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Gloria Vanderbilt (1924-2019) was born into the storied Vanderbilt family, and became arguably the most famous of the them all.

She started out as a fashion model and actress. Vanderbilt studied art, which she exhibited throughout her life. Paired with many notable men, Vanderbilt’s fourth and last marriage (1963) was to Wyatt Emory Cooper. CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper is their son.

In the 1970s, Vanderbilt ventured into the fashion business by licensing her name and a collection of her paintings for a line of scarves. In 1976, she teamed up with Murjani to launch a line of tight-fitting (“like the skin on a grape”!) dark blue jeans with her signature embroidered on the back pocket. The jeans also featured a swan logo—a reference to her first acting role in The Swan and also to her membership in Truman Capote’s group of ‘swans’. Vanderbilt was the first person to exploit a famous family name for denim—effectively creating designer jeans. She promoted them in memorable ad campaigns that set new trends in marketing. They were an immediate success. 150,000 pairs of jeans sold out the first day the initial commercial aired on TV. She went on national in-store promotional tours akin to movie star appearances. The jeans were sexy, flattering, comfortable and had inclusive sizing. They are touted as the first skinny jean. It was the best selling denim line in America and became a $100 million a year business.

From this success, a host of other designers began to use their names to sell the allure of their own glamour, from Carolina Herrera in the 1970s to Nicole Ritchie in the 2000s. Vanderbilt went on to launch dresses, blouses, sheets, shoes, leather goods, fragrances and accessories. Other designer labels increased in the late 1980s, and her fashion success faded. Jeans with Gloria Vanderbilt’s label are made to this day.

Condensed from Featured Designer article Gloria Vanderbilt by Ian Drummond

from a c. 1980 dress - Courtesy of HatchedVintage

from a c. 1980 dress

Courtesy of HatchedVintage