created the clothes for the 2012 Barbie for President doll in the Barbie "I Can Be..." line.Benz collaborated to design character costumes for the animated movie EPIC in 2013.On October 30, 2014, Benz was appointed Creative Director of Bill Blass which plans to relaunch during the Spring of 2016. Benz as Creative Director of Bill Blass is "...planning an e-commerce push, collaborations with up-and-coming designers and established artists, an accessories range and, possibly, a line of home goods."

Coty Award

The Coty American Fashion Critics' Awards were created in 1942 by the cosmetics and perfume company Coty, Inc. to promote and celebrate American fashion, and encourage design during the Second World War. In 1985, the Coty Awards were discontinued; the CFDA Awards fulfill a similar role.

Don Hogan Charles

Don Hogan Charles (September 9, 1938 – December 15, 2017) was an American photographer. He was the first African-American staff photographer hired by The New York Times.

Among the iconic photos taken by Charles was one of human rights activist Malcolm X holding a carbine while peering out a window. The photo, which Charles took for Ebony, became emblematic of the determination of Malcolm X to protect his family "by any means necessary".Charles was employed by The New York Times in 1964 until he retired in 2007. His freelance work also appeared in major international publications such as Der Spiegel and Paris Match, his commercial clients included Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta and Pan American World Airways.Charles' work is in the collections of MOMA and the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Ingrid Seynhaeve

Ingrid Seynhaeve (born Menen, 28 June 1973) is a Belgian model. In 1991, she won the Elite Look of the Year contest. Since then, she has appeared in advertisements for Guess?, Ralph Lauren, and Saks Fifth Avenue, in catalogs for Victoria's Secret, and on the covers of Elle, Amica, and Shape. Seynhaeve has walked for fashion shows such as Michael Kors, Carolina Herrera, Nicole Miller, Elie Saab, Victoria's Secret, Bella Freud, and Bill Blass. And was a top model.

Jane Trahey

Jane Trahey (November 19, 1923 – April 22, 2000) was an American businesswoman and writer. She is best known as one of the pioneers of advertising during the 1960s. She was one of the first women to own and manage an advertising agency. After graduating from Mundelein College in 1943, she worked for Neiman-Marcus in Dallas in 1947 as a copywriter. In 1956, Trahey moved to New York where she founded the 425 Advertising Associates for Julius Kayser Inc. as their in-house agency. Two years later she opened her own agency, Jane Trahey Associates, but in 1978 she left to become a consultant.

Among other awards, she received the Advertising Woman of the Year award in 1969 from the American Advertising Federation for her advertising career. She acted as the chief for advertising campaigns on behalf of Bill Blass, Elizabeth Arden, and Blackglama mink, among others.

On April 22, 2000, she died at her home in Kent, Connecticut, US.

Lars Nilsson

Lars Nilsson (born 1966 in Stockholm, Sweden) is a fashion designer and fully integrated member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America who has worked with several major fashion houses, including Christian Lacroix, Balmain, Christian Dior, Ralph Lauren, Bill Blass, Nina Ricci and his own menswear line, Mr. Nils.

Lincoln Continental Mark V

The Continental Mark V is a personal luxury coupe that was marketed by the Lincoln division of Ford Motor Company from the 1977 to 1979 model years in North America. The fourth generation Mark series, the Mark V was derived from its Continental Mark IV predecessor, bringing an extensive update to the interior and exterior design. While only sold for three years, the Mark V is the best-selling generation of the Mark series, with 228,262 examples produced.

At 230 inches long, the Mark V is the largest two-door coupe ever sold by Ford Motor Company, with the 233-inch long two-door and four-door Lincoln Continental sedans (produced alongside it) as the only longer vehicle ever marketed by Ford. Distinguished by its sharp-edged exterior design, design themes of the Mark V would be adapted onto Lincoln vehicles throughout the 1980s. For 1980, the Mark V was replaced by the Continental Mark VI. As the Mark series underwent downsizing in the interest of fuel economy, the Mark VI saw significant reductions in exterior dimensions.

All Continental Mark Vs were assembled alongside the Lincoln Continental at the now-closed Wixom Assembly Plant in Wixom, Michigan.

Lincoln Continental Mark VII

The Continental Mark VII, later changed to Lincoln Mark VII, is a rear wheel drive luxury coupe that was produced by Lincoln. Introduced in August 1983 for the 1984 model year, the Continental Mark VII shared its Ford Fox platform with the Ford Thunderbird, Mercury Cougar, and Lincoln Continental. The Fox platform was originally introduced for the 1978 Ford Fairmont and Mercury Zephyr. The same platform was also utilized as the base for the 1982–1987 Lincoln Continental sedan, the Mark VII's four-door companion. Like its predecessor the Continental Mark VI, the Mark VII was manufactured at the Wixom Assembly Plant in Wixom, Michigan through 1992. It was replaced by the Lincoln Mark VIII in 1993.

The Mark VII held a lengthy standard equipment list, including an onboard trip computer / message center and digital instruments (on all except the LSC models after 1985). Mark VII's also came with full air suspension at all four wheels. The 1985 LSC was the first American vehicle with electronic 4-channel anti-lock brakes (6 months before the Corvette). Mark VII also had the distinction of being the first American vehicle since 1940 with composite headlights and it was the first of the Continental Mark models to have exposed headlights since 1968, and the introduction of the Continental Mark III coupe.

Magdalena Wróbel

Magdalena Wróbel (born 13 December 1975 in Sopot, Poland), is a model best known as the former spokesmodel for Wonderbra's Three Degrees of Wonder, and as a Victoria's Secret model.

