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Klein (Hannah Golofsky), Anne

company award tyler designer

B. 1923

D. March 19, 1974

Birthplace: New York City, New York

Awards: Mademoiselle Merit Award, 1954
         Coty American Fashion Critics Award, 1955, 1969
         Neiman Marcus Award, 1959, 1969
         Lord and Taylor Award, 1964
         National Cotton Council Award, 1965

In 1948 Anne Klein and first husband, Ben Klein, formed Junior Sophisticates, which completely transformed the clothing styles, choices, and attitudes of young American women. Anne Klein will forever be remembered as the designer who revolutionized the junior market, doing away with the traditional little-girl clothing that featured button-and-bow detailing, and addressing the primary need of this important group—the desire to look more stylish, more polished, and, above all, more grown up.

Klein, who was destined to move American sportswear to center stage, was only fifteen years old when she got her first job on Seventh Avenue. After working as a freelance sketcher, she joined a New York manufacturer, Varden Petites, and then worked at Maurice Rentner for several years, before founding Junior Sophisticates. Her blazers, pleated skirts, and jackets, which were offered at prices ranging from $50 to $90 and made in regular and petite sizes, presented sophisticated options, not only to young women but to smaller women who previously had had few choices.

In the 1950s Klein worked with sheath dresses, tunics, and pea coats, creating interesting adaptations that appealed to modern young women by reflecting their lifestyles, all at reasonable prices. In the 1960s she began working on the concept of combining her sporty shapes with her other pieces—hence the idea of building a wardrobe by mixing separates which can be worn for both day and evening. Her concept was not only groundbreaking, but wonderfully practical as well, and her designs reflected much the same fashion philosophy as that of Claire McCardell—clothing should be versatile, comfortable, flattering, and timeless. Her work with Mallory Leathers during the same time period resulted in smart coats and separates and established leather as an accepted fabric in the ready-to-wear market.

In 1968 Klein and second husband opened Anne Klein and Company and Anne Klein Studio. The designer continued to emphasize the importance of interchangeable clothing and coordinated wardrobes. Her classic blouses, kilts, jumpsuits, trousers, and easy wrap coats all reflected the new 1970s preference for unstructured silhouettes. Her collections were showcased in areas of major department stores, designated as Anne Klein Corners, marking the beginning of the in-store designer boutique, so much a part of modern merchandising. In addition, Anne Klein believed in a total look; thus she designed and licensed jewelry to Swank, gloves to Isotoner, scarves to Vera, sunglasses to Riviera, furs to Goldin-Feldman, as well as shoes, rainwear, and umbrellas, all of which went with her clothing. By 1972 Anne Klein’s astrological sign, the lion, had become her recognized logo. The following year she was one of only five American designers invited to Paris to show her line at the Palace of Versailles, along with Halston, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta, and Stephen Burrows.

At her untimely death in 1974, her ideas were more popular than ever. Her young assistant, Donna Karan, was named head designer and soon brought in her close friend from Parson’s School of Design, Louis dell’Olio. Together they worked as codesigners for the company, at first turning out both casual and dressy separates such as suede jeans and soft silk shirts. They continued to use more luxurious fabrics like cashmere, wool crepe, and charmeuse in their boldly shaped garments, and the company became known for high-quality fashions. In 1982 the Anne Klein II line was introduced and featured many of the same pieces in less expensive fabrics. In 1984, when Donna Karan left to launch her own collection, which debuted in 1985, Dell’Olio continued the Anne Klein tradition of creating simple and wearable sportswear for many successful years. When he resigned in 1993, Richard Tyler, an Australian designer who had recently been awarded the CFDA New Talent Award, agreed to join the company as design director.

Tyler had become well known in the 1970s for attracting touring rock-and-roll stars, including Cher, Elton John, and Alice Cooper, to his Melbourne shop where he created unique costumes for each of them. In 1978, when Rod Stewart asked Tyler to come to Los Angeles to design costumes for his “Blondes Have More Fun” tour, Tyler enjoyed the city so much that he eventually moved there and started a menswear company, at the urging of his wife/partner, Lisa Trafficante. Tyler specialized in impeccably tailored, fashion-forward men’s suits, complete with silk linings and handtailored details. Eventually he incorporated women’s clothing as well, using the same beautiful construction and finishing. Within a few years, Tyler became one the hottest designers in Los Angeles, and he took his line to New York in 1992 where he was warmly welcomed and immediately approached by Anne Klein and Company.

The relationship was short. Although, during his year with Anne Klein, store orders increased dramatically, so did the prices. This, coupled with a variety of other difficulties, resulted in the end of Tyler’s tenure with the company. Since Tyler’s departure in 1994, Anne Klein and Company has employed several design directors, including Patrick Robinson, and most recently the design team of Ken Kaufman and Isaac Franco.

Unfortunately, by the year 2000, only the A-Line division of the company, a lower end line launched in 1994 and aimed at a younger customer, remained. Nevertheless, students of modern fashion will always remember Anne Klein, in the words of New York Times writer Judith Cummings, for “elevating sportswear looks to the level of high style.”

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