Thursday, May 14, 2009

Herbert Sondheim - Leader of Seventh Avenue

Herbert Sondheim (father of composer Stephen Sondheim) owned a high quality dress manufacturing business in New York. Begun in 1923 as Sondheim-Levy, he bought out his partner during the Depression and the label Herbert Sondheim was born in 1930. The company was known for it's beautifully made and stylish clothes which were sold to only a select few stores. Sondheim dresses were not cheaply made frocks made by the thousands, as was the case with many dress manufacturers during the 30s. Sometime prior to 1930, Herbert married Janet (Foxy) Fox, a graduate of Parson's School of Design, and she became the designer for the Herbert Sondheim label.

From the beginning, Sondheim was very active in the New York apparel industry, and he became a leader on Seventh Avenue. In 1928, he was chosen to serve on the Executive Committee of the Associated Women's Apparel Industries. He was one of the founders of the Fashion Originator's Guild in 1931 and was very active in the fight against design "piracy" which the Guild strove to accomplish. As a leader of FOGA, he championed the government's L-85 fabric restrictions during WWII. In 1953, Sondheim was appointed to the Executive Committee of the New York Dress Institute, a group that promoted New York manufacturers. He was also a member of the Executive Committee of the Costume Institute of New York at the Metropolitan Museum and a Director of the Fashion Institute of Technology.

Sondheim divorced Foxy in 1940, and Frances Troy Stix became the designer for his company. By the early 1960's, Sarah Ripault was the designer. One of 5 houses called the "New York Couture", Sondheim dresses were carried by such high end stores as Bonwit Teller, Lord & Taylor, and Best & Co.

Sondheim retired in 1964 and died on August 2, 1966 at age 71.

Please note: Biographical information about Herbert Sondheim is copyright of Couture Allure and may not be copied without permission.

Shown above, a dress from the Spring 1958 line of Herbert Sondheim. A looped wool blouson jacket is worn over a silk dress. Sold for $160.00 (about $1200.00 in today's dollar).