1930 – 2021
ARBITER OF ROMANCE AND BEAUTY HAS DIED
SAN FRANCISCO (February 22, 2021) Jessica McClintock — fashion designer, arbiter of romance and beauty — died peacefully in her sleep at home on Tuesday evening, February 16.
Jessica McClintock, best known for her bridal and prom designs, created a celebrated lifestyle brand based on the ideal of romance and beauty. Her name became synonymous with milestone events in a woman’s life… prom, graduation, engagement, and wedding. The products she developed have spanned from bridal, to many other special occasion fashions, as well as fragrance, fashion accessories and home, including fine furniture, fashion bedding and architectural lighting. With a global distribution footprint, Jessica developed a network of Jessica McClintock owned retail boutiques domestically. In 2020, Jessica celebrated her 50th anniversary in the business.
In what started as a $5,000 investment and an entrepreneurial spirit, Jessica broke the proverbial glass ceiling, becoming a forerunner in the movement to empower women to live their life to its fullest and achieve their goals. Jessica often spoke of her belief that “Romance is beauty that touches the emotional part of our being” and believed that everyone could choose to surround themselves with romance in their daily life. With that idea she incorporated romance and beauty, and an elegant sensuality, into every product she designed.
An early hallmark of Jessica’s success in dressing girls and women for the most important events of their lives, was that she enhanced their self-esteem resulting in an emotional connection that lives on within them forever. Thus, beginning the Jessica McClintock tradition which passed from generation to generation. Over the years, Jessica enjoyed the letters, photos and social comments from women who shared their love for their gown, their prom dress, and how special it made them feel.
Initially, the company focused on calico prints and long flowing, prairie style dresses. Jessica immersed herself in the business, adding her artistic and creative imprint, with a more Edwardian and Renaissance look to the collection. Muslin and lace were design tools. Ivory and soft blush colors were her palette. With naturalness being all the rage in San Francisco, Gunne Sax sales exploded. The lace-up front, bodice dresses allowed women to be demure in public and uninhibited when desired. In 1970, Jessica found herself as the sole owner of Gunne Sax and enlisted her family members to join her in the endeavor.
With Jessica’s design and business success, recognition and awards rolled in. By 1997 Jessica McClintock ranked seventh on the Women’s Wear Daily Top 100 most recognized brands, just behind powerhouse brands Cartier and Tiffany. In addition, Jessica remained a member of Council of Fashion Designers of American (CFDA) until her passing.
In 2013, after 43 years in fashion, Jessica quietly decided to retire at 83, and she ceased her manufacturing and retail store operations. However, it did not take her long to acknowledge that wasn’t a good idea, as she soon realized there was still a strong demand and market for the Jessica McClintock brand. With an accomplished licensing team, supported by Jessica’s overall direction, the Jessica McClintock brand has continued to flourish. Going forward her son Scott McClintock will manage and direct the Jessica McClintock brand.
Jessica’s legacy lives on not only in the fashion world. In 2018, Jessica and Scott created a private family environmental foundation to support global environmental causes www.JessicaMcClintockFoundation.org.
Born on June 19, 1930 in Presque Isle, Maine, just 12 miles from the Canadian border, young Jessica Gagnon developed her creative talents and adventurous spirit early on in her childhood.
Jessica left Maine in 1947 to attend Boston University and completed her degree at San Jose State University.
After teaching school on both coasts, two marriages that ended with her being widowed and then divorced, Jessica moved west and invested in Gunne Sax, a decision that changed her life.