Edith Flagg, Holocaust Survivor Who Popularized Polyester, Dies at 94
What would the 1970s have been without Edith Flagg, the woman who began America’s love affair with polyester? The once-ubiquitous fabric became an object of humor in the 1980s and revived in vintage wear ever since, and it made Edith Flagg, who started a clothing business in Los Angeles in the 1950s, a multi-millionaire.
It was in Switzerland that she discovered the eminently stretchable fabric from England and brought it back to the United States. Her grandson, Josh, comments, “as ugly as the stuff was it was great. It was good for my grandmother, for our family.”
Edith Flagg was born Edith Feuerstein in Vienna, spent her childhood in Romania, and returned to Vienna to study fashion when the Nazis invaded in 1938. She fled to Holland and married Hans Stein. When the Nazis overran Holland, the two joined the Dutch Resistance, but Hans was captured and sent to Auschwitz, where he was killed. In Holland, she met her second husband, Eric Flagg, and the two emigrated to the United Sates after the war.
Flagg was known for her mastery of public relations, which was perhaps one reason polyester had such wide appeal. Ilse Metchek, president of the California Fashion Association, said of Edith Flagg, “She knew how valuable it was to be in the right place at the right time, to get her name out there. If there was an event, there was Edith.”
As department stores began to replace smaller boutiques and manufacturing was shipped overseas, Edith Flagg sold her business and dedicated her efforts to philanthropy, including generous support for Jewish and medical causes. In later years, she appeared on the program “Million Dollar Listing” on the Bravo network, where she gave advice about business and life.
“I never made money with my money. I made money with me,” she said. She is survived by her son Michael Hans Flagg and her grandson, Josh. Her husband Eric Flagg passed away in 1999.