Before the onslaught of celebrity designers in the Aughts, there was the Seventies phenomenon of socialites-turned-designers. “Suddenly,” wrote WWD on August 12, 1976, “the social Ladies are moving in on SA and fashion. Diane von Furstenberg and Mary McFadden have established secure niches. Recent newcomers are Gloria Vanderbilt, Charlotte Ford and Susan Shiva. C.Z. Guest is designing gardening wear.” The paper surveyed retailers and designers — “what do [they] think of the competition?” — as well as fellow socials on their thoughts.

This story first appeared in the December 27, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Fred Hayman of Giorgio Beverly Hills: “Wearing a Charlotte Ford means nothing. Driving a Ford means something. Because someone has a name, I don’t think that qualifies them to be called a designer. I just don’t think that this influx of social names into the fashion business is a plus. People who are really fashionable don’t buy labels.”

Calvin Klein: “I don’t think the social designers would detract from the rest of us at all. It just adds more business.”

Pat Buckley: “I don’t have the talent for that type of undertaking. As for some of the babes in the woods who are designing clothes and doing interiors, some should crawl right back in the woodwork.”

Rudi Gernreich:
“I think it’s wrong of [the] industry to blow these social designers’ names out of proportion. We work very hard to do something good, then some social name comes along and the industry drops everything to promote them.”

Betsy Bloomingdale: “I am apt to wear both designer and non-designer clothes. I don’t buy labels, I buy fashion.”