Services will be held Thursday for Jackie Rogers, the tough-talker and bold fashion designer who died Tuesday in hospice at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan. She was 90.
The cause of death was congestive heart failure, a company spokesman said. A small private ceremony will be held at Sharon Gardens in Valhalla, New York at 10:30 am.
Rogers’ storied career spanned many careers. Like Lee Radziwill, Barbara Walters, Christine Baranski, Condoleezza Rice, Courtney Love, Nicole Kidman, Jack Nicholson, Coco Chanel’s muse, Dustin Hoffman and Sammy Davis Jr., she backs up her speech with “I Told You About…” and regales her audience with her adventures in El Morocco, for Cole Porter. She auditions for Davis Jr. or Chanel Modeling.
She had a big personality, spoke up at inappropriate times, enjoyed a fun life and was unapologetic about everything. But her collections were an exercise in mastery of pure talent and sensual, often biased clothing.
She was born on February 24, 1932 in Brookline, Massachusetts to a father who was a professional gambler and a mother who designed hats for a chic gown shop. Rogers started designing her own clothes when she was 14 years old. At age 16, her modeling career began with a $55-a-week summer job at Boston’s Priscilla.
After she decided to return to Boston to marry Alan Butter, her enrollment at the University of Miami was suspended. In the year In 1952, Parachute walked out of their marriage, writing herself a check and moving into the Mayflower Hotel in Manhattan. When she wasn’t interviewing Seventh Avenue elevator operators who were hiring models, Rogers studied with Stella Adler and once appeared for Cole Porter. As a fit model, she told designers like Geoffrey Beene what was right and wrong with their clothes.
During this time in New York City, she would hang out at nightclubs like El Morocco, socialize and interact with many famous people. After meeting Sammy Davis Jr. at a fashion show at the Waldorf Hotel, she falls in love with him. But the hard party rat pack life in Las Vegas was not for her. Rogers “‘Get out of here!'” he said in a 2014 interview. As crazy as I was, I wasn’t crazy.”
In the year In 1960, Rogers moved to Europe, where she took her own life. She settled in Rome, where she fell in love with “the most beautiful man in Europe, this divine Italian prince.” She appeared in Federico Fellini’s classic film “8 1/2” when she delivered the central character’s grim conclusion: “You’re done. You have nothing left to say.”
A shopping trip to Paris changed the course of her life. She bought her first Chanel suit for around $600, and when she stopped by her first fitting, she found herself thinking, “I wish I worked here.” When she heard that Chanel was looking for models, she lined up an interview and Coco Chanel hired her on the spot.
Rogers was so unique that when she modeled for Coco Chanel in Paris in the early ’60s, the designer dubbed her a “cowboy.” At the start of what would be a two-year modeling for Chanel, Rogers encountered the designer’s exact backstage moments before she had to leave. Chanel began “tearing” Rogers’ clothes, “pulling and pushing to put everything back together.” After Rogers started crying in an interview at one point, Chanel told her, “I’m doing this for me, for me.” This is why it doesn’t happen to anyone.
Sometimes a playwright and always a performer, Rogers developed a reputation for running with the social crowd, attending Fellini’s parties in Rome or aboard Aristotle Onassis’s yacht. In the year Touring Europe in 1960 with such notables as Stavros Niarchos, Rex Harrison, David Lean, Kay Kendall and others, Rogers said, “Honey, that’s all about it. I will never go back to New York. “
The brassy and sometimes confused, dark-eyed Rogers once explained, “When someone asks me what I’m thinking, I tell them exactly what’s on my mind. That’s what people in Europe like about me – that I’m not full of baloney.
Rogers lived a busy life, even among the greatest hits of her time. In addition to being a model, she has worked as a showgirl, stockbroker, wife “for two minutes”, a star under contract to a studio and a friend of some of the world’s richest people. She also owned a Madison Avenue barber shop that was a hangout for current stars like Nicholson, Hoffman and Al Pacino.
But sometimes Rogers’ openness can be a liability. She told WWD, “Honestly, I thought I wouldn’t be able to handle the results. I learned differently. I am very rebellious. I hate compromise.”
