NEW YORK — Rea Lubar, a longtime fashion industry publicist, died Tuesday at her home in Manhattan. She was 84.
Her son, Nicholas Jacobs, cited congestive heart failure as the cause of death.
“She was running her business until a week-and-a-half ago,” said Jacobs, who sometimes worked with her as a photographer.
Lubar started in publicity in the Forties, helping buff the public images of opera singers. In the Fifties, she turned to fashion and was eventually made director of public relations at Lord & Taylor under the legendary Dorothy Shaver.
Lubar left L&T to go out on her own from 1957 to 1960, only to reenter the world of department store publicity at Arnold, Constable & Co. and then at Bonwit Teller. By the late Sixties, Lubar was on her own again with Rea Lubar Associates, which she ran until her death.
During her career, Lubar helped publicize numerous fashion houses, such as Hermès, and counted designers Liz Claiborne, Perry Ellis and Roberto Cavalli among her clients.
“She was extremely energetic,” Claiborne said Thursday, noting Lubar used that energy to give her budding company its start in terms of image building in 1976. “I knew nothing about public relations. She really sat us down and told us how we could get known around the country. She knew every newspaper, got me on every morning show. She told us we had to have shows, though they were very small, homey kind of shows.”
Mary Fennell Gerber, who worked with Lubar, said, “Basically, she was bigger than life and always saw a way to make public relations and publicity fun. She just loved what she was doing. She lived it 24 hours a day.”
Lubar’s parties would have themes, like India or Japan, she said, and her fashion shows could incorporate elements of whimsy, such as parading dogs on the runway.
In addition to building the images of others, Lubar, under the name Rea Lubar Duncan, built a portfolio as a writer on gardening, which included the book “Down to Earth: Wisdom, Wit and Great Advice from a Connecticut Gardener,” and a newspaper column entitled “All The Dirt.”
In addition to her son, Lubar is survived by a daughter, Laura Jacobs.