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September 08, 1990 - Image 71

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1990-09-08

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Evening outfit
jacket with
pink satin
lapels and
black velvet

maccan of taupe and green tattersall,
with a button-out lining in a coordi-
nating striped fabric. The dress and
jacket underneath are the same stripe
jersey in taupe and green.
"American women love color," says
Blass. "For fall there will be no sad,
dour colors." This season, Blass is
particularly fond of eggyolk yellow.
He also designs a red satin char-
meuse dress with a draped open
His stylish clothing is just one
aspect of the Blass empire known as
Bill Blass Ltd. Blass is the sole owner
of a company with 37 domestic
licensees and 70 world-wide licensees
for products ranging from women and
men's clothing, home furnishings,
hosiery and perfume to the Lincoln
Mark VII automobile. He was one of
the first designers to market his name
on products.
Blass explains that his sole own-
ership of the company is the major
accomplishment in his career. "The
highlight of one's whole career is
owning outright the company you
have been involved with 20 years,"
says Blass, who admits the process
came about slowly, and not without
some delicate business maneuvering,
by 1970.
While most designers have silent
partners and must seek financial
backing, Blass is independent. Vogue
reports that his annual world-wide
retail volume is $450 million.
As a businessman, Blass dresses im-

peccably for success in a navy pin-
striped suit, powder blue shirt with
white collar and cuffs, and a tradi-
tional red tie. All of his suits are
custom-made in England. He is dap-
per and polished, with a commanding
presence in an interview reminiscent
of Lee Iaccoca's self-confident style
on television. But Blass isn't selling
Chryslers; his name is on a Ford.
About 15 years ago, Ford Motor Co.
introduced four designers with the
Lincoln Mark Series. Today, two
designers are still associated with
Ford — Blass and Cartier.
This season, the Bill Blass name will
be introduced on not one fragrance
but a collection of three fragrances.
The trio includes Basic Black, Nude,
and Hot. All are being presented by

Swing jacket
comes with
matching top.
Jacket's yellow
lining contrasts

Prestige Fragrances Ltd. Blass' per-
sonal collection of antique Chinese
bottles inspired his designs for the
trio of softly-curved bottles in the
This season also marks the 20th
anniversary collection of Bill Blass for
Springmaid, a line of home fashions
that includes sheets, pillowcases, win-
dow treatments, table linens, rugs,
towels, shower curtains and porce-
lains for bed and bath coordination.
The anniversary collection features
five new patterns with two in lace and
Blass has been sketching designs
since his grade school years in Fort
Wayne, Indiana. His love for mag-

azines led him to New York City in
1939, where he got a job as a sketch
artist for the design firm of David
Crystal. He served in the United States
Army during World War II. He then
resumed his career in various design
houses. While at the firm of Maurice
Rentner Ltd., he was made vice pres-
ident. In the 1960s, Blass was known
for the "Baby Doll" look. A 1965 Bill
Blass advertisement shows Blass and
a model both wearing houndstooth
check suits with the caption, "Who
needs Paris when you can steal from
yourself?" By 1970 he was the
president and sole owner of his
Over the years, Blass has been able
to maintain close relationships with
his customers and clients, according
to Helen O' Hagan, vice president and
director of public relations at Saks
Fifth Avenue. "Blass was really the
first designer I met after Sophie
Gimbel, and our relationship goes
back over 20 years. Saks was the first
store to have a boutique totally
devoted to his clothing. He estab-
lished himself right off as one of the
top designers, not only in terms of the
style of his clothes but in their value."
Blass has the knack of establishing
an excellent rapport between himself
and his customers. On his extensive
travels around the country, he makes
an effort to know his customer. He
knows her lifestyle, how she spends
her time and, most importantly, how

patterned suit
shows off the
figure. Black
trim outlines
the fitted
jacket. Blass
'II adds bright
red gloves.

FALL '90


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