BILL BLASS, American fashion designer died on this date (b. 1922); An American fashion designer, born in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was known for his tailoring and his innovative combinations of textures and patterns. One of the most influential of American designers, Blass was the recipient of many fashion awards, including seven Coty Awards and the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Lifetime Achievement Award (1999). Blass began his New York fashion career in 1946.

He was a protégé of Baron de Gunzburg (who was also mentor to Vaslav Nijinsky, prior to Diaghilev, and later to Calvin Klein). In 1970, after two decades of success in menswear and womenswear, he bought Maurice Rentner Ltd., which he had joined in 1959, and renamed it Bill Blass Limited. Over the next thirty years he expanded his line to include swimwear, furs, luggage, perfume and chocolate. By 1998, his company had grown to a $700-million-a-year business.

Though not believing in sexual categorization, Blass came to be quite open about his attraction to both women and men, alluding to the existence of secret same-sex couplings in Fort Wayne and New York. Blass also had a charming personality and had a wide range of associations, boasting friendships with everyone from fellow fashion icon Oscar de la Renta to war criminal Henry Kissinger, though maintaining that he generally preferred to keep a certain emotional distance from others.

A regular smoker, Blass was diagnosed with throat cancer in the spring of 2000. The designer received waves of support from friends during his subsequent radiation treatments. He succumbed to the disease on June 12, 2002, passing away at his home in New Preston, Connecticut, at the age of 79. His autobiography, Bare Blass, was released a month later by HarperCollins.