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Ortenberg, Arthur (1926– ) and Claiborne, Liz

ORTENBERG, ARTHUR (1926– ) and CLAIBORNE, LIZ (1929– ), U.S. apparel manufacturers, environmentalists. Ortenberg and his non-Jewish wife, fashion designer Liz Claiborne, had each been in the textile and apparel industry for more than 20 years when they decided to go into business together. By the time they retired 14 years later, Liz Claiborne Inc. was a $1.3 billion corporation and one of the fashion industry's most spectacular success stories. Ortenberg provided the management know-how, while Claiborne was the creative force. Their target customer was the working woman who wanted moderately priced, well-made, stylish sportswear that could be worn to the office. Ortenberg, a New Yorker, met Claiborne, born in Brussels to American parents, in the mid-1950s. He was running the junior dress division of a sportswear company and hired her as a designer. They each went through divorces and married in 1957. Claiborne moved to Youth Guild, a junior dress manufacturer, as chief designer and Ortenberg became president of Fashion Products Research, a textile and consulting firm. In 1976, after scraping together $50,000 in savings and raising $200,000 more from family, business associates, and friends, they launched their own business. Claiborne was president and Ortenberg was executive vice president of operations. Claiborne's designs were so popular that the company went public in 1981. Ortenberg became a vice chairman in 1985, together with Jerome Chazen, who had been executive vice president of marketing and who had been with the company since its start. The product line expanded to include men's clothing, a more extensive sportswear line, accessories, cosmetics, and fragrances. In 1986, revenues reached $800 million and Claiborne appeared on the Fortune 500 list of the biggest industrial firms in the U.S. Citing a desire to do other things with their lives, Ortenberg and Claiborne retired from active management roles in 1989, remaining directors for another year. The Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation, created in 1984, is devoted to "the conservation of nature and the amelioration of human distress" and pursues environmental and social interests from the U.S. to Europe, Africa, and Central and South America. "Liz and I have long had numerous environmental projects in mind and not enough time to address them," Ortenberg said. "Now we have the time and the wherewithal through the Foundation to do just that. We want to make this world a better place for our grandchildren." Claiborne was honored by the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 1986 and Ortenberg and Claiborne were inducted into the National Sales Hall of Fame in 1991.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.