Herbert Kasper, American fashion designer, 93 – WWD


Herbert Kasper, the American designer known as Kasper who designed classic dresses and sportswear for women, died on Sunday after a long illness. He was 93 years old.

Born on December 12, 1926 in New York, Kasper studied English and advertising at New York University and went to serve in the United States Army. After World War II, he enrolled at the Parsons School of Design, then went to Paris to study at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne and develop his design skills. While in Paris, he held positions with Jacques Fath, Christian Dior and Marcel Rochas.

Upon returning to the United States, Kasper worked for Mr. Fred, a milliner, and as a dress designer for Penart Fashions. He sold his designs to Lord & Taylor. His original works were known as Kasper de Penart. He also designed for Arnold & Fox. In the 1960s, he started making clothes under his own brand, Kasper Originals, and later designed little dresses for Maison Petite.

Kasper has won the Coty American Fashion Critics Award three times and was inducted into the Coty Hall of Fame. His clothes, which looked expensive, were known to be modern, well-constructed and commercially successful. Kasper was president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America from 1977 to 1979.

Fashion designer Kasper at Lincoln Center with models wearing looks from his fall 1972 collection.
Fairchild Archive/Penske Media/Shutterstock

In 1963, Kasper designed for Joan Leslie, the best-priced clothing division of Leslie Fay Inc., and upon his death became the company’s chief designer and eventually vice president of Leslie Fay. He spent most of his career there. He was a designer for JL Sport and was a designer for Kasper for ASL.

JL Sport RTW Fall 1972

Looks from JL Sport’s 1972 fall collection.
WWD Archives

In the 80s, when Leslie Fay was about to close the Kasper for JL Sport division, designed by Kasper, Arthur S. Levine (as part of the Sassco unit) made a deal to use the Kasper name on a line of costumes, calling it Kasper for ASL. Kasper for ASL, introduced in 1984, has become a dominant best-price label in department stores. There was also a better priced Kasper Dress division. Kasper ASL was established in 1997 as a publicly traded company as part of Leslie Fay’s reorganization plan, and the business has changed hands several times. Today, the Kasper label is part of The Kasper Group in New York.

“One of the best parts of my life was working with him. We both grew up together. He was a really nice guy,” said John Pomerantz, who was president and CEO of Leslie Fay. cos.

Stan Herman, designer and former president of the CFDA, said: “He was very important in my life. We started together in 1953. I met him at a party. We had a long relationship and I spoke to him a lot last year. He said Kasper “was very complicated” and “very circumspect in his designs”.

“He was very successful in the beginning and people like me were so in awe of him. He built a very classy clothing business that caught the winds of the times. He knew the right people and got the right information to produce the clothes that were highly sought after and sold,” Herman said. He said Kasper had a good licensing deal with his suits, “which gave him the kind of strength to do what he wanted to do. . The Kasper suit was the thing to wear.

Diane von Furstenberg said: “When I arrived in New York Kasper was very nice to me and introduced me to the editors. He was a gentleman and he designed great American sportswear.

Besides being a designer, Kasper was an avid art collector. His drawings and photographs were exhibited at the Morgan Library in 2011 and the exhibition included late Renaissance works, as well as modern and contemporary drawings and photographs. The artists represented ranged from Fra Bartolommeo and Giorgio Vasari to Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Robert Mapplethorpe and Jenny Holzer.

Kasper began collecting drawings while a student in Paris in the 1950s and continued to add to his collection. While living in Paris, he spent $100 on his first serious acquisition, a romantic wash drawing by Second Empire illustrator Constantin Guys, mainly because he had a friend who owned pieces by that artist.

In press materials for his Morgan exhibit, Kasper said, “Quality has always been very important to me. That’s not to say that the works I collect are the best known by any particular artist, but they should feel like something original and important.

John Marciari, Charles W. Engelhard curator and head of the Department of Prints and Drawings at the Morgan Library & Museum, said Tuesday, “Kasper was a life trustee at the Morgan Library & Museum and a dedicated member of the Director’s Roundtable. and the Visiting Committee for the Prints and Drawings Department. Famous as a fashion designer, Kasper was also an avid collector with a discerning eye and exquisite taste. His exceptional collection of Old Masters, modern and contemporary drawings and photographs was celebrated at the Morgan in 2011 with the exhibition “Mannerism and Modernism: The Kasper Collection of Drawings and Photographs”.

Executive Director Colin B. Bailey of the Morgan Library & Museum, added, “Kasper was in some ways still the youngest person in the room. He had an unerring eye, a warm and funny sense of humor and an insatiable curiosity.

“I had known him for 30 years,” said Lisa Smilor, executive vice president of the CFDA. “We would meet and have lunch. He had a beautiful and extraordinary apartment that was covered from head to toe in the most incredible art. I found him charming in a loving way. I knew him when I was a student at Parsons and he was [fashion] critical,” she said. She recalled how Kasper started out as a milliner, then he started designing dresses, and Lord & Taylor took him under his wing. She said they put her designs in the windows and developed her brand. She described her clothes as practical and suitable, but pretty.

She said that Kasper has really dedicated himself to his art over the past 20 to 30 years. She said of the Morgan exhibit, “CFDA members are still talking about it. His collection was so diverse and extensive.

Kasper’s Manhattan apartment was featured in Architectural Digest in April 2011. The apartment, in a 1908 building, had classic crown molding and heavy mahogany doors and was filled with South Arabian carvings, designs by masters vintage and state-of-the-art photographs.

Ray Crespin, a friend who was a former fashion director at Vogue and a former fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar, said: ‘He was colorful and had a very successful business. He was a very attractive and charming guy and he loved theater, jazz and opera and loved to dance. He had very sophisticated tastes. She also said that he throws wonderful dinner parties.

“He dressed really well and we went to Elaine’s a lot,” Crespin added. She recalls that at the time of her marriage, her husband did not have a proper suit and he got married in Kasper’s suit.

Andrew Jassin, managing director of Jassin Consulting Group, said he knew Kasper from Jassin’s years at Jones Apparel Group. “He was a gentleman. He was a bit of a throwback to the 50s in his idiosyncrasies and the way he dressed. He was gentle and he maintained friendships. Every year he sent me a birthday card until to 10 years ago,” he said.

Kasper is survived by four nieces and a nephew.

Donations in his memory may be sent to George Jackson Academy, 104 St. Marks Place, NY, NY 10019.


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