Hattie Carnegie (1889-1956) was born in Vienna, Austria, as Henrietta Kanengeiser. She immigrated to New York in 1900 with her family, and eventually changed her last name to Carnegie. As a teenager Hattie began working at various millinery establishments in New York. In 1909 she opened a small hat shop and clothing store with her friend Rose Roth. In 1919, Hattie bought Rose's share of the business and Hattie Carnegie, Inc. was born.
In 1928 Hattie Carnegie introduced her first ready-to-wear line. By the late 1930s, Carnegie had begun selling ready-to-wear dresses, hats, and accessories in stores around the country. Her clothes were particularly popular in California and many Hollywood stars wore Carnegie’s designs. By 1940, Carnegie’s operation was so large that it employed over 1000 workers. Most worked in the manufacturing of her ready-to-wear lines, but her custom shop continued to be the foundation of her business and reputation. Carnegie became known as a woman of taste and was often featured in her own ads.
Source: LIFE Magazine, 8 May 1944
During the 1950s, Carnegie continued to make the types of clothes that women across the country had come to expect from her – chic but conventional dresses and suits. Her clothing line featured hats, accessories and jewelry alongside elegant French-inspired ballgowns. Carnegie especially favored the little black dress and was known for using a particular shade of blue – “Carnegie Blue.”
Hattie Carnegie died in 1956. Her business remained open, first under the direction of her husband, John Zanft, and then by a former employee, Larry Joseph. However, much of the desirability of the label lay in the woman herself, and after her death the label lost much of its luster. Nevertheless, the company continued to produce jewelry, hats and accessories until 1976.
Over time, numerous noted designers gained experience working with Hattie Carnegie including Norman Norell, Pauline Trigère, and Gustave Tassell.