Liz Claiborne, the designer who helped invent American sportswear in the 1970s and who dressed legions of American women headed off to work in that decade died yesterday of cancer at age 78. Claiborne, who founded Liz Claiborne Inc. in 1976, introduced the concept of clean cut career clothing to what is known as the bridge market in department stores, that is the fashion lines between designer and mass markets.
Claiborne was a pioneer outside of the designs studio, too: she took her company public in 1981and was the first company founded by a woman to be listed on the Fortune 500 in 1985. Although Claiborne retired in 1989, today the company she founded has grown to include Ellen Tracy, Dana Buchman and Juicy Couture, generating sales of almost $5 billion last year. In 1987, Fortune magazine called her "the outstanding role model for fashion entrepreneurs."
In a statement, Bill McComb, CEO of Liz Claiborne, said, "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. 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."