What Went Wrong With Blass?

Lars Nilsson’s dismissal from the Blass collection a day after his runway show, came as a surprise to many editors.

For many of the stalwart women of society, Blass’ passing represented the end of a way of dressing that cannot be replicated. They have turned to designers like Michael Kors and Tuleh, but frequently find that the direction of modern fashion has become too young and too driven toward editorial image to meet the needs of actual customers.

“I feel absolutely that so many of the women I know would still love to have a beautiful coat and suit, and in a way, Michael Kors has captured the Blass look, that kind of American sportswear look,” said Gregory. “But then look at Michael Kors yesterday. He didn’t do it, and the conversation among the ladies was, ‘Wouldn’t it be nice if someone did something to go out to lunch or a board meeting in?’ I would absolutely be open to a new Blass designer, but they would need a muse to tell them, ‘It’s very nice, but not Bill Blass. The jacket should be longer, materials shouldn’t be wrinkled.’ They should go to the people who wear the clothes. Maybe they need a focus group.’”

Nina Griscom said Nilsson’s last show was a solid one, but that any designer who tries to fill Blass’ shoes would be faced with the same problem. “Unless you have a public who is willing to start fresh, it’s hard for a designer to be held on a leash, delivering an interpretation of someone that’s gone,” she said. “In a way, everyone will be punished for not being Bill. The more you depart from Bill, the more you have a chance, but then the more you’re not delivering the nostalgia that people want.”

But younger social customers, ones like Jennifer Creel and Tara Rockefeller, really got behind Nilsson and Hervé Pierre, perhaps because they were not as well associated with Blass himself as the previous generation of the upper crust.

“Both Lars and Hervé took the collection to a new level I don’t think it’s been to since Mr. Blass,” said Lauren du Pont. “He brought a whole new group of young women to the brand. Lars had a great feel for print and the way the clothes fit. Lars and Hervé are the nicest gentlemen, they made it fun to shop.”

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