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Liz Claiborne passes away at 78

Liz Claiborne, founder of apparel giant Liz Claiborne Inc., died Tuesday at age 78.

Born in Belgium, Ms. Claiborne was active as a sportswear designer in the 1970s and ’80s.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Art Ortenberg and the entire Claiborne-Ortenberg family on this sad occasion,” said Bill McComb, CEO of Liz Claiborne Inc. “In losing Liz Claiborne we have not only lost the founder of our company but an inspirational woman who revolutionized the fashion industry 30 years ago.”

Liz Claiborne Inc. was founded in 1976 by Ms. Claiborne and her husband Arthur Ortenberg to provide moderately priced clothing to working women sold in department stores. At the time, the Liz Claiborne label was on pants, skirts, shirts, sweaters and jackets.

In 1981, Liz Claiborne Inc. became a public company that continued to expand and experience high profits. By 1986, Ms. Claiborne expanded her fashion lines to include petites, dresses, shoes, accessories, menswear and perfume. Six years later there were 19 divisions.

In 1986, when company sales reached $1.2 billion, it joined the list of Fortune magazine’s 500 largest industrial companies in the United States. It was one of two companies started by a woman included on the list. At the same time Ms. Claiborne, who was company president, became chairwoman and CEO.

Until she retired in 1989, Ms. Claiborne remained the creative force behind the company’s design teams, emphasizing fit, color, comfort and good value as the company’s goals.

“Her commitment to style and design is ever present in our thinking and the way we work,” Mr. McComb said. “We will remember Liz for her vision, her entrepreneurial spirit and her enduring compassion and generosity.”

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