Wróbel entered modeling at the age of 15 after being discovered by a local photographer. At the age of 18, Magdalena entered the 1993 Ford Supermodel of the World contest and placed 2nd. She started her modeling career with Eastern Models in Warsaw before moving to Paris and finally the US as she appeared on the covers of magazines such as the French and Australian editions of Marie Claire and Glamour, as well as the international editions of Cosmopolitan and Woman. She was ranked #47 on the Maxim Hot 100 Women of 2001.Wróbel has worked for fashion designers and cosmetics companies such as Bill Blass, Christian Lacroix, Comme des Garçons, Givenchy, Christian Dior, Guy Laroche, Marithé François Girbaud, Valentino and others.

Her fashion shows include those of notable designers, such as Chanel, Valentino, Balenciaga, Dior, Christian Lacroix, and Oscar de le Renta.

Maja Latinović

Maja Latinović (Serbian Cyrillic: Маја Латиновић; born June 25, 1980 in Banatsko Veliko Selo near Kikinda, Serbia, Yugoslavia) is a Serbian model.

At 16, Latinović's modeling career began accidentally when her sister entered her into a local modeling contest. She placed 2nd runner-up and a model scout soon asked her to fly to Milan.

At the age of nineteen, Latinović began working with the Women Management agency in New York City. Mario Testino hand-picked Latinović to be the face of the Roberto Cavalli campaign and after working with her the first time, continued to shoot her for Italian Vogue.

Latinović has worked for many clients, such as Italian, French, German, Japanese, British, Spanish Vogue, W magazine, Harper's Bazaar, and Numéro. She has walked for major designers including: Ralph Lauren, Versace, Dolce & Gabbana, Carolina Herrera, Donna Karan, Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Cavalli, Ferré, and Michael Kors. She has been featured in campaigns for BCBG, Valentino Roma, Donna Karan, Roberto Cavalli, Chanel, Oscar de la Renta, Miss Sixty, Gap and Wonderbra.

Maud Welzen

Maud Welzen (born November 13, 1993 in Beek) is a Dutch model.

Michael Groveman

Michael Groveman (born 1962) is an American businessman who served as the CEO of Bill Blass limited from 1990, to 2007. Before moving to Bill Blass, Groveman was a manager in the accounting firm of Ferro, Berdon and Company in New York. He has a B.A. in accounting from Long Island University C.W. Post. Groveman sold Bill Blass to NexCen Brands Inc. in 2007 for $70 million.

Michaele Vollbracht

Michaele Vollbracht (November 17, 1947 – June 7, 2018) was an American fashion designer who has worked both under his own name, and also as head designer for Bill Blass Limited from 2003 until his resignation in 2007. He was also well known as an illustrator, though he considered himself first and foremost a fashion designer.Vollbracht began his career in fashion as a student at what was then Parsons School of Design in 1965. Four years later, Geoffrey Beene hired him as a member of his design team, and Donald Brooks followed suit two years later. In 1973 he went to work for Henri Bendel as their in-house illustrator. He continued in that function when he moved to Bloomingdale's after another two years, but also designed the store's famous Face Bag, carried out daily by thousands of shoppers.

In 1979 he launched his own line, which was received so well that it earned him the Coty Award the very next year. The company folded in 1985 due to Vollbracht having accepted financial backing from Johnny Carson, which was withdrawn during Carson's bitter divorce from his third wife. Afterwards, Vollbracht published Nothing Sacred, a visual diary of his years in New York City and the many people he interacted with, and then moved to Florida to concentrate on his illustrations and art. In 1989, The New Yorker named him one of its top illustrators, and he would produce covers and other art for the next several years.

In 1999, Vollbracht returned to the world of fashion after Bill Blass, a longtime friend and mentor, asked him to design a retrospective on Blass's work for Indiana University's art museum. The retrospective, curated by Kathleen Rowold, opened in 2002 after Blass's death.In 2003, Vollbracht returned to New York when he was invited to become head designer for Bill Blass Limited. He was the third designer to become head designer for the label. He resigned from the label a few years later in 2007.Vollbracht died on June 7, 2018 at the age of 70.

Peter Som

Peter Som (born 1970) is a Chinese American fashion designer. Born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, Peter Som graduated from Connecticut College in 1993 with a degree in Art History. He continued his studies at the Parsons School of Design where he apprenticed with American designers, Michael Kors and Calvin Klein. At Parsons, his talent was recognized through competitions; he won and was presented with the Parsons Gold Thimble Award by Isaac Mizrahi.

After graduating, Peter Som pursued his career as a fashion designer by working under Bill Blass as assistant designer in 1998. In 2001, Som created his own line and unveiled the collection with a showing at Bryant Park. In 2007, he was appointed Creative Director of women’s wear for Bill Blass. He then left the company in 2008 to concentrate on his namesake label. In 2009, Som became the creative consultant for Tommy Hilfiger, where he designed the women’s runway collection through to 2012.His label is Peter Som. His collections have been featured in fashion publications including Vogue, W, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar, and InStyle. He has a clientele consisting of actresses such as Ginnifer Goodwin, Scarlett Johansson, Kate Mara, Allison Williams, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Natalie Portman, Liv Tyler, Amy Poehler, and Rashida Jones.

Sal Stowers

Saleisha Lashawn Stowers (born January 20, 1986) is an American actress and model. She is best known for being the winner season 9 of America's Next Top Model. She is also known for portraying the role of Lani Price on NBC's soap opera Days of Our Lives.

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