Gloria Vanderbilt – the intrepid heiress, artist and romantic who began her extraordinary life as the “poor little rich girl” of the Great Depression – has died at the age of 95.
She survived family tragedy and multiple marriages, reigning during the 1970s and ‘80s as a designer jeans pioneer.
Vanderbilt was the great-great-granddaughter of financier Cornelius Vanderbilt and the mother of CNN newsman Anderson Cooper, who announced her death yesterday via a first-person obituary that aired on the network.
Cooper said Vanderbilt died at home with friends and family at her side. She had been suffering from advanced stomach cancer. “Gloria Vanderbilt was an extraordinary woman, who loved life and lived it on her own terms,” Cooper said in a statement. “She was a painter, a writer and designer, but also a remarkable mother, wife and friend. She was 95 years old, but ask anyone close to her and they’d tell you she was the youngest person they knew, the coolest and most modern.”
Vanderbilt’s life was chronicled in sensational headlines from her childhood through four marriages and three divorces. She married for the first time at 17, causing her aunt to disinherit her. Her husbands included Leopold Stokowski, the celebrated conductor, and Sidney Lumet, the award-winning movie and television director.
Tributes online came from celebrities and fans of her clothes alike. Alyssa Milano called her “an incredible woman”, while Dana Delany said she treasured one of Vanderbilt’s paintings.
Model Carol Alt hailed her as a “fashion icon and innovator”. One Twitter user mourned her by remembering the canary Vanderbilt jeans she wore in junior high school.
Vanderbilt was a talented painter and collagist who also acted. She was a fabric designer who became an early enthusiast for designer denim. The ultra-thin Vanderbilt partnered with Mohan Murjani, who introduced a $1 million (£796,400) advertising campaign in 1978 that turned the Gloria Vanderbilt brand with its signature white swan label into a sensation.