NEW YORK — Martha Weisberg, who was known in the fashion industry for her work at Bobbie Brooks as the head knitwear designer, as well as her impeccable sense of style, died at St. Vincent’s Hospital Sept. 27 from heart complications. She was 73.
Weisberg, who began her career at Bobbie Brooks in 1966, made her mark in knitwear designing everything from swimwear to dresses, including all the coordinated knit pieces for the company’s sportswear lines.
In 1975, she opened her own firm in Chelsea, Martha Weisberg Studio, where she specialized in yarn, stitch and pattern development for such major yarn makers as Dixie Yarns, DuPont, Celanese, Monsanto and Collins & Aikman. Weisberg later served as a design consultant, creating prototypes for sportswear firms in the Eighties, ranging from Jantzen, Healthtex and Jasco Fabrics to Burberry, Banana Republic, Geoffrey Beene, Halston and Oscar de la Renta. She received the Cotton Incorporated Award for Knits in 1981. After closing her company in the late Nineties, she continued designing knitwear for Jasco.
Anna Sui, who worked at Bobbie Brooks designing sportswear early in her career, recalled seeing Weisberg in the hallways at work and being totally mesmerized with the way she dressed — such as her wild nails, most of the time painted green, sometimes with painted-on moons, silk flower accessories and antique jewelry.
“She was so stylish,” Sui said Monday afternoon. “I couldn’t wait to see her every day. She was one of my idols and I got to know her by going over and gushing. And then, I ran into her again over the years because we lived on the same block. She still had great style with all her antique jewelry. I had never seen anybody paint moons on their nails and she was the first one to do that. She was dressed very Twenties, such a style-setter — just amazing to see. And I always wanted to dress like her.”
Carole D’Arconte, a color and trend merchandising consultant, and president of Fashion News Workshop, where Weisberg served as secretary for the past two years, said: “This woman knew more about knitwear, yarns, color, texture and pattern than anyone I’ve ever known in my life. She did work for a lot of designers. She was my mentor, my friend and a woman of tremendous style.”
Howard Silver, president of Jasco, said Weisberg was the “artistic and elegant conscious of his company.”
Weisberg grew up on the Lower East Side and was educated at The Cooper Union and Brooklyn Museum of Art, where she received a scholarship for sculpture in 1951. She began her career as a sculptor, and worked for industrial designer Ben Seibel, a contemporary of Russell Wright, Raymond Lowey and Eva Zeisel.
Weisberg is survived by her husband of 54 years, Robert Weisberg; a daughter, Carla Weisberg, a surface designer, and a sister, Ida Nishenshal, of Sun City West, Ariz.
A memorial service will be held at 6 p.m. next Tuesday at the National Arts Club, 15 Gramercy Park South.