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 Bill Blass  (1922 - 2002)

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Lived/Active: New York/Connecticut/Indiana      Known for: fashion and car interior design, camouflage artist

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William Ralph Blass is primarily known as Bill Blass

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Ad Code: 4
AskART Artist
from Auction House Records.
Design for an evening dress
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
William Ralph "Bill" Blass (June 22, 1922 – June 12, 2002) was an American fashion designer, born in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was the recipient of many fashion awards, including seven Coty Awards and the Fashion Institute of Technology's Lifetime Achievement Award (1999).

Bill Blass, born William Ralph Blass in 1922, was the only son of Ralph Aldrich Blass, a traveling hardware salesman who committed suicide when his son was five years old, and his wife, the former Ethyl Easter Keyser (died 1952), a dressmaker. He had one sister, Virginia Mae (born 1920).

In his autobiography Blass wrote that the margins in his school books were filled with sketches of Hollywood-inspired fashions instead of notes. At fifteen, he began sewing, selling evening gowns for $25 each to a New York manufacturer. At 17 he had saved up enough money to move to Manhattan and study fashion, and at 18 he was the first male to win Mademoiselle's Design for Living award. He spent his salary of $30 a week on clothing, shoes, and elegant meals.

In 1942 Blass enlisted in the army. He was assigned to the 603rd Camouflage Battalion with a group of writers, artists, sound engineers, theater technicians, and other creative professionals. Their mission was to fool the German Army into believing the Allies were positioned in fake locations. They did this by using recordings, dummy tanks, and other false materials. He served in this unit at several major operations including the Battle of the Bulge, the Rhine river crossing, Sicily, the Normandy breakout, and North Africa.

Blass began his New York fashion career in 1946. He was a protégé of Baron de Gunzburg. In 1970, after two decades of success in menswear and womenswear, he bought Maurice Rentner Ltd., which he had joined in 1959, and renamed it Bill Blass Limited. Over the next 30 years he expanded his line to include swimwear, furs, luggage, perfume, and chocolate. By 1998, his company had grown to a $700-million-a-year business.

Beginning in 1976, and continuing until 1992, Blass lent his talents to the Ford Motor Company for an edition of their Continental Mark series of automobiles. In 1976 he shared model configurations with Emilio Pucci, Hubert de Givenchy, and Cartier. Each year, as goes true fashion, the interior and exterior color combinations would be updated. One of the most popular was the 1979 edition honoring a nautical theme, as did the Blass logo of the time. Small anchors were incorporated into the exterior accent striping and interior accents within the Blass back-to-back "B" design theme. The 1980 through 1983 Mark series Blass models was a "carriage roof" giving a convertible top look to the cars. After 1983, the Blass edition became a color option with rear quarter window model designations and a few features that were options on the standard model.

In 1999 Blass sold Bill Blass Limited for $50 million to Michael Groveman and retired to his home in New Preston, Connecticut. Blass was diagnosed with oral/tongue cancer in 2000, not long after he began writing his memoir. His cancer later morphed into throat cancer, resulting in Blass's death in 2002. He died ten days before his 80th birthday and six days after completing his memoir, "Bare Blass".

Blass collected art and was a connoisseur of antiquities and in his will bequeathed half of his $52 million estate, as well as several important ancient sculptures, to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Source:
Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Blass_%28designer%29 (Accessed 1/25/2013)

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