Heiress and fashion icon Vanderbilt dies aged 95
Gloria Vanderbilt, the intrepid heiress, artist and romantic who began her extraordinary life as the "poor little rich girl" of the Great Depression, survived family tragedy and multiple marriages and reigned during the 1970s and 1980s as a designer jeans pioneer, died yesterday at the age of 95.
Vanderbilt was the great- great-granddaughter of financier Cornelius Vanderbilt and mother of CNN newsman Anderson Cooper, who announced her death in a first-person obituary on the network yesterday.
Cooper confirmed she died at home with friends and family at her side. She had been suffering from advanced stomach cancer, he said.
"She was 95 years old, but ask anyone close to her, and they'd tell you, she was the youngest person they knew, the coolest and most modern," he said.
Her life was chronicled in sensational headlines from her childhood through four marriages and three divorces. She married for the first time at 17, causing her aunt to disinherit her. Her husbands included Leopold Stokowski, the celebrated conductor, and Sidney Lumet, the award-winning movie and television director.
In 1988, she witnessed the suicide of one of her four sons.
Vanderbilt was a talented painter who also acted on stage and television. She was a fabric designer who became an early enthusiast for designer denim. She partnered Mohan Murjani, who introduced a $1m advertising campaign in 1978 which turned the Gloria Vanderbilt brand, with its signature white swan label, into a sensation.
At its peak in 1980, it was generating more than $200m in sales.