Anne Elisabeth Jane “Liz” Claiborne was born March 31, 1929 in Brussels. Her parents were descendents of Louisiana ancestry. Liz was the youngest of three. The family returned to New Orleans in 1939 at the beginning of World War II. Years later, the family relocated to New Jersey. Liz attended primary and secondary schooling, only reaching her sophomore year. When she was teen, Liz was inspired by an art history teacher. (Ortenberg, page 25-27) A man of the times, Liz’s father did not encourage her education. He did, however, approve of her ambition for art. He deemed it “a proper activity for a woman.” (Ortenberg, page 27) With her father’s approval, she immersed herself into the art world.
Liz Claiborne won the Harper’s Bazaar design contest the year of 1949. The prize included a trip to Paris for ten days. After a year in France studying art, Liz returned to America. (Ortenberg, page 28) Soon after, on a trip with her parents, she announced her choice to begin a fashion designing career in New York. Without emotion, her father handed Liz a fifty dollar bill and her suitcase. He wished her, “Good luck,” got back into the car, and drove off. (Ortenberg, page 30) Liz did not speak to her father for another twenties years.
Determined to find her way, Liz worked the Harper Bazaar opportunity and landed a job interview. Although she did not get the job, she did get a date and later on married the interviewer, Ben Schultz. Liz’s marriage was short lived with Ben, but did produce her only son Alex. Through the next handful of years, Liz worked through her apprenticeship and raised Alex. Liz Claiborne was becoming the women she would later design for, a career driven woman.
One year after Alex was born; Liz met her future husband Art Ortenberg. Art was department head of the dress department at Juniorite, a junior sportswear company. Liz was a new designer. Liz and Art were both currently married. When the company found out about the affair, Art was fired. Liz stood by Art and quit. The two began a relationship that led to marriage in July of 1957. Art Ortenberg and Liz Claiborne were married for forty-nine years. (Ortenberg, page 245-247)
Over the next fifteen years, Liz Claiborne waited patiently to pursue her dreams fully until her son was able to support himself. She had found job security as a designer at Youth Guild for those fifteen years. In 1975, Liz passed on an opportunity to break off and develop Youth Guild separate from its mother company, Jonathan Logan. She new it was time to begin a design company with her own vision.
In the seventies, the working woman was making a name for herself. Liz was there to dress her. Liz Claiborne, whom was also career driven, understood what her customer needed. As a woman, she new the daily insecurities females face. She wanted...