Liz Claiborne was a fashion designer and icon who created a clothing empire. She’s also the first woman to found a company (Liz Claiborne Inc.) that landed on the Fortune 500 list.

Quick facts:

– Born in Brussels, Belgium, on March 31, 1929, Anne Elisabeth Jane Claiborne was the daughter of American-born parents.

– Due to threat of World War II, the family returned to New Orleans, Louisiana in 1939.

– To continue her art studies Claiborne returned to Europe in 1947, she stayed in Brussels and Nice, France.

– At the age of 19, she won a design contest held by Harper’s Bazaar magazine, and soon moved to New York City to pursue a career in the fashion industry.

– She worked for a wide variety of designers (Tina Leser, Jonathan Logan).

– With 20+ years in the industry, she decided to start her own firm, using $50,000 of her own savings and $200,000 from friends, family members and associates, she co-founded her own firm, Liz Claiborne Inc., in 1976 with her husband, Arthur Ortenberg, and partners Leonard Boxer and Jerome Chazen.

– During the 1970’s, Claiborne recognized that increasing numbers of women were entering the workforce and that there would be a growing need for affordable and stylish women’s business attire.

– Claiborne attributed her sense of style to her European upbringing and her study of art.

– In 1980, Claiborne was the first woman to be named Entrepreneurial Woman of the Year by the American fashion industry.

– In 1986, her company made the Fortune 500 list, giving Claiborne the distinction of being the first female chief executive officer of a Fortune 500 company.


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