The University of the Incarnate Word and the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate will pay tribute Wednesday, Feb. 20, to a deceased designer who put her stamp on the fashion world and UIW.
The late Lila Bath, an international fashion designer who has a UIW gallery and scholarship bearing her name will be honored in a “Hats off to Lila” fashion show at McCombs Center Rosenberg Sky Room.
The event marks the 100th year since Bath’s birth.
Bath was raised in New York City where she studied at Parson’s School of Design and the Art Students’ League.
She started as a commercial artist but her experience with fashion merchandising led to a career as a buyer for Best and Company in New York where she honed her fashion sense and retail skills. In 1943, Bath moved to Mexico City where she was hired as a buyer by Salinas y Rocha, the owner of a furniture store who wanted to expand it to include apparel.
After four years of traveling to Chicago, New York and California as a buyer, Bath decided to set up her own fashion design shop in Taxco, Mexico, with the backing of a local businessman.
At the 1948 International Trade Fair in Chicago, her Mexican-inspired designs were shown for the first time. The fabrics she used were loomed, painted and embroidered by hand. Many of her ideas were inspired by Mexican regional costumes, adapted to the needs of the modern day. She reportedly regarded a Mexican wedding dress as her most popular, original design. It is constructed using tucked cotton and lace.
Her signature trademark was found in the way she highlighted blouses, skirts and pants made of Mexican cotton paisley with sequins and beads. During her time in Mexico, she also worked with native craftsmen, teaching them how to develop their skills for haute couture. She was a pioneer in the apparel industry in Mexico and brought worldwide awareness to the beauty of the fabrics and artistry of the country that inspired her designs.
Bath’s works have been exported all over the world. In the 1950s, some of her major clients included Neiman-Marcus, Saks and Harrods of London. She eventually owned several boutiques in Acapulco and Mexico City but closed her businesses in the early 1980s.
Throughout her distinguished career, Bath received many awards including the Golden Accolade at the International Fashion Show in Las Vegas. In 1968, Joske’s, a San Antonio department store, gave her the Camillia Award for the opening of The Hemisphere. The Institute of Mexican Fashion gave her a Golden Scissors Award, and her clothing has been exhibited many times at the Goldstein Gallery at the University of Minnesota. In Mexico and San Antonio, she was the founding regional director of Fashion Group International, a professional organization of fashion industry executives.
Bath’s love of fashion design and the realization that a good education extends beyond the traditional classroom inspired her to donate her designs and a monetary gift to UIW. The result of her generosity is the Lila Bath Scholarship – primarily meant for Mexican citizens enrolled in the UIW design program — and the Lila Bath Gallery in the Joyce Building. Her gallery is the foundation of the UIW Textile and Apparel Collection. The scholarship is awarded in April in conjunction with The Cutting Edge Fiesta® Fashion Show.
The Lila Bath Gallery is designed as an interdisciplinary venue incorporating fashion design, theatre production and other academic specialties at UIW. The gallery serves as a teaching and research facility for students. Both visiting and permanent exhibits address current issues of society, expressed through works of art and design.The vision of the Lila Bath Gallery is to:
- Enhance and supplement the teaching, research and marketing missions of the Fashion Management program and related disciplines;
- Involve university students in the planning and execution of exhibits and programs sponsored by the Lila Bath Gallery;
- Schedule visits of top international designers and local talent to share their expertise and experiences with University students;
- Host events with major fashion retailers in support of the Fashion Management program;
- Create a permanent collection of fashion expanding on Bath’s historically significant collection to include other classic and contemporary works; and
- Promote an appreciation of the importance of Latino culture.
Bath died in 2006.
The “Hats off to Lila” fashion show will be 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 20, at McCombs Center Rosenberg Sky Room.
Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for students with ID. Children under 12 get in free.