Liz Claiborne
Anne Elisabeth Jane "Liz" Claiborne (March 31, 1929 – June 26, 2007) was a Belgian
Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

-born American fashion designer and entrepreneur. Claiborne is best known for founding Liz Claiborne Inc.
Liz Claiborne
Anne Elisabeth Jane "Liz" Claiborne was a Belgian-born American fashion designer and entrepreneur. Claiborne is best known for founding Liz Claiborne Inc. which in 1986 became the first company founded by a woman to make the Fortune 500...

 which in 1986 became the first company founded by a woman to make the Fortune 500
Fortune 500
The Fortune 500 is an annual list compiled and published by Fortune magazine that ranks the top 500 U.S. closely held and public corporations as ranked by their gross revenue after adjustments made by Fortune to exclude the impact of excise taxes companies collect. The list includes publicly and...

. Claiborne was the first woman to become chairperson
Chairman of the Board
The Chairman of the Board is a seat of office in an organization, especially of corporations.Chairman of the Board may also refer to:*Chairman of the Board , a 1998 film*Chairmen of the Board , a 1970s American soul music group...

 and CEO
Chief executive officer
A chief executive officer , managing director , Executive Director for non-profit organizations, or chief executive is the highest-ranking corporate officer or administrator in charge of total management of an organization...

 of a Fortune 500 company.

Early life and education

Claiborne was born in Brussels
Brussels , officially the Brussels Region or Brussels-Capital Region , is the capital of Belgium and the de facto capital of the European Union...

 to American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 parents. She came from a prominent Louisiana
Louisiana is a state located in the southern region of the United States of America. Its capital is Baton Rouge and largest city is New Orleans. Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. with political subdivisions termed parishes, which are local governments equivalent to counties...

 family with an ancestor William C.C. Claiborne
William C.C. Claiborne
William Charles Cole Claiborne was a United States politician, best known as the first Governor of Louisiana. He also has the distinction of possibly being the youngest Congressman in U.S...

 having been Governor of Louisiana during the War of 1812
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions because of Britain's ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant...

. In 1939, at the start of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the family returned to New Orleans. She attended St. Timothy's
St. Timothy's School
St. Timothy's School is a four-year private all-girls boarding high school in Stevenson in Baltimore County, Maryland, United States. The school is located just north of Baltimore City in Baltimore County less than a mile north of I-695, the Baltimore Beltway.-About the School:The school is a...

, a boarding school then in Catonsville, Maryland
Catonsville, Maryland
According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of , all of it land.-Demographics:In 2010 Catonsville had a population of 41,567...

 and currently in Stevenson, Maryland
Stevenson, Maryland
Stevenson is an unincorporated community located in the northern section of Baltimore County, Maryland, United States. It serves as the location of the central campus of Stevenson University . It is also home to St. Timothy's School, an all-girls boarding and day high school...

. Rather than finishing high school, she went to Europe to study art in painters' studios. Her father did not believe that she needed an education, so she studied art informally.

In 1949, she won the Jacques Heim National Design Contest (sponsored by Harper's Bazaar
Harper's Bazaar
Harper’s Bazaar is an American fashion magazine, first published in 1867. Harper’s Bazaar is published by Hearst and, as a magazine, considers itself to be the style resource for “women who are the first to buy the best, from casual to couture.”...

), and then moved to New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 where she worked for years in the Garment District
Garment District, Manhattan
The Garment District, also known as the Garment Center, the Fashion District, or the Fashion Center, is a neighborhood located in the Manhattan borough of New York City. The dense concentration of fashion-related uses give the neighborhood, which is generally considered to span between Fifth Avenue...

 on Seventh Avenue
Seventh Avenue (Manhattan)
Seventh Avenue, known as Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard north of Central Park, is a thoroughfare on the West Side of the borough of Manhattan in New York City. It is southbound below Central Park and a two-way street north of the park....

 as a sketch artist at the sportswear house Tina Leser. She worked as a designer for Dan Keller and Youth Group Inc.

Claiborne had a short-lived marriage before marrying Art Ortenberg in 1957. She had a son from her first marriage and two stepchildren from her second.

Liz Claiborne Inc.

Claiborne, frustrated at the failure of the companies that she worked for to provide clothes for working women, started her own design company, Liz Claiborne Inc.
Liz Claiborne
Anne Elisabeth Jane "Liz" Claiborne was a Belgian-born American fashion designer and entrepreneur. Claiborne is best known for founding Liz Claiborne Inc. which in 1986 became the first company founded by a woman to make the Fortune 500...

, in 1976. It was an immediate success with sales of $2 million in 1976 and $23 million in 1978. By 1988 it had acquired one-third of the American women's upscale sportswear market.

In 1980, Liz Claiborne Accessories was founded by Nina McLemore. Liz Claiborne Inc. went public in 1981 and made the Fortune 500 in 1986 with retail sales of $1.2 billion.

Claiborne listed all employees in the directory in alphabetical order to circumvent what she perceived as male hierarchies. She controlled meetings by ringing a glass bell
Bell (instrument)
A bell is a simple sound-making device. The bell is a percussion instrument and an idiophone. Its form is usually a hollow, cup-shaped object, which resonates upon being struck...

 and became famous for her love of red-- "Liz Red." She would sometimes pose as a saleswoman to see what average women thought of her clothes.

Retirement and death

Liz Claiborne retired from active management in 1989. By that stage, she had acquired other companies, notably Kaiser-Roth, which produced Liz Claiborne accessories.

In retirement, Claiborne and Ortenberg founded a foundation that distributed millions in funding to environmental causes including funding the television series Nature
Nature (TV series)
Nature is a wildlife television program produced by Thirteen/WNET New York. It has been distributed to United States public television stations by the PBS television service since its debut on October 10, 1982. Some episodes may appear in syndication on many PBS member stations around the U.S. and...

 on PBS television and nature conservancy projects around the world.

She had been advised in May 1998 that she had a rare form of cancer affecting the lining of the abdomen
In vertebrates such as mammals the abdomen constitutes the part of the body between the thorax and pelvis. The region enclosed by the abdomen is termed the abdominal cavity...

. Liz Claiborne died on June 26, 2007 at the age of 78, following a long battle with the cancer.

External links

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