Jessica McClintock, the San Francisco-based designer who has dressed legions of prom goers, has died aged 90.
McClintock died Feb. 16 of natural causes at the Pacific Heights home she bought from filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola and romantically decorated to reflect her brand, according to Kerry Glasser, longtime licensing officer of the designate. A private memorial service will be held in McClintock’s hometown of Presque Isle, Maine this summer.
News of the creator’s death was to be relayed last month by an independent social media official. It didn’t go as planned, as the freelance writer took care of other projects, Glasser said.
As founder, president and CEO, McClintock has created a multi-million dollar business that dresses women and girls in romantic dresses that have spanned decades. Born Jessica Gagnon, McClintock learned to sew from her grandmother. Dresses with poufy, pastel and pretty sleeves were bought for sweet sixteen, quinceañeras and other unique occasions. This emotional connection helped make the brand a favorite across the country, especially in Central America, and boosted brand recognition. In 1997, WWD ranked Jessica McClintock seventh most recognized brands.
An early proponent of empowering women, McClintock has broadened its offering over the decades to create a lifestyle brand with beauty, clothing, accessories and home decor offerings. Hillary Clinton reportedly wore a Jessica McClintock gown for her 1975 nuptials.
A graduate of San Jose State University, McClintock taught eighth grade science for seven years before entering fashion. She invested in San Francisco label Gunne Sax in 1969. Her meadow-style dresses now appear to be a forerunner of sought-after designer Batsheva Hay. After McClintock joined Gunne Sax, the printed designs took on a more romantic turn. Over time, she put her name on the company, developing a multi-brand strategy by creating new divisions.
Designer Stan Herman said, “She beat her own drum during all the years she was in business. She had what I would call “sane glamor” in her clothes. They were intended for women who wanted to look pretty, but not particularly noticed. She had that touch that very few designers have, especially women. There was a soft side to its design. His designs have not been critically challenged by the East Coast Design. For years, she just did her own thing and did it beautifully.
Early in her career, McClintock reminded Herman of Liz Claiborne in that she found her following and never really deviated. He also noted that McClintock’s “sweet and pretty” clothes could be found in any department store at once.
This dedicated department store that followed in the 1970s somewhat inhibited McClintock’s inventiveness. “The buyers didn’t want me to change,” she told WWD in 1980. “I was locked into a stereotype and was a little bored.
Even though its name was synonymous with proms, McClintock has evolved over the years, layering in evening wear, perfumes, and athletic wear. Referring to the latter, JMc San Francisco, made entirely in stretch jersey in 1997, McClintock describes him as “techno-romantic”. She added: “I believe in change and this junior market is constantly evolving because it is always open to new ideas. “
At this point, the San Francisco-based company has generated $ 140 million in wholesale volume through Gunne Sax; a junior dress brand, Scott McClintock; Moderate bridesmaid dresses, and signature Jessica McClintock, bride and daughters. At its peak, the company had 40 independent stores. She told WWD in 2014, “My passion has been and will continue to be providing my dedicated customers with well-designed, value-driven products that reflect my love of the romantic lifestyle.”
A sign of the brand’s reach, the opening of the Jessica McClintock store on Rodeo Drive grossed over $ 200,000 in sales after three weeks. The outpost was the 10th in the company. The designer also had an eponymous perfume and cologne for men named after her son Scott, who worked with her for many years. Actress Jane Seymour has helped raise the profile of the brand.
Having worked with McClintock in organizing the West Coast edition of CFDA’s “Seventh on Sale” charity in the early 1990s, Fern Mallis said his support, as well as that of the leaders of Gap Inc. and other San Francisco-based companies, had helped raise millions of dollars. Mallis said, “She was the quintessential San Francisco designer who never seemed to get the respect in the fashion industry that she deserved because she had an amazing business.”
In September 1992, the company faced protests organized by what was then known as the Asian Immigrant Workers’ Advocates organization for using a near-bankrupt contractor called Lucky Sewing Co. The AIWA asked 15 $ 000 for the seamstresses, who lost their jobs after the company filed for bankruptcy and a two-year independent contract. McClintock claimed to have no control over the contractor’s transactions and was exempt from all liability under California law.
In retaliation, AIWA ran an ad titled “Let Them Eat Lace” in the New York Times that featured images of McClintock’s dresses juxtaposed with images of seamstresses at work.
McClintock responded with a full-page Times ad stating, “We will not tolerate bullying or blatant shakedown any more than we will tolerate substandard working conditions among contractors who work on the dresses we make.” , adding that the company’s then 23-year history had been with state-licensed contractors who “agree to respect all federal and state wages, hours, security [regulations] and other laws.
McClintock said at the time that his company had only worked with Lucky Sewing for six months and all workers were paid in full. In November 1992, the AIWA called for a boycott of the brand. Four years later, the AIWA and Jessica McClintock signed an agreement brokered by US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich. AIWA secured an education fund for garment workers, money for a workers’ union, and scholarships for students and workers. McClintock’s company had to print labor standards in both languages and set up toll-free hotlines monitored by the Department of Labor if employees were to report substandard conditions.
The San Francisco-based company was back in national news for another reason in 1996, after the Federal Trade Commission said its care labels were not specific enough to prevent clothing from being damaged in homes. dry cleaners. Although he denied the FTC’s tactics as being “bossy” and “cumbersome,” McClintock agreed to pay a fee of $ 66,000, making the company the third clothing manufacturer to be found in violation of the law. care labeling rule.
In 1999, after the dress designer added a full collection of spare parts, corsets, prom skirts, and sweater sets for the contemporary market, the company recorded $ 3 million in additional orders. “Girls love long evening skirts as a fun moment instead of such serious dresses,” McClintock told WWD at the time. “They also wear more casual items on top.”
Designer Kay Unger praised McClintock’s “empire”. She said on Monday: “I had such respect for what she did and how she touched so many young girls and made them so happy. I have so many nieces who wore her dresses to their proms. then their marriages. I love what she and her son put together later in life and that she was still working in her 80s. “
When the Madame Alexander Doll Company celebrated its 80th anniversary in 2005, McClintock was among the designers whose miniature clothes were displayed on the Company’s dolls in its Harlem headquarters. McClintock has tackled considerably larger projects through the Scott and Jessica McClintock Foundation, which is dedicated to preserving the earth’s natural environment. Launched in 2018, the organization provides financial assistance to global environmental causes such as The Elephant Sanctuary and the Natural Resources Council of Maine.
Always anticipating the next, McClintock sometimes drew the line of similarity. Even the red carpet outfit at the 2005 Oscars didn’t live up to the designer’s opinion. “Something had been diminished about it. I’ve seen beautiful women… timeless pieces, but how many times can I see a timeless piece? she asked at the time.
McClintock left the company about five years ago. With 12 licenses, several of which have worked with McClintock for over 15 years, Jessica McClintock Inc. will continue to operate, said Glasser, who heads Concept Marketing Group. McClintock enjoyed being “really emotionally connected” with his customers and intended to boost their self-esteem, he said. “We always get ratings from customers. We had one the other day that had nothing to do with his death. He said, “I will be forever indebted to Jessica for how she made me feel at my wedding and my daughter at her proms.” This is really the essence of what made Jessica a star. She related to her clients on a different level. This emotional connection is even more important today when people are trying to feel good about themselves.
McClintock’s first husband, Al Staples, died in a car crash. Her marriage to her second husband Frank McClintock ended in divorce. Besides her son Scott, the designer is survived by her sister Mary Santoro.