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Blass, Bill

Once described as the designer "who is able to charm the clothes right on to a woman's back" Bill Blass was known as much for his social skills as his designing ability. Born in 1922 in Fort Wayne, Indiana, his love of fashion was evedent in high school when he won second prize in a fashion contest sponsored by The Chicago Tribune. He came to New York in the summer of 1940 to study at the McDowell School of Fashion . World War II took Blass to Europe an upon his return he started right back to work designing. In 1959 he accepted a position at Maurice Retner and wthin two years Blass was appointed vice-president of the company and his name appeared on the label. On Retner's retirement, Blass became the owner and in 1973 Bill Blass Limited was born. The Blass style of impeccable tailoring devoid of alienating detail appealed to the upper echelons of New York society “ the ladies who lunch, social x-rays and political accessories who spent their spare time being seen at the right functions. Having established his signature by securing his core clientele of aspirational women, Blass branched out into sportswear. It was this that made Blass a household name. Over a career which spanned five decades, Blass won countless awards. These included winning the Coty American Fashion Critics award three times, the Gentleman's Quarterly Award in 1981. In 1999 he received the first lifetime achievement award from the Fashion Institute of Technology. By 1997 business licensing agreements bearing the Bill Blass name were generating sales of more than $700m a year world-wide. Blass sold his business in 1999 for $50m. His final collection was shown in September that year. He passed away in his home at the age of 79.