Fashion designer Jackie Rogers, who had a boutique on Worth Avenue in Palm Beach and Madison Avenue in New York, has died at age 90.
While Rogers will be best remembered for her work as a designer, having dressed the likes of Lee Radziwill and her sister Jackie Onassis, Nicole Kidman, Barbara Walters and Michael Douglas, she certainly lived a full and colorful life. According to her biography, Rogers inspired Federico Fellini to write the film “8 1/2” based on her life, giving her a line in the film; from Rome, she went to Paris, where she became model and muse to Gabrielle Chanel. Rogers picked up her design sensibilities while at the House of Chanel.
“I’m the only designer today who ever worked with the great Coco Chanel,” Rogers said. “From her I learned that fashion doesn’t start with design. Everything comes from fabrication.”
“Chanel was the greatest! The greatest! We’d stay at her design studio until 8 p.m. some nights, sweating it out, getting it right … I was the closest thing she ever had to an assistant,” she once told the Palm Beach Daily News.
“It’s like sculpting: Restricting a piece to its design holds back on what should and could, be developed. I go the way the fabric goes. That involves draping the cloth on a mannequin to get line and feeling,” Rogers explained. “From that point the design develops, sometimes spinning off into a dozen different versions. My clothes are always simple. I take away, rather than add, more and more women are finding they don’t want their clothes wearing them. My clothes are season-less, I can not be defined by the season.”
Rogers was known as a real character, the type of woman always happy to tell you a thrilling story from her youth.
“She carried with her the heady perfume of the Rome and Paris of her salad days, in the late 50s and early 60s, the era of ‘La Dolce Vita’ and the last act of Coco Chanel,” Ben Brantley, former chief theater critic for the New York Times, told WWD. “She picked up a lot of Chanel’s fashion sensibility, both in how she designed and how she dressed. At the same, she was always, emphatically, American — straightforward, allergic to pretension, alarmingly energetic. It made sense that Chanel called her ‘the cowboy.’”
“It was charisma that drove her into the world of fame and fortune, and a natural ability to work hard for her ambition,” wrote David Patrick Columbia for the New York Social Diary. “Underneath it all, she was that girl from Boston who was kind and sensitive and always moving forward. She wasn’t complicated but she was driven and multi-social, and sensible and practical and kept right on moving forward.”
A memorial service is planned for later in the season.