BRUCE, Liza





American designer working in London

Born: New York City, 21 September 1954. Family: Married Nicholas Barker (divorced); married Nicholas Alvis-Vega. Career: Designed high-end bathing suits, from 1982; began designing ready-to-wear, 1988; launched outerwear designs, 1989. Address: 37 Warple Way, London W3, England.

P UBLICATIONS

On BRUCE:

Books

Stegemeyer, Anne, Who's Who in Fashion, Third Edition, New York,1996.

Articles

Polan, Brenda, "So Long as the Octopus Giggles," in The Guardian (London), 6 June 1985.

"Designs Do Swimmingly," in Chicago Tribune, 4 December 1985.

"Creative Collaborators," in Harper's Bazaar, June 1989.

Starzinger, Page Hill, "Out of the Water, Onto the Street" in Vogue, June 1990.

Jeal, Nicola, "Truly, Madly, Modern," in Elle (London), May 1993.

Baker, Lindsay, "A Room of My Own," in The Observer (London), 10 June 1993.

Spindler, Amy M., "Color It with Silver and Spice," in the New York Times, 4 November 1993.

D'Innocenzio, Anne, "Bruce's New Moves," Women's Wear Daily, 4 May 1995.

Fallon, James, "Liza With a Z," Women's Wear Daily, 26 February 1998.

Aldersley-Williams, Hugh, "The Swimsuit Issue: Liza Bruce Opens Swimsuit Store," in the New Statesman, 27 February 1998.

D'Innocenzio, Anne, "Liza Bruce Opens Soho Store," in Women's Wear Daily, 10 February 2000.

***

Lean, pared-down shapes, devoid of decoration or unnecessary seams, dominate Liza Bruce's work. Shaped with Lycra, her clothes cling to the body. She has removed tight clothing from its conventional daring context and defined notion of simple stretch garments as the basis for the modern wardrobe in the mid-1980s. Her designs are founded on the flattering silhouette they produce, emphasizing shape while narrowing the frame.

Her background in swimwear design, which continues in her collections, has given her a confidence in working with the female form. Although at first her stretch luster crêpe leggings made some women feel too self-conscious and underdressed, they became the ultimate example of 1980s innovation and were soon a staple in the fashion world, taken up by the 1984 revival interest in synthetics.

Minimalist shape was one of the early examples of her highly recognizable style. She has built on the garments that supplement her streamlined swimwear range, originally modeled on bodybuilder Lisa Lyons, who embodied the toned strength of Bruce's design. Her swimsuits and closely related bodices produce the characteristic smooth line that pervades her work, some in stark black and white with scooped-out necklines (in 1989), others more delicate and decorative. In 1992, soft peach bodies were sprinkled with self-colored beads across the breast area.

Bruce's detailing maintains the aerodynamic line of her clothes while adding definition and interest to their usual matte simplicity. In 1992 she also produced columnlike sheath dresses and skirts that clung to the ankle like a second skin, punctuated by beads at regular intervals down their sides, which were quickly copied throughout London. The subtle sophistication of such tubular styles avoided the pervasive retro fashion of the year; indeed, Bruce's work, based as it is on easy-to-wear, timeless separates, pays only lip service to current trends. In 1990 this took the form of catsuits made of a black crêpe and Lycra-mix with fake fur collars, and her 1993 collection nodded toward deconstructionist styles, with shrunken mohair jumpers, crumpled silk shifts, and narrow coats with external seams. It was perhaps inevitable that her work incorporated such touches as her outerwear range, begun back in 1989, and further expanded.

Bruce's signature is most strongly stamped on the lean, sculptured stretchwear she consistently produces. It presents an ideal of modernity in its streamlined design, confident shape, and essential minimalism. She was able to build on these basic garments as her confidence as a designer of outerwear grew, enabling her to incorporate contemporary fashion preoccupations into more tailored pieces which complement and expand upon the postmodernist tenets of her style. Her popularity in the fashion world has been firmly established and her appeal to confident, independent women—who appreciate simple yet sexy clothes bereft of unnecessary detail—continues to grow.

During the mid-1990s, Bruce expanded her product line in the U.S. while maintaining her large showroom and studio in London. She opened a large showroom in New York offering more affordable swimwear and activewear, and introduced a fragrance. Bruce wanted to have a home base in the U.S. to better serve her American clients, who include Barneys, Marks & Spencer, Charivari, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Yet in 1996 Bruce went into a voluntary liquidation of her wholesale business due to several financial factors, including a long copyright dispute with Marks & Spencer and the bankruptcy of her biggest account, Barneys New York. After a few years of regrouping, Bruce opened a small retail shop in London, selling to only a few selective American clients such as Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Harvey Nichols. Her new business once again features her popular swimwear, lingerie, and sportswear, and she planned to add jewelry and footwear.

The new London retail business was successful, and in 1999 Bruce returned to the U.S. and opened a store on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. The following year she opened a small, 350-square-foot shop in Manhattan's Soho district. Of the new shop, Bruce told Women's Wear Daily, "It has a closet-like effect. I'm into how clothes interact with the interior."

Bruce's new approach of opening smaller, more intimate stores appeals to her desire to veer away from commercialism. Her new sportswear collections feature the same wearable and functional fabrics as she has used for her swimwear—modern fabrics that travel well. She has added Velcro closures to her clingy and stretchy pieces, and on some of her pieces she has haphazardly sewn in a label that reads, "Luscious Bitch."

—RebeccaArnold;

updated by Christine MinerMinderovic

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