Liz Claiborne Dead at 78

Posted on June 27, 2007

Legendary fashion designer and entrepreneur Liz Claiborne has died after a long battle with cancer. She was 78. She was the first woman to head a company that made the Fortune 500 and blazed a pathway in the design world with her many innovations and refusal to accept the traditional wisdom of the retail world of the 1970s.
Claiborne founded Liz Claiborne Inc. in 1976 along with her husband Art Ortenberg and Leonard Boxer. Their goal was to create a collection of outfits aimed at the growing number of women entering the work force.

The new approach to dressing revolutionized the department store industry, which had only focused on stocking pants in one department and skirts in another. Liz Claiborne executives were instrumental in working with department stores to present all the related pieces of a wardrobe in one department.

The clothes became an instant hit, and the company went public in 1981. By 1985, Liz Claiborne Inc. was the first company founded by a woman to be listed in the Fortune 500, according to the company's Web site. The company, whose brands now include Ellen Tracy, Dana Buchman and Juicy Couture, generated sales of almost $5 billion last year. Liz Claiborne retired from the day-to-day operations in 1989.

"In losing Liz Claiborne, we have not only lost the founder of our company, but an inspirational woman who revolutionized the fashion industry 30 years ago," said Bill McComb, CEO of Liz Claiborne, in a statement. "Her commitment to style and design is ever present in our thinking and the way we work. We will remember Liz for her vision, her entrepreneurial spirit and her enduring compassion and generosity."
Her company lives on, and she will be remembered for being a fashion pioneer and a role model for young women hoping to make their mark in the world.
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