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Luis Estevez

Luis Estevez was among the few post-World-War 11 Hispanic American designers discovered by retail and fashion magazines to promote American ready-to-wear. Luis Estevez was born in Havana, Cuba in 1930. A descendent of the Spanish de Galvez family, after whom Galveston Texas was named. Although Cuban born, he also proudly claims his American heritage.

Estevez was educated in Cuba and attended prep school in this country. He studied architecture in Cuba at the school of Architecture at the University of Havana. At the suggestion of Henry Callahan, legendary window display artist and vice president of display at Lord & Taylor, young Estevez took a summer job in the window display department at Lord & Taylor. Architecture was placed on hold once he was exposed to fashion. Dorothy Shaver then president of Lord & Taylor, encouraged him to go to school to study fashion after seeing a window he had done.

Estevez attended the Traphagen School of Fashion, worked for a Seventh Avenue dress manufacturer and then went to Paris and apprenticed in the House of Patou for a year and a half. While at Patou he designed clothing for a family friend who introduced him to influential people in the garment industry who encouraged him to return to New York. At this time there were great opportunities for young designers in the ready-to-wear American market.

In 1955 Luis Estevez began designing in his own name for the ready-to-wear manufacturing firm called Grenelle. He successfully brought a fresh concept of color and style to the American mass market, selling three million dollars worth of moderate priced clothes ($40-$50) in the first year. His architecturally crafted ready-to-wear dresses produced at a reasonable price for the mass market made him the newest success story on Seventh Avenue in 1956. He made his big impact with cut and line and unusual necklines for his fashionable but seductive clothes. This earned him a Coty Award (American Fashion Critics Award) in 1956 and the Sunshine Award of Florida the same year. He was 24 years old, the youngest designer ever to receive the Coty Award at the time. He received the Chicago Gold Coast Award three times.

Estevez’ experiences in Paris couture, as well as his Hispanic heritage, gave him the foundation in which to create clothing that revealed French couture techniques, solely by making them less complicated so they could be easier to manufacturer and sold in the American mass market. He designed figure molded cocktail and evening dresses with saucy and skin revealing bodices with narrow or wide skirts.

Since 1968 Estevez has lived and worked in California. In 1971 he designed a clothing line for the actress Eva Gabor, which sold under her name. The project later expanded with a separate division for Luis Estevez’s own label. He also designed a special line of furs, swim wear, and men’s wear for various firms in the east and west coasts.

From 1977 through the 1990s, he had his own design firm frequently financed and backed by Hollywood friends, but never on as large a scale as in the 1960s.

Throughout his career, Estevez was free wheeling, independent, with strong marketing awareness and always anxious to create feminine, fashionable clothes for women and later on for a long list of Hollywood personalities.

He was introduced to Betty Ford by Eva Gabor’s husband, a friend of Gerald Ford and in 1975 designed clothes for Betty Ford while she was first lady at the White House. Luis Estevez received the Hispanic Designers Life Time Achievement Award in 1990.

 

Related Images

Detail of labels
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Detail of labels
Bergdorf Goodman ad for the dress in a Sunday supplement of a Westchester, NY newspaper
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Bergdorf Goodman ad for the dress in a Sunday supplement of a Westchester, NY newspaper
Back View of Evening Dress
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Back View of Evening Dress


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