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HWOM: Liz Claiborne

HWOM: Liz Claiborne

Fri, Mar 01, 19 - Emma Holmes

In the spirit of International Women’s Day, this month we are paying homage to Liz Claiborne. Born to American parents in Brussels, Belgium on March 31, 1929, Liz was an iconic innovator and fashion designer.

Though there are many reasons we love Liz, we've chosen our top 3:

1. During her time working as the head designer of junior dresses at Johnathon Logan, Liz recognised a need for professional clothes for women that weren’t stiff, plain or uncomfortable. Her employer didn’t want to cater to this gap in the market so Liz decided to do it herself and founded her own company in 1976.

2. Part of Liz’s success was down to the fact her clothing and marketing encouraged women to have an identity at work and use clothing to proudly establish that identity. In line with this mission, the clothes were reasonably priced and high quality, making them accessible for the modern working woman. With a revolutionary ethos for the late 80’s, it’s no wonder when company sales hit $1.2 billion in 1986, Liz Claiborne inc became the first company founded by a woman to make the fortune 500 list. Making Liz the first female CEO of a fortune 500 company. 

3. 3 years later Liz retired from an active role at her company to campaign for environmental issues and focus on charitable work. In 1989 The Liz Claiborne and Art Oertenberg foundation was established, 'dedicated to the conservation of nature and the amelioration of human distress.' Over the years Liz and her husband have worked tirelessly for the protection of animals, especially in the fight against the senseless killing of African elephants for their beautiful ivory tusks which are considered invaluable by some art dealers. Ivory can be carved to create ornaments, jewellery and furniture embellishments. 

Fun Fact: Although her Father was a banker, he didn’t champion formal education and wanted Liz to appreciate, understand and create art. Liz studied art in France and Belgium so didn’t graduate from an American high school in New Orleans where she spent the later years of her childhood, after her family left Belgium in 1939 before WW2. Instead of following the natural path to become an artist, Liz harnessed this artistic training education to pursue a career as a fashion designer. 

Liz redefined public perception of females in fashion, power and business, paving the way for future women to step out of the very traditional box of womanhood.