Anne Klein: Fashion Designer

Born Hannah Golofski in August 1923, Anne Klein is a native New Yorker who started her career as a sketcher and then later became a prominent designer of womens apparel and sportswear. She is considered by some top designers as the woman who defined how American sportswear are sold and worn nowadays.

She co-founded Junior Sophisticates in 1948 with husband Ben Klein. The "Junior" line was made popular with her treatment of junior sizes for young women. Before 1948, "Juniors" was only known as an extension of clothes for young children. What the industry did not recognize was that teens had a different fashion sense compared to the 12-year-old-and-under age group. "Junior" had a more sophisticated touch to their clothes and leaned towards adult fashion. This helped introduce such market segment among designers.

In 1968, she established Anne Klein & Co. and Ann Klein Studio with second husband Matthew Rubinstein. Both companies had the goal of designing and marketing sportswear as separate apparels. The modern concept of American sportswear was introduced through her collection of mix-and matched wardrobe, which consisted of constructed jackets, pants and other related pieces. This made the company an overnight industrial success.

Her clothes in general were characterized as smart, practical and very stylish. Anne Klein created clothes that were easily recognized for their sophistication and wearability. Her sportswear collection included hooded blouse tops and jersey dresses, blazers and battle jackets.

In addition to designing, Anne Klein was also responsible for inventing several popular pieces used in the clothing industry. In 1967, she modified a girdle that was specifically designed for those wearing mini skirts.

As the company progressed, it achieved an impressive growth and also received prestigious honors. Having won two Coty Awards, Anne Klein was later on named to the Coty Hall of Fame in 1971. Also, she was the only designer to be presented twice with the Neiman-Marcus Award for fashion leadership. She also took part in a special fashion show in Versailles, France in 1973 that helped raise funds for the palace. She was joined by other leading designers in the fashion world like Oscar de la Renta and Bill Blass, and also French designers Yves St. Laurent, Dior, and Givenchy, among others.

Amidst her success, Anne Klein suffered from breast cancer and died unexpectedly at a young age of 51 in early 1974. Donna Karan, who worked at her firm during that time, continued on her label, taking over the design aspect of the company even after her death. Many other designers have also worked for the house of Anne Klein. These included Richard Tyler, Patrick Robinson, and Charles Nolan.

Through the years, the house somewhat struggled in part with keeping the legacy of its founder. The past seasons have been marked with a lack of a strong brand identity. Recently, in 2007, the company tried to recover its designer status and sought the help of Isabel Toledo. The Cuban designer was tasked with reviving the celebrated brand name, by translating the American classic with her signature artsy and avant-garde collection. Thus giving a new twist to the classic style of Anne Klein.

 
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