For a long time in the ’70s, Rogers was part of the ubiquitous “heavy-duty record and movie industry types” at Studio 54, who never worried about tomorrow, Rogers explained in a 1984 interview. Recalling how his drug of choice – cocaine – was a “substitute for success”, he said: “You take enough and sit up all night telling her how great you are. The only problem is, only you know.”
Throughout her decades-long career, Rogers had a practical side. In the year In 1971, she introduced a 12-month-old collection called Jackie Rogers Two. Designed for stores in the Sunbelt, the more affordable collection includes lightweight jersey styles and cotton sportswear for shoppers always looking for something new. In general, she did not lose the joie de vivre that delighted Chanel. “I am living without thinking about myself. Life is too short. Live it like it’s your last,” Rogers said.
In the year Rogers gained fame in 1982 when a photo of her wearing a Lee Radziwill organza dress appeared on the cover of Women’s Wear Daily.
By her own description, Rogers was partial to smart, energetic women with good style. In the high-flying ’80s, when she ran a New York boutique, her customers loved unfussy beauty-girl nights on the town and body-hugging silhouettes – day or night. Picture a sheer black velvet dress open at the waist and wrapped around the hips with a fitted pan velvet belt. As Rogers explained to WWD in 1984, “Women want to be very attractive and very sexy. I don’t understand all these aerobics classes and taking care of the body, if you don’t show it.
Rogers opened her Palm Beach salon in the 70s. The Lexington Avenue salon opened in 2004, and her East Hampton store opened the same year. She also had a shop in Southampton.
As she opened a 500-square-foot store in East Hampton, Rogers told WWD, “The Hamptons are such a glamorous place right now. It’s really happening. The East Coast is becoming Hollywood, and everyone in the music industry is coming here.”
Hints of her colorful past can be seen on the walls of her East Hampton shop, where photographs by Marcello Mastroianni, Laurence Olivier, Chanel, Nicholson, Andy Warhol and others offer glimpses of her life.
“She was full force and right on target,” Stan Herman said Tuesday. “Few of us have been given an overview of her life. She became famous very early. She was a highly respected designer and had her own stores.
He said they would take the train to the Hamptons and she would have her dog under her arm. “She was old fashioned. Her life was a big movie, and she lived it big,” Herman said.
She is best known for her group of girls. She told WWD that the only reason she got into the women’s business was on the advice of Bill Blass, who told her that if she wanted to create a big brand, she should get into womenswear.
A WWD reviewer wrote in 1997, “Rogers knows how to scare a woman. What else could she feel in those sensually draped charms or bias-cut jersey gowns?”
But in the year In 2017, Rogers decided to relaunch a men’s collection, Jackie Rogers for Men, a barber boutique (haircuts and clothes sold) on Madison Avenue that counts some of Hollywood’s biggest stars as clients.
“All the people came and waited. Warren Beatty, Michael Douglas, Dustin Hoffman, Peter O’Toole was my boyfriend and Al Pacino was a client, but he had a terrible body, very short legs,” Rogers told WWD in 2017.
Among the first to receive the new Jackie Rogers men’s pieces was her old friend Nicholson, for whom she made a safari-style two-pocket shirt in burlap.
When she relaunched her menswear line, she had an exhibition of “Famous and Famous” friends at “The Gallery Next to Jackie Rogers” in Palm Beach. There she showed photos of everyone from Olivier to Nicholson and Beatty to Jackie Kennedy, Chanel and Radziwill. She even held a fashion show for her new women’s collection, and the event benefited the animals at A Second Chance Puppies & Kittens Rescue.
In the year In 2018, Rogers found herself in the news. She was involved in an ongoing battle with the former executive over ownership of the business. The designer sued Hudson 28 Holdings LLC for illegal foreclosure, but it was Rasheem Riley who claimed Rogers had given him ownership of the company and evicted her from her office at 330 West 38th Street. The matter has not been resolved.
To this day, Rogers owns an online business that operates and caters to private clients. It will close its Palm Beach store in 2021.
Rogers is survived by her nephew, Jonathan Lewis of Boston;
Rogers was an animal lover and had many dogs and cats over the years. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Rogers’ name to the local ASPCA.