What would a down home son of Louisiana know about fashion? Apparently, Geoffrey Beene knew a lot that the world didn’t when it came to fashion. Originally intending to go into the field of medicine, Beene dropped out of Tulane university simply saying “Cadavers were the moment of truth.” He attended USC in California and finally left in 1947 to study fashion at the Traphagen School of Fashion in New York City. He spent a year there before moving to Paris. He returned to New York in 1951. Eight years later he would open Geoffrey Beene, Inc. on Seventh Avenue.
This worldwind story has been recounted hundreds if not thousands of times to fashion students and designers alike. The true twist comes with the success of the Geoffrey Beene line and what happened after the awards and the worldwide recognition.
In 1988, Beene celebrated his 25 years in the business by holding a fashion show that benefitted AIDS project Los Angeles. This work was just the beginning of Beene’s goal in sewing social works into the fabric of fashion. In 1991, Beene designed a room for Metropolitan Home’s show house that benefitted the Design Industries’ foundation for AIDS. Beene’s philanthropic work continued even after his death in 2004. The Geoffrey Beene Scholarship endowment contributed $1 million to the Young Menswear Association. This gift was the largest ever in the history of the YMA. As a result of the gift, more than 200 students received $5,000 scholarships with the goal of pursuing careers in the fashion industry.
Geoffrey Beene is remembered to this day as a pioneer in fashion and design. His philanthropic work will ensure that his legacy lives on in budding fashion design students.