In 1940, when Bill Blass left Indiana for New York’s Seventh Avenue, fashion designers were hidden behind the closed doors of the manufacturers’ studios where they produced designs for suits and dresses that would never carry their own names. But Blass stood apart from the crowd: he not only created chic ensembles, he fashioned a social and professional persona that demanded attention. Ultimately, he received the recognition he deserved as his name began to appear on the manufacturer’s label next to the established trademarks. The image of the American designer was forever changed.
Today, Bill Blass is viewed as the quintessential twentieth-century American designer. For some 30 years, he was sole owner of Bill Blass, Ltd. One of the first Americans to design men’s as well as women’s clothing, over the years he expanded his line to include everything from sportswear to shoes, sunglasses, jeans, fragrances, airline uniforms, Lincoln Town Cars, furniture, linens, and even chocolates.
From his tailored daywear to his playful resort clothes and sculpted evening gowns, Blass’s creations carried his signature style. He maneuvered comfortably through the decades, responding to fashion trends without falling prey to short-lived fads and fancies. The undeniable durability of his style was dramatized in 1996, when he offered a line-for-line reproduction of one of his own Anna Miller suits from 1951: gifted with impeccable timing, Blass instinctively knew exactly how and when his public would embrace such a revival.
When Blass retired following the showing of his Spring 2000 collection, he left his devoted customers wanting more. There is no doubt they will continue to wear their vintage Blass for years to come: after all, those ensembles are in many ways as fresh and fashionable today as they were 10, 20, even 30 years ago. Their timelessness tells of the abiding creative genius of Bill Blass, an American designer.
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