Max Azria, Designer Who Sold Couture for Less, Has Died


Max Azria, a fashion designer whose BCBG Max Azria line became a global powerhouse by offering chic apparel for considerably less than many of his competitors, died on Monday in Houston.

A family member said the cause was lung cancer, but added that Mr. Azria’s family did not want to release other details about his life. News media accounts said he was 70.

Mr. Azria created BCBG Max Azria in Los Angeles in 1989 as a practical alternative to the expensive, ornate styles that proliferated during the conspicuous consumption of the 1980s. He later said that one of his goals was to democratize runway-quality fashion.

“I was wondering why designers were selling products at $1,000 that we can make a good profit and good living by selling at $500,” Mr. Azria told The Los Angeles Times in 2014. “I wanted to give fashion to more people.”

He also designed for celebrities like Beyoncé, Kim Kardashian, Halle Berry and Viola Davis.

But the bulk of his business was aimed at ordinary consumers, who sought his ready-to-wear pieces even if some critics were lukewarm about them. BCBG stands for “bon chic, bon genre,” a French slang phrase that roughly translates as “good style, good attitude,” a philosophy Mr. Azria liked to live by in the face of criticism.

Writing in 2008 about designers like Mr. Azria, Ruth La Ferla of The New York Times said his “collections may not break new ground, but as he likes to point out, they sell at several hundred BCBG boutiques in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, as well as at department stores like Bloomingdale’s and Saks.”

She added, “To call them commercial is no insult, he said. ‘It’s a fact.’ ”

In 1996, BCBG became one of a handful of commercial brands to introduce collections at New York Fashion Week. Critics were concerned that such clothing would not measure up to more expensive competitors, but, as Constance C. R. White wrote in a review in The Times, “BCBG, by Max Azria, displayed enough muscle to turn back the naysayers.”

“He made his point,” she continued, “with a sweeping gray maxi-coat with epaulets, flat-front pants and mélange turtleneck; a brown and beige wide-lapel jacket with black fur collar; a black suede belted shirt jacket and black denim bell-bottom pants with white topstitching tracing a line down the back of the leg; and languid jersey evening dresses, including a plunging V-neck topped with a fur-collared greatcoat.”

Complete information on survivors, who include his wife and daughter, was not immediately available.



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