Remembering the ad legacy of fashion pioneer Gloria Vanderbilt
On Monday morning, fashion icon and socialite Gloria Vanderbilt died at 95 years old. In a televised statement, her son, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, said she was an “extraordinary woman, who loved life, and lived it on her own terms,” and revealed that she died after a bout with advanced stomach cancer.
Throughout her life, Vanderbilt was no stranger to the public eye. As a member of the wealthy Vanderbilt family, she was in the spotlight on-and-off for nearly nine decades, from being the subject of a high-profile custody battle as a young girl in the 1930s to starring in her signature fashion advertisements later in life.
Here, we look back on some of Vanderbilt’s most memorable moments in the advertising realm:
Stretch denims for Murjani (1980)
In 1976, Gloria Vanderbilt partnered with Indian entrepreneur Mohan Murjani to create and finance a new line of designer jeans for women. Marketed as the “first designer jeans in the world,” Vanderbilt’s denim product line was heavily advertised on buses, billboards and television, and saw widespread success. From their slimmer fit to embroidered back pockets to stretchy fabric, Vanderbilt jeans were widely seen as being innovative.
“They’re the top!” (1980)
Capitalizing on Vanderbilt’s status as the wealthy daughter of an American railroad tycoon, her designer jeans were often marketed as a high-end luxury item appreciated by the super-rich, with one ad proclaiming: “They’re the jeans with the social status. Girls with private jets and fancy pets think they’re tops!”
Celebrity endorsements (1980s)
Vanderbilt jeans and their advertisements became a mainstay of the 1980s, especially on television, thanks in part to the brand featuring some of the decade’s biggest stars in its commercials, including actress Geena Davis and Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry.
Vanderbilt perfume (1988)
While blue jeans were her most famous and successful namesake product, Gloria Vanderbilt created an entire fashion and lifestyle line that offered branded items including scarves, dresses, shoes and perfumes. Vanderbilt’s products always included her trademark swan logo.