“I wanted to dress busy and active women like myself, women who dress in a rush and who weren’t perfect. But loving clothes, I knew clothes could do a certain thing for you from a flattering point of view. And I tried to bring good taste to a mass level.”
Liz Claiborne was a trail blazer. Having been born into a prominent Louisiana family, her father felt she did not need an education. Therefore, she left high school before graduation and moved to Europe, studying art in various painters’ studios. After winning a design contest sponsored by Harper's Bazaar, she moved to New York City. Liz then worked in the city as a sketch artist and designer for 25 years. In 1976, frustrated by what she considered a failure by both employers and other designer's to meet the needs of working women, Liz Claiborne Inc. was formed. The company was an immediate commercial success and in 1986, Liz Claiborne became the first female to head up a Fortune 500 publicly traded company.
Appropriately for one concerned with the status of women in the workplace, Claiborne awarded her second husband and business partner, Art Ortenberg, the title of 'secretary' in the corporation. In their retirement, they established a foundation to raise money for environmental causes. Their foundation has worked with global conservation projects as well as funding for the PBS television special 'Nature'.