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Edited by Lester Brathwaite on July 17 2012 at 1:38 PM

American Fashion on the International Stage

Eleanor Lambert went to great lengths to publicize American fashion, even turning to the government for assistance. Through the U.S. Departments of State and Commerce, she orchestrated American fashion and trade shows in regions where American designs had never even been seen before: the then Soviet Union, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Italy, the UK and Australia. She was President Lyndon B. Johnson‘s first appointee to the National Council of the Arts, later the National Endowment for the Arts. And she also used her considerable talents to aid foreign designers break into America, like Valentino and Pierre Cardin. But perhaps her greatest achievement was the Battle of Versailles, which finally put American fashion on an even playing field with the elusive French.

That she lived to 100 is a testament not only to the German live-cell therapy she used every so often, but her indomitable spirit. As her longtime friend John Loring said in her New York Times obituary, “She didn’t care a hoot about what was over, triumphs as well as defeats. And she not only wouldn’t take no for an answer, she didn’t hear it. Throw her out through the front door, and she’d fly back through the transom.”

Sources: New York Times, Vanity Fair, CFDA 

Story by Lester Brathwaite

I was center square from 1969 to 1978, during which I perfected the art of the zing as well as a crippling cocaine addiction. Bea Arthur was responsible for both. @LesFabian lester dot brathwaite at gmail