NEW YORK--Michael Stolzenburg, former lead designer of the Escada design team based in Munich, Germany, died Thursday in Munich after a long illness, the company reported. He was 36.
The company gave no further details on the cause of his death.
Stolzenburg took over the design post in 1991 at the request of the late Margaretha Ley, Escada's co-founder and its head designer. Ley died in June 1992.
After studying design in Hamburg and training with design studios in Germany, Stolzenburg began his design career with the company in 1988.
Under his direction, the Escada collection continued as it had under Ley, featuring the tailored jackets, bright colors and animal prints that had contributed to the company's signature look.
However, Stolzenburg also brought an expanded view of the Escada customer to the line. In an interview in 1992, he said, "Even if I had a collection with my name on it, it would still look like Escada. But now my aim is also to bring younger customers like me, my friends, to Escada."
In March 1994, Escada introduced Escada Sport, a group of casual clothes for women and men designed by Stolzenburg. It was colorful, comfortable and cut in unisex sizes from small to extra-large.
"The precondition of this group was that it should be fun for me," Stolzenburg said at the time of the debut. "And I would wear 80 percent of the sweatshirt styles myself."
In a statement, Wolfgang Ley, Escada AG chairman and Margaretha Ley's widower, pointed out that Stolzenburg "knew how to continue the tradition of my wife's designs without imitating her work."
The designer also used his talents to work on one of Escada's seasonal fragrances last year. Inspired by a theme in the designer collection, Stolzenburg and Escada's fragrance division created Un âté en Provence.
Stolzenburg also moved fast when a good publicity opportunity presented itself. Last year, after hearing that Deborah Kerr was receiving an Academy Award for lifetime achievement, he sent a design team to the actress's house. Kerr accepted her award in a one-of-a-kind turquoise sequin tunic with an ombre chiffon scarf neckline over matching palazzo trousers from Escada.
Escada Group noted that illness forced Stolzenburg to gradually hand over his design responsibilities to the 12-member design team, which has created the current collection.
Services will be held today in Munich.
Stolzenburg is survived by his parents and two brothers.

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