Thursday, June 21, 2018
Obituaries of Note

Fashion designer Michael Vollbracht dies at Safety Harbor home

Fashion designer and illustrator Michael Vollbracht, 70, died Wednesday at his home in Safety Harbor, according to a Women’s Wear Daily report.

Vollbracht had suffered a series of medical problems in recent months, his friend Jeffrey Banks told WWD. The cause of death is pending an autopsy.

A neighbor, who had come over to walk Vollbracht’s dog, discovered his body on the kitchen floor with the water in the kitchen sink overflowing, Banks told WWD.

Vollbracht spent his youth in New York City buying designer clothes secondhand at Upper East Side thrift stores, according to a Tampa Bay Times article in 2016.

"In those days it was very declasse to wear used clothing," Vollbracht said. "That was for poor people. All the rich ladies would send out their maids with these designer labels and one-of-a-kind garments and dump them in thrift stores."

There wasn’t a specific plan as he picked up piece after piece. He just had to have them. He lugged them back to his apartment while learning the basics of fashion design at Parsons School of Design in the 1960s. He kept them tucked away or proudly used them in his runway shows while operating his own label in the late 1970s.

Vollbracht had to close his shop in the 1980s after his financial backer, Joanna Carson, discontinued her support following her divorce from comedy legend Johnny Carson. It made Vollbracht retreat to Florida to get as far from the New York fashion world as possible.

He bought a ranch-style house on a side street in Safety Harbor and moved on to other pursuits, interior designing and art — even illustrating for the New Yorker.

He returned to fashion in 2003, taking over the Bill Blass brand after his friend and mentor Blass died.

This is a developing story. It will be updated.

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