McFadden, Mary

(1938- )
   Although she was born in New York City, Mary McFadden grew up on a cotton plantation in Memphis, Tennessee. McFadden was educated at the Sorbonne in Paris, the Traphagen School of Design, Columbia University, and the New School for Social Research in New York City. Her educational background and extensive travels contributed to her eclectic taste level. While working as the director of public relations for Dior New York in 1965, McFadden married a De Beers diamond merchant and moved to South Africa, where she became a journalist for Vogue South Africa. In 1970, she became a special projects editor for American Vogue and, through an article written about her eclectic style, she caught the attention of Gerry Stutz, president of Henri Bendel in New York. During the 1970s and early 1980s, Henri Bendel was famous for promoting new design talent and helped launch the careers of many new designers, such as Stephen Burrows, Zoran, McFad-den and countless others. In 1976, she opened Mary McFadden Inc., featuring pleated clothing in a technique similar to that created by Fortuny, which she called Marii and patented in 1975.
   McFadden is best known for drawing on ethnic costume and ancient cultures for inspiration in combination with embellishment and passementerie. Her beautifully crafted evening dresses soon caught the attention of wealthy women everywhere and were widely copied. In the late 1970s, McFadden spun off a less expensive line and later licensed her name on a range of products such as eyewear, neckwear, home furnishings, sleepwear, and footwear. She even sold her accessories on QVC, a cable TV home-shopping network, in 1994.
   Her personal life was as colorful as her clothes. She claimed to have been married at least eleven times, although she described some of these "marriages" as being "only spiritual." In 1997, McFadden became an advocate of cancer awareness for women. She abruptly closed her high-end ready-to-wear line in 2002, but she remained active thereafter licensing her moderate-priced suit line, the Mary McFadden Collection. Her contributions to the fashion industry have earned her two Coty Awards and a place in the Coty Hall of Fame as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award from Fashion Week of the Americas.

Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry. .

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