Jessica McClintock, Fashion Designer, Has Died

Jessica McClintock

Jessica McClintock — fashion designer, arbiter of romance and beauty — died peacefully in her sleep at home on February 16, 2021.

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…christening, prom, graduation, engagement, and wedding. Jessica’s products have spanned bridal, prom, and other special occasion fashions, as well as fragrance, eyewear, 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.

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Breaking the proverbial glass ceiling, Jessica was a forerunner in the movement to empower women to live their life to their 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 her success was that in dressing girls and women for the most important events of their lives, she created an emotional connection that lived within them forever with the Jessica McClintock tradition being recreated 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, the race was on and 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 has remained a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

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

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 from 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 would change her life forever.

Jessica is survived by her son, Scott, and extended family. Jessica’s services are private, and she will be interred with her family in Presque Isle, Maine. A celebration of her life is planned in San Francisco later this year.

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