Funeral services will be held Wednesday for Charles Nolan, an American designer who helped mold the image of modern American sportswear — and who, unlike many, wasn’t afraid to get into politics.
Nolan’s partner, financial writer Andrew Tobias told The New York Times that Nolan died Sunday at their home on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Nolan had been battling cancer of the head and neck.
As a designer, Nolan’s signature style was classically American, and he worked for Bill Blass, Ellen Tracy, Anne Klein, Elie Tahari and Christian Dior. WWD reports that he was a major force in making American style what it is today, and brought a modern sensibility to “toggle coats, striped shirts and other classic favorites.”
He was also modern in the way that he approached his politics, an arena most designers stay out of (presumably not to offend potential customers). But Nolan was a Democrat to his core — so much so that he left the fashion industry to volunteer for the Howard Dean presidential campaign in 2003. Strangely enough, one of his favorite colors was red. The Times explains:
“I love red — red is not a Republican issue,” he said at one point during George W. Bush’s presidency. “Listen, I’d be happy to have Ronald Reagan back at this point. By comparison, he and Nancy weren’t that bad. She liked clothes.”
Nolan had helmed his own label since 2004, but was perhaps better known for the custom work he did for private clients — many of them women on the political scene. Nolan was 53 years old when he died. His service will be held at Blessed Sacrament Church in Manhattan.