Lance Karesh, the former design director of Basco, a spin-off of Barneys New York’s private label that was popular in the Eighties and Nineties, has died at 74.
He passed away in Los Angeles on Jan. 29 after a short illness, according to his nephew Ken Karesh, who said his uncle was retired and living there to be near his children and grandchildren, who are in the film business.
Karesh joined Basco, an acronym for Barneys All-American Sportswear Co., in 1978, a year after it was started. A native of New York, he had been a teacher at a public school in the South Bronx before joining Whistle Stop, a juniors company, where he worked his way up from salesman to merchandiser.
He worked for several other Seventh Avenue fashion brands before joining Basco, which was started by Barneys’ executive vice presidents Gene Pressman and his brother Robert. He eventually became a co-owner of the brand.
After hearing the news of Karesh’s death, Gene Pressman wrote on Facebook: “Lance was a very close friend of mine since the Seventies. We decided to collaborate on first, a men’s collection, and later, a women’s collection, all under the umbrella of Basco. He was quite the character — a stealth comic and critic. He had great taste and was responsible for influencing me to go to Japan in the late Seventies where I brought back designers like Comme des Garçons and Yohji Yamamoto to America. In 1981, our design collaboration won the Cutty Sark Award for Best New American Designer. Basco continued until 1996. Lance went on to design women’s wear for various companies. He died too young. RIP Lance Karesh.”
Allan Ellinger, senior managing partner of MMG, an investment banking firm, and the former president and chief executive officer of Basco, said, “Lance was the ultimate product person who mastered the Upper West Side point of view.”
Barry Wishnow, an apparel industry veteran who had distributed the Basco line in the Nineties, said Karesh was “unique, different and fun.”
After Basco closed, Karesh started his own women’s sportswear line under his own name. That was in 1998.
Karesh is survived by his wife, Barbro; his children Bill, Maria and Sofia; a brother, Art; and his nephews, Ken and Barry.
“He was a great uncle and a really nice guy,” Ken Karesh said. “We grew up in Raleigh, N.C., so when we visited him, it was like visiting a celebrity. He was the quintessential New Yorker.”
Ken Karesh said a memorial service will be held at the end of the month in Los Angeles; no details are available yet.