Mark and Linda Heister, center, with models in some designs he donated.

NEW YORK — To mark its 30th year in business, Mark Heister has donated 428 samples to Columbia College Chicago.<BR><BR>The Chicago-based designer produces sculpted eveningwear and separates under his own label and estimated his donation to be...

NEW YORK — To mark its 30th year in business, Mark Heister has donated 428 samples to Columbia College Chicago.

The Chicago-based designer produces sculpted eveningwear and separates under his own label and estimated his donation to be worth $500,000, based on each item’s retail price. His gift is believed to be the most extensive designer collection ever given to a museum or institution, according to Harold Koda, curator of the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Heister’s archives are housed at Columbia College’s campus on South Michigan Avenue. In addition to the school’s faculty and students, classes from other schools and members of the public can view the collection by appointment.

“We chose Columbia College Chicago because it does the finest job of preparing students for careers in fashion design and retail. We also appreciate how Columbia College will manage and make this comprehensive collection available,” Heister said.

More than 400 students are enrolled in fashion design and retail programs at Columbia College Chicago. They will be able to handle most of Heister’s pieces with gloves, and some duplicate pieces will be used for dismantling.

Hugh Manning, curator of the Fashion Study Collection at Columbia College Chicago, said students will be able to see firsthand how Meister’s designs evolved from cocktail dresses in the Seventies to biased-cut pieces with Dolman sleeves in the Eighties.

In addition to samples, Heister has donated marketing materials and press clips.

Nena Ivon, an adjunct faculty member at Columbia College Chicago and special events manager at Saks Fifth Avenue, facilitated the gift. “The fashion and retail programs at Columbia College Chicago excel at preparing students for the realities of working in the industry.” — R.F.

This story first appeared in the October 26, 2004 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.