Wendy Banks, who shaped Liz Claiborne Inc.'s early marketing and philanthropic efforts, died last week of respiratory failure at Danbury Hospital in Connecticut. She was 61.
Banks spent nearly a decade at Liz Claiborne Inc. from 1986 to 1995. She joined the company as vice president of marketing for the launch of Liz Claiborne Cosmetics, and two years later was promoted to president of that division. In 1990 she took over as the corporation's senior vice president of marketing. Under Banks' leadership, Claiborne launched "Women's Work," a social issues marketing program focusing on domestic violence, an issue to which the company continues to be committed. She served as a board member of Safe Horizon, a charity for victims of violence.
"She was an incredibly talented marketing executive and left an indelible mark on the company, and in fact society, as the architect of our work against domestic violence," said Roberta S. Karp, senior vice president of business development, legal and corporate affairs at Claiborne. "She was an important member of the Liz Claiborne family for a long time and will be missed."
Banks began her career at Revlon Inc.'s Princess Marcella Borghese division. She then became vice president of marketing for Alexandra de Markoff, a division of the Charles of the Ritz Group.
"Wendy was a high energy, extremely creative, extremely intelligent, thoughtful marketing executive," said Rose Marie Bravo, former chief executive offi cer of Burberry Group. "Marketing in the old days was like advertising, and she was one of the few people who understood the important role of the marketing manager, the whole idea of the DNA of a brand. She was a protector of a trademark and a brand, and a pioneer."
Banks departed Claiborne as the management shifted and Paul Charron took over the top job from Jerry Chazen.
She then formed BANKS, a marketing consulting firm in 1995, and in 2000 she was a founding partner of JUMP LLC, which stands for Just Making Product and focuses on the cosmetics and fragrance industry.
Banks, who lived in Roxbury, Conn., devoted time in recent years to her New Milford yarn store, The Village Sheep.
She was a member of the Academy of Women Achievers of the YWCA of the City of New York, the Fashion Group International and Cosmetic Executive Women. Banks is survived by her mother, Estelle Banks, 93, and her sister, Roz Arkin.
Joe Cicio, a former Macy's veteran and ceo of I. Magnin, and former president of Penhaligon's, called her "a totally unique and dedicated executive."
A memorial service will be held on Sunday at 10 a.m. at the B'nai Israel Sanctuary in Southbury, Conn.