Gloria Vanderbilt left behind a multi-hyphenate legacy: heiress, socialite, mother, model, actress, poet.
But her most famous professional endeavor was as a trailblazer in . . . jeans.
Vanderbilt launched her eponymous denim line in partnership with 7th Avenue powerhouse Mohan Murjani (who later helped to develop the Tommy Hilfiger brand) in the late 1970s. Fashionable denim had peaked, with iconic brands like Jordache and Calvin Klein transforming the true blue fabric into an ultra-skinny, stretchy fabric women were shimmying into not just for daytime, but for late nights at the disco.
Vanderbilt took her high-waisted, slim-fit, bootcut designs a step further, stamping them with her name — written with a flourish in cursive — on the back, while a small swan was stitched on the front of each pair.
Before then, jeans were the clothes of blue-collar workers and cool young dudes. Vanderbilt helped make them a signature look for females as well. Real women wore pants.
In one commercial for the brand (in which Vanderbilt herself made an appearance), a model seductively declares the fit to be “like the skin on a grape.” In another, fashion icon Debbie Harry of Blondie models a pair.
Vanderbilt’s fashion legacy will go down as the ultimate high-low: by scrawling her famous society name on every pair of the all-American staple, Vanderbilt established herself as a pioneer of celebrity branding with mass appeal.
It was, literally, signature style.
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