Gloria Sachs, a fashion designer who combined her love of textile design with her fashions, died in her sleep Monday at her New York apartment. She was 85.
This story first appeared in the March 13, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
As owner of her own company, Gloria Sachs Designs Ltd., Sachs was well known for her luxurious sportswear using silks, cashmeres and printed paisley fabrics. She worked closely with firms such as Ratti and Etro in producing the silks for her collections and owned her own knitting mill in Ireland for making cashmere sweaters.
At the time of her death, Sachs was planning to open the first Fashion Group chapter in Shanghai. She had been arranging the exchange of fashion and design students between New York and China with the assistance of Chinese artist Xu Bing, and had been invited as a visiting scholar to the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, where she had planned to spend a month this fall. In addition, Sachs had developed special horsehair textiles in China, which were being woven for architects to use in hotels around the world.
Born in Scarsdale, N.Y., on Feb. 17, 1927, Sachs graduated from Skidmore College with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1947. She was the first graduate of Skidmore to receive an honorary Ph.D., according to her daughter, Nancy Sachs. After college she studied textile design at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Bloomfield Hills, Mich., and later studied painting in the atelier of Fernand Léger in Paris. She became an apprentice to Giò Ponti and Franco Albini. While in Paris, she also did some modeling for Balenciaga and Pierre Balmain.
According to her daughter, Sachs was the first to bring capri pants back to the U.S. While on her honeymoon in 1953 with her husband, Irwin, in Capri, she saw the shorter pants and brought them back to the U.S. and named them “capris.” From 1948 to 1949, Sachs worked for textile designers Hans Knoll and Herman Miller. Her textiles were used for chairs in the Museum of Modern Art.
Sachs then joined the executive training program at Bloomingdale’s, where she worked from 1951 to 1956. She rose to assistant buyer and then fashion coordinator. In 1958, she launched her first firm, called Gloria Sachs Red Barn, where she designed preteen clothing. She later returned to Bloomingdale’s, where she was fashion director for children’s wear from 1960 to 1962. From there, she moved to Saks Fifth Avenue, designing preteen clothing under her own label from 1963 to 1965. In 1970, she opened her own firm, Gloria Sachs Designs Ltd., and her sportswear was sold to stores such as Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. She served as president of the Fashion Group from 1982 to 1984. She closed her business in the early Nineties, but continued to be active in the industry.
During her career, Sachs exhibited her paintings and sculptures at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, as well as the Art Alliance of Philadelphia, the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Modern Art. She won the Saks Fifth Avenue Creator Award in 1969, and the Woolknit Design Award in both 1974 and 1976. She was nominated for a Coty Award in 1983, but didn’t win. Among the women she dressed were Joan Mondale.
For the past 20 years, Sachs had been actively involved in the contemporary Chinese art scene.
“She just gave a party at her house to show her work in China,” said designer Stan Herman, former president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. “She was dressed beautifully. She was always thinking forward, never backward. She always stayed involved with the council. She was proud of being in this business. She treated it as an artistic endeavor. Her clothes were beautiful. She dressed women in a very elegant way. She was a perfectionist, and she really loved fabric.”
In addition to her daughter, Nancy, Sachs is survived by her son, Charles; son-in-law, Paul Wiener; two sisters, and three grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements were still being finalized at press time.