ALICE KREISEL, BELT MAKER, 93
Byline: Wendy Hessen
NEW YORK — Alice Kreisel, a fixture in the upscale belt industry for more than 45 years, died from heart failure on Jan. 21. She was 93.
Born in Berlin, Kreisel emigrated to the U.S. from Germany in 1939 with her husband, Erich. Together they formed Colony Designs, which manufactured belts for a variety of Seventh Avenue dress firms. The firm came to prominence in 1965 when it was named licensee for Yves Saint Laurent belts. Other belt licenses were added over the years, including Givenchy, beginning in the early Seventies, and Thierry Mugler.
An Yves Saint Laurent Couture spokeswoman confirmed that shortly after being awarded the belt license, the Kreisels became the licensees for the firm’s scarves and jewelry.
The Kreisels were well known among retailers and vendors on both sides of the Atlantic.
“Alice is certainly one of the industry’s most unforgettable characters,” said scarf industry executive Elaine Gold, chairman of Collection XIIX. “There wasn’t a designer in Paris or a store president that didn’t know her, something you just don’t see today. Her business and her buyers were her family. She had exquisite taste in merchandise and people.
“I remember many a Paris evening when I walked into the Plaza Athenee and would see Alice there, holding court. Even up ’til the end of her life, she was always fashionably turned out, usually in head-to-toe Saint Laurent.”
Barbara Cirkva, senior vice president at Chanel, remembered the Kreisels being a fixture on the social scene in the Seventies and Eighties. “Her husband Erich always used to say that Alice and Marlene Dietrich were known to have the best legs in Berlin,” Cirkva said.
Former Liz Claiborne executive Helen Welsh described Kreisel as “a class act and a grande dame. In the 15 years that I knew her, there was never a day that she didn’t look like royalty,” Welsh said. “I’m sure she’s on the other side now, smoking cigarettes and drinking Finlandia on the rocks.”
The Kreisels had no children and shortly after Erich Kreisel died in November 1987, the business was closed.