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Scottish Fashion Designer Dies at 44

January 4, 1988

LONDON (AP) _ Bill Gibb, a brilliant Scottish fashion designer whose clients included Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Collins, died in a London hospital on Saturday night. He was 44.

His creations helped make London a world fashion center in the 1970s. They were worn by Princess Anne, Ann Margret, Bianca Jagger and Empress Farah Diba, wife of the late Shah of Iran.

One of his dresses, made for Twiggy the model, is in the costume collection of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum.

Kate Franklyn, Gibb’s former business partner and a close friend, said the designer hd been ill since March, when he had an operation for bowel cancer. She said Gibb died in St. Stephen’s Hospital from cancer after being in a coma for three days while his parents watched over him.

Gibb, a farmer’s son, was hailed as Britain’s answer to top French designer, Yves St. Laurent.

As a child, he sketched costumes from history books and came to London to study fashion at St. Martin’s School of Art and then at the Royal College of Art, producing his first clothes in 1968.

That effort led Henri Bendel, the New York fashion store, to commission an exclusive Bill Gibb collection. Vogue magazine voted him designer of the year in 1970.

Gibb moved away from the miniskirt, introducing flowing long skirts and mixed prints in a forerunner of the ethnic look. He favored extravagant designs in clinging fabrics and animal skins but his knitwear brought him most acclaim.

A Bill Gibb creation could cost more than $9,000. His logo was a bumblebee.

Gibb couldn’t achieve commercial success and twice ran into financial trouble. In 1980 he created small collections for exclusive stores like Harrods until his health failed.

″He had a touch about fashion that I don’t think I have seen in anybody else. He used to create tremendous excitement with his collections,″ Miss Franklyn said.

Gibb was unmarried. Early Monday editions of London’s Daily Mail newspaper said he died from AIDS.

″I am not denying he was homosexual, but the hospital told me he did not die of AIDS,″ Miss Franklyn said early Monday on Independent Radio News.

Gibb’s married sister, Patsy Davidson, said: ″We know that Bill died of cancer. People who suggest other causes are despicable.″

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome is a disease in which a virus attacks the body’s immune system, leaving victims susceptible to a wide variety of infections and cancers. There is no known cure.

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