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Fashion Licensing Pioneer Ruth McCarthy Manton Dies at 95

Ruth McCarthy Manton, a pioneer in the business of fashion licensing, passed away at her home on Christmas Eve.

Manton was also among the first female fashion journalists in the industry, but it was her innovative work after founding Aries Design Management that made her a force to be reckoned with in the licensing business. Manton’s idea was to link up top designers directly with manufacturers to create wide ranges of products, and to use media and aggressive marketing to get those products in front of the public’s eye.

Early in her new career Manton concluded that reaching the mass market in America would require partnerships with celebrities, particularly those from TV shows and movies. Her close friend, the film producer David Gil, suggested Manton start by partnering with Jaclyn Smith, who had starred in one of Gil’s movies but was internationally known as one of the stars of the breakout hit Charlie’s Angels.

Creating Smith’s fashion line for K-Mart established Manton on the front line of fashion licensing, and was the precursor for the many celebrity licensing deals that are now common in the fashion industry. She later worked with Elizabeth Taylor and Parfums International to create Taylor’s ‘Passion’ fragrance, and six years later the team released White Diamonds, which still generates a reported $80 million in annual revenue.

Prior to her career in licensing, Manton worked as a highly regarded fashion journalist. She started as a copy girl at United Press International, but her skill and flair for investigative journalism allowed her to rise through the ranks of an almost exclusively male profession.

She worked as an investigative journalist for UPI in Latin America, was the editor of the Havana Herald in Cuba, and later became an on-air reporter for ABC Radio News, reporting live when Fidel Castro launched his successful rebellion against the Batista regime in Cuba.

Manton returned to fashion after publications like Harper’s Bazaar and later Vogue Magazine sought out her investigative chops to renew their coverage of the fashion industry.

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