Liz Claiborne in a 1984 portrait
It was 1976 and Liz Claiborne was in Oklahoma City for Fashion Week.
Yes, Oklahoma City really had it own Fashion Week. Six months earlier, Claiborne had started her own company with clothing geared to women entering the workforce.
“I don’t want to dress a few beautiful people who have lots of money,” Claiborne told a reporter during her visit. “To me that (working women’s fashions) is the natural area for designing. They’re more interesting people, more vital.”
Working women across the country embraced her affordable sportswear, mix-and-match pieces that could be combined to make dozens of looks.
Claiborne died Tuesday. She was 78.
She quickly became known as the American woman’s favorite designer because she paid attention to style, quality, fit and price.
What endeared the company and the designer to women across the country was that they felt a kinship with Claiborne, herself a working woman. She understood what women wanted from their clothes and how they wanted to dress.
Though she stepped down from day-to-day operations in 1989, the company continued to prosper and now has more than 40 brands in its portfolio, including Ellen Tracy, Dana Buchman, Juicy Couture, Lucky Brand Jeans, Laundry by Shelli Segal and, of course, Liz Claiborne.
The name recognition continues. Last year, Liz Claiborne was the No. 10 best known fashion brand according to an annual survey by Women’s Wear Daily. Women still love the brand for its fashion and value.
And to think her father never wanted her to design.
“He always said 7th Avenue (home of the fashion markets in New York) had the reputation of being a jungle,” she said during that visit to Oklahoma City. “And he was right, it is a jungle.
“It’s not a ladylike field at all. But I think it’s fascinating. I love it … You just have to get used to the mentality.”
Women everywhere are thankful she did.