Mount Mary University Digital Collections

Geoffrey Beene

Geoffrey Beene
Source: Geoffrey Beene: Our History
Geoffrey Beene (originally Samuel Albert Bozeman Jr.) was born in 1924 in Louisiana. He studied medicine at Tulane University at his family’s urging but dropped out in 1946, instead moving to Los Angelos and working in the display department at I. Magnin, a retail clothing store. He studied fashion design at the University of Southern California before moving to New York the following year to study at the Traphagen School of Fashion, and then to Paris to attend the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne.
Lynda Robb Wedding.jpg
Lynda Bird Johnson and Charles Robb wedding photo, 1967
Source: Mount Mary University Archives
After returning to New York in the early 1950s, Beene worked at Harmay, a Seventh Avenue design house. Seeking more room to experiment with new designs, he designed for manufacturer Teal Traina before founding his own company, Geoffrey Beene, Inc., in 1963an unusual accomplishment for American designers at the time. He achieved immediate success; his first collection was featured on the cover of Vogue Magazine and in 1964 he received the first of eight Coty American Fashion Critics' Awards. In 1967 he designed the wedding dress for Lynda Bird Johnson (President Lyndon Johnson’s daughter). 
From the 1970s onward Beene focused on minimalism and on designing three-dimensionally, using less structured fabrics and techniques like curved seams to achieve a better fit and allow more movement. The juxtaposition of different colors, textures, and materials became part of his signature style. He blurred the lines between casual and formal wear, with creations such as a sequined football jersey evening dress and denim evening wear.
He also introduced Beene Bag in the mid-1970s, a line of cheaper women’s clothing made with similar designs to his couture clothes but less expensive materials, and he licensed men’s dress shirts and colognes, including his most popular fragrance, Grey Flannel. Profits from the dress shirts and fragrances afforded him a level of creative freedom in his women’s designs that many designers lacked. In 1976, Beene became the first American designer to show a collection in Milan, Italy; he had other international showings as well, and produced and sold his collections in Europe, another rarity for American designers.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Beene maintained his success and his commitment to originality and minimalism, though his feuds with Women’s Wear Daily and other members of the fashion press did impact the publicity he received. The first Geoffrey Beene retail boutique opened on Fifth Avenue in 1989. He won numerous awards, including four from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and in 1984 they created the annual Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement award to honor his fashion legacy.
Beene died in 2004 of pneumonia, a complication of cancer. As of spring 2023, his brand continues, owned by Authentic Brands Group and licensed to Versa Group.