- Category : Designer - Fashion
- Type : MGP
- Profile : 3/5 - Martyr / Heretic
- Definition : Single
- Incarnation Cross : RAX The Vessel of Love 2
American fashion designer and eminently successful businessman, a full partner in the firm "Maurice Rentner," a leading manufacturer of exclusive women's wear. By the '70s, he was the head of a fabulous $200-million a year empire.
The son of a seamstress with one sister, Gloria, he learned of tragedy early when his dad committed suicide during the Depression. Where other boys were reading Popular Mechanics, he was fascinated by his mom's style magazines such as Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, captivated by the glamour. He would return from the movies and draw and design his own outfits, picturing penthouses and cocktail parties in a small town that had never seen either.
In high school he kept his interest in fashion, along with football, the school paper and art, but he was not widely accepted and found it an unhappy, lonely time. By the time he was 15 he was a free-lance designer, selling sketches by mail to New York City clothing manufacturers at $35 each. After graduation in 1939, he moved to New York and enrolled in the Parsons School of Design. Within six months he was a sketch artist with a sportswear firm.
When WW II broke out, the 19-year-old joined the Army and spent 3 1/2 years in Europe as a combat engineer and truck driver. Post-war, he went immediately to work as an in-house designer.
He became a partner in the company, which later merged with another and in 1961, he was vice president. Nine years later, he bought the company and renamed it Bill Blass Ltd.
As a couturier, he was widely acclaimed for a style that was crisply elegant and vibrant. He traveled extensively as a business executive, eventually managing 35 domestic and 70 overseas retailers from his New York headquarters. Though fashion always remained his first love, his name became associated with over 100 products.
Blass learned to party-hop with the socially elite, and for relaxation swam, painted, read profusely and studied astrology. He lived in a posh New York penthouse and a retreat in Connecticut where he kept his two golden retrievers. The 6'2" bachelor never married.
Blass retired from his six-decade career as a fashion designer with a last grand show in New York in November 1999, selling his empire for $50 million to two fashion executives. One of the most celebrated and influential men in American fashion, he was as warm, friendly, intelligent and talented as he was good-looking. A mild stroke last year made him think of a less stressful life, though he plans to play an advisory role.
Blass, whose trademark for 40 years was casual American style for career women, died of cancer at his Connecticut home on 6/12/2002, just days short of his 80th birthday.