NEW YORK — Burt Wayne, an interior decorator and former president of Anne Klein Design Studio, died of complications from cancer Thursday at Mount Sinai Hospital here. He was 76.
Wayne, who headed the licensing arm of Anne Klein & Co. for 17 years until leaving in 1994, was credited by many for the brand’s significant growth from the mid-Seventies to the early Nineties.
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Described as a warm, flamboyant personality with impeccable taste, Wayne started his career as a stock boy at Capezio shoes, then formed his own interior design company, Burt Wayne Inc., which became Wayne & Doktor Ltd. when he teamed up with John Doktor, his lifelong friend. Wayne and Doktor had also worked together at Anne Klein Design Studio, where Doktor was creative director.
Donna Karan recalled meeting Wayne through Anne Klein.
“The empire of Anne Klein was built through Burt Wayne,” she said. “When Anne passed away, Burt became my mentor, my everything. He introduced me to the world of furniture, living and family.”
Karan described Wayne as a “larger-than-life kind of guy,” recalling him strutting around New York in long fur coats. She said Wayne gave her entry to interior design and prepared her for the sophisticated world of New York fashion and lifestyle.
“Burt and John decorated my apartment, introduced me to leopard chairs and every other flamboyance,” Karan said. “He was polished. He had a dry, dry sense of humor which was 100 percent based on family. He had the flamboyance of the interior design community and brought it into fashion.”
Louis Dell’Olio, who worked alongside Karan at Anne Klein, recalled Wayne’s start at the company.
“Burt was a very successful decorator and that’s how he actually met Anne Klein,” Dell’Olio said. “He helped her decorate her apartment on 57th Street.”
Wayne continued decorating interiors while working at Anne Klein, Dell’Olio said. After leaving the brand in 1994, he focused exclusively on his interior design business with Doktor.
“Burt was an extremely talented man, and he had more taste in his little pinkie than most people have in their lifetime,” Dell’Olio said.
Wayne is survived by his sister, Roslyn Zimmerman.
The family has established the Burt Wayne Scholarship Fund, which will benefit students in the interior design field. Donations can be sent to the fund at 135 Central Park West, New York, N.Y. 10023.