Born: Zoran Ladicorbic in Banat, Yugoslavia, 1947; immigrated to the U.S., 1971. Education: Studied architecture at the University of Belgrade. Career: Worked variously in New York as coat checker at Candy Store club, salesman at Balmain boutique, accessory designer for Scott Barrie, salesman/designer for Julio, 1971-76; freelance designer in New York, from 1976; first collection shown, 1977; Washington, D.C. showroom established, 1982; fined by FTC for not including care and content labels in garments, 1998.
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Zoran Ladicorbic was born in Banat, Yugoslavia in 1947. The designer, who goes by his first name, was trained in his native country as an architect, and a love of geometric shapes and straight lines is evident in his clothing design.
Zoran came to the United States in 1972. Although he had no formal education in fashion, he worked for the first few years in retail. He was also an accessories designer for the 1970s women's fashion designer, Scott Barrie.
In 1976 Zoran started his own collection, using only the best and most luxurious fabrics. Cashmere, satin, velvet, and high-quality wool are staples of his collection. He creates two collections a year, spring and fall, and shows them in his New York loft-workplace located in the downtown SoHo neighborhood.
He is obsessive about cutting and finishing a garment. His clothes create a feeling of luxury through perfect craftsmanship and materials, not through ostentatious embellishment, bright color, or showy fabrics. He uses the same muted color palette over and over: black and white, ivory, gray, and navy, with an occasional washed-out pastel such as pale pink or celery thrown in to liven the mix.
Zoran has kept to this minimalist aesthetic even during the more flamboyant 1980s. In the somewhat more abashed 1990s, his designs have gathered more momentum and his customer base has increased. His designs are not cheap, but he has a loyal following that snaps up his designs year after year. Among the Zoran devotees are model-actresses such as Lauren Hutton, Candice Bergen, and Isabella Rossellini, the painter Jennifer Hartley, socialite Amanda Burden, and Tipper Gore, the former U.S. vice-president's wife. His clothes are sold by high-level, slightly avant-garde stores such as Barney's and Henri Bendel in New York, as well as out of his workplace.
Zoran believes that his typical customer visits him once a year and buys several thousand dollars' worth of pieces at one time. Like the color palette, the silhouettes vary only slightly from season to season. Core pieces include a cardigan jacket, a T-shirt, crewneck cashmere sweaters, loose trousers, loose shorts, and a sarong skirt, which the designer claims he wore himself for a year to make sure the fit was correct.
The designer eschews the typical New York fashion life. He prefers solitude and is said to keep a constant supply of Stolichnaya vodka close at hand at all times of the day. He has an apartment in New York and a house in the resort community of Naples, Florida.
Zoran resortwear and knitwear collections remained strong sellers throughout the late 1990s. "The clientéle we see in Zoran is very interesting," Ted Marlow, president of Henri Bendel, commented to Women's Wear Daily (1 July 1996), "Zoran works well on every woman, no matter what size or age." Joan Weinstein, owner of Ultimo boutiques, carried Zoran in all her stores and the minimalist designs were often her top sellers. When Ultimo opened a new store in Dallas, Texas, it was Zoran's first foray in the state; the added exposure came at a time when many designers had lost their footing and were hurting for sales. Not so for Zoran, "We have a lot of Zoran," Weinstein said, "and we sell it like crazy. We never put it on sale; our sales just go up and up and up."
Zoran's minimalist designs, often called "spare luxury," appeal to a select and increasingly visible clientéle. Once hard to come by, Zoran apparel is now available at many high-end department stores, from Ultimo to Henry Bendel, Saks Fifth Avenue to Bergdorf Goodman. Zoran is popular with not only his growing client base, but with his fellow designers as well. When Women's Wear Daily had asked 50 designers in 1996 who should replace the departing Gianfranco Ferré at the House of Dior, Fabrizio Ferri perhaps gave Zoran the ultimate compliment: "The people who wear couture today wear it as a status symbol, rather than because they have style. In my view, if couture is going to move into the future…the designer should be someone who doesn't overpower the fabrics and the artisans—someone like Zoran who is known for the purity of his lines and doesn't overdesign."
updated by Owen James