Frances Stein, a Fashion Force at Several Companies, Dies at 83

Frances Stein, who was a style editor, a style muse and a designer for Halston and Calvin Klein earlier than serving to to revive the home of Chanel, died on June 6 at her house in Paris. She was 83.

Her brother, Mark (*83*), confirmed the loss of life however didn’t specify a trigger.

Halston praised her editorial eye. So did Mr. Klein, who additionally likened her to a younger Katharine Hepburn, however who cooled on her when a tabloid author described his collections as being designed by “Calvin Stein.” Diana Vreeland, who gave Ms. Stein her first job in style, because the hat editor of Harper’s Bazaar, thought she had pizazz.

“Frances was one of those iconic fashion editors,” mentioned André Leon Talley, the longtime Vogue editor, “with impeccable style and a certain mystique and as intimidating as polished granite. One of the sacred monsters of that time. She wore cashmere as if it were sable.”

She additionally had a mood. As a younger editor, she was identified to throw issues — together with espresso and scissors — if displeased.

Ms. Stein got here of age in an period when style divas had been inspired to run amok, but additionally when American fashion was newly ascendant. Buoyed by the positive factors of second-wave feminism, girls had been striding to work in pants, jackets and sweaters, supple kinds that matched their newfound financial, social and sexual mobility. Ms. Stein was amongst those that taught them the best way to dress.

She was a scholar at Smith College and had simply returned from her junior year in Paris when Mrs. Vreeland, who was then the style editor of Harper’s Bazaar, interviewed her. (Mrs. Vreeland’s exaggerated character and hyperbolic pronouncements had been the mannequin for a era of editors.)

“The first thing Vreeland did was grab my hair and say, ‘That’s Russian hair,’” Ms. Stein informed W journal in 2005. “She hired me on the spot and sent a memo around saying that a girl with great hair had arrived. People were expecting Rapunzel.” (She did have terrific hair, colleagues recalled.)

As the millinery editor, Ms. Stein coated the person then often called Roy Halston Frowick, who was making hats at Bergdorf Goodman. When he went out on his personal in 1968, he requested Ms. Stein to be one in every of his companions. She was amongst his intimate circle, together with the jewellery designer Elsa Peretti and the mannequin and actress Marisa Berenson, about whom she mentioned, in her W interview: “We jingled, we swathed, we went to the London flea market five times a year. We looked like we’d walked out of the Carpathian Mountains.”

As style director for Vogue, her subsequent job after working for Halston, Ms. Stein styled a younger Beverly Johnson for the cover of the journal’s August 1974 concern, making her the primary Black mannequin to grace a Vogue cover. The history-making {photograph}, shot by Francesco Scavullo, reveals Ms. Johnson within the casual fashion of the time, in a comfortable blue cashmere turtleneck with a scarf twisted at her throat.

“Frances was a perfectionist,” Ms. Johnson told Women’s Wear Daily after Ms. Stein’s loss of life, recalling the shoot. “As I looked down at her, she tied and untied the rust-colored scarf with a jewel pin on me maybe close to 50 times, until she felt it was just right.”

Frances Grace (*83*) was born on Sept. 21, 1937, in Huntington, N.Y., on Long Island. Her mom, Frieda (Krakower) (*83*), was a homemaker; her father, Jacob (*83*), often called Jack, owned a division retailer in Kings Park. Frances attended Smith College for 3 years earlier than dropping out to work at Harper’s Bazaar.

She joined Glamour journal within the Sixties as a style editor, after which spent a few years designing for Halston. There, amongst different abilities, “she could tie a serious obi,” mentioned Chris Royer, a former Halstonette, because the designer’s home fashions had been identified. (Ms. Royer was referring to one in every of Halston’s signature vast belts, which concerned all types of exact looping and twisting.) Ms. Stein was a grasp of the tweak, the drape and the tuck, Ms. Royer mentioned, noting Ms. Stein’s behavior of tucking orchids and gardenias in fashions’ hair.

As a style editor at Vogue, she coated Mr. Klein, an intimate relationship that helped the younger designer discover an viewers for his fashionable fashion. Mr. Klein and Ms. Stein had a comparable aesthetic, an affinity for the muted tones — beige, sand, taupe and brown — that outlined Mr. Klein’s collections, and he employed her to be one in every of his designers.

That affinity might have led to their parting. She informed W that when The Daily News instructed his assortment be referred to as “Calvin Stein,” he fired her.

“We were very much on the same wavelength, Mr. Klein said in a phone interview. “She had an opinion and a point of view, and her choice of clothes was always right on.”

By the late Nineteen Seventies, Ms. Stein was designing equipment and a few separates for Chanel, which had floundered after the loss of life of its founder, Coco Chanel, in 1971. Ms. Stein’s fashionable takes on Chanel classics — her comfortable leather-based luggage, ballet flats and cashmere sweaters — helped flip the company’s fortunes round.

So, too, did the designs of Karl Lagerfeld, who was employed quickly after Ms. Stein to design ready-to-wear and couture. The two had an icy relationship. Mr. Lagerfeld complained of her habits; he additionally mentioned that her designs had been muddying his imaginative and prescient for the company.

“I like some of her little cashmeres, and I don’t mind her doing all that duty-free jewelry,” Mr. Lagerfeld informed Women’s Wear Daily in 1985.

Ms. Stein might not have been a fan of Mr. Lagerfeld’s work, both. “I made the mistake once of asking her if she had designed these pull-on boots,” mentioned Jill Kargman, the creator and star of the tv comedy sequence “Odd Mom Out,” who grew to become shut with Ms. Stein when Ms. Kargman’s father, Arie Kopelman, was president of Chanel.

“They were sort of rounded and flat, and it turned out Karl had designed them,” Ms. Kargman mentioned. “Anyway, they were not her style, which was more classic. She looked me dead in the eye and flared her nostrils and said, ‘I do not design hooves.’”

Ms. Stein designed jewellery beneath her personal identify, too — huge cuffs, chokers and earrings that look vaguely Byzantine or Etruscan.

“I try to design things that are irresistible visually, but they also have to work,” Ms. Stein informed The Associated Press in 1989. “A bracelet is great if you can pull it on and off and it doesn’t get wound up in a typewriter or dribble in your plate when you are making an elegant gesture.”

In addition to her brother, Ms. Stein is survived by a sister, Marilyn Vogler. Her marriage to Ronald Stein, an artist, led to divorce.

A Chanel spokeswoman mentioned Ms. Stein left the company about 20 years in the past.

“I adore what I do,” Ms. Stein informed The New York Times in 1982, “but I am a loner and I know I have a reputation for being difficult. This disturbs me, because most people who have worked with me know how hard I work at what I do. I’m a perfectionist.”

Back to top button