To have lived a joyful life and to have departed that life a victim of a vicious cancer is, in brief, the story of Liz Claiborne's life. But the story is much more than that. Born in Brussels in 1929, the third and last child of a highborn American banker and his delicate, beautiful wife, she was born privileged and taught that privilege incurs responsibilities. She lived out her early years untouched by life and death during the ominous 1930s, until the ominous became the real and the family fled to America. Inheriting her father's love of paintings and museums and her mother's love of costumes and clothing, Liz early on discovered "the beauty of everyday things," and at the age of twenty won the Grand Award in the Harper's Junior Bazaar Design Contest, which earned her a trip to Paris to work for ten days with famed couturier Jacques Heim. For the next twenty-five years she worked as a designer and sketch artist before starting her own company with her husband Art Ortenberg. Liz Claiborne, Inc. was an immediate success, and was by 1981 a Fortune 500 company with $1.2 billion in sales.
In this book Art Ortenberg does not so much celebrate Liz Claiborne the designer and entrepreneur, but rather Liz the woman. "Liz left us more than her work," he concludes, "perhaps more than the consequences of her work; she left us herself. The making of that self, and the good she did for others, is the story I tell."
Art Ortenberg was Liz Claiborne's business partner as well as husband. In 1975 the two founded Liz Claiborne, Inc., today one of the most well known fashion companies in the world. Art lives in New York City and Canyon Creek, Montana.