Gloria Laura Vanderbilt (born February 20, 1924) is an American artist, author, actress, heiress, and socialite most noted as an early developer of designer blue jeans. She is a member of the prominent Vanderbilt family of New York and mother of CNN's Anderson Cooper.
Vanderbilt studied acting at the Neighborhood Playhouse with teacher Sanford Meisner and studied art at the Art Students League of New York. She became known for her artwork, giving one-woman shows of oil paintings, watercolors, and pastels. This artwork was adapted and licensed, starting about 1968, by Hallmark Cards (a manufacturer of paper products) and by Bloomcraft (a textile manufacturer), and Vanderbilt began designing specifically for linens, china, glassware and flatware.
During the 1970s, she ventured into the fashion business, first with Glentex, licensing her name for a line of scarves. In 1976, Indian designer Mohan Murjani's Murjani Corporation, proposed launching a line of designer jeans carrying Vanderbilt's name embossed in script on the back pocket, as well as her swan logo. Her jeans were more tightly fitted than the other jeans of that time. The logo eventually appeared on dresses and perfumes as well. Along with her jeans, Vanderbilt also launched a line of blouses, sheets, shoes, leather goods, liqueurs, and accessories. Jones Apparel Group acquired the rights to Gloria Vanderbilt jeans in 2002. Vanderbilt was one of the first designers to make public appearances, which was a difficult thing for her because of her shyness.
In 1978, Gloria Vanderbilt sold the rights to her name to the Murjani Group. She then launched her own company, "GV Ltd.," on 7th Avenue in New York.
In the period from 1982 to 2002 L'Oreal launched eight fragrances under the brand name Gloria Vanderbilt.
In the 1980s, Vanderbilt accused her former partners in GV Ltd. and her lawyer of fraud. After a lengthy trial (during which time the lawyer died) Vanderbilt won and was awarded nearly $1.7 million, but the money was never recovered, though she was also awarded $300,000 by the New York Bar Association from its Victims of Fraud fund. Vanderbilt owed millions in back taxes—the lawyer had never paid the IRS—and she was forced to sell her Southampton and New York City homes.
In 2001, Vanderbilt opened her first art exhibition, "Dream Boxes," at the Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester. A critical success, she launched another exhibition of 35 paintings at the Arts Center in 2007. Two years later, she returned to the Arts Center as a panelist at its Annual Fall Show Exhibition, signing copies of her latest novel, "Obsession: An Erotic Tale."
Vanderbilt is the author of four memoirs and three novels, and is a regular contributor to The New York Times, Vanity Fair, and Elle. Most recently, Vanderbilt has been the subject of a new book chronicling her life, entitled The World of Gloria Vanderbilt, written by Wendy Goodman, New York (magazine)'s design editor. The book was published in November 2010 by Abrams and features many previously unreleased photographs. Vanderbilt also has a website featuring her artwork.
Today, Vanderbilt is not involved in the fashion or home furnishings business, and is in no way affiliated with the clothing and accessories company that uses her name.