Designer Charles Nolan Dies at 53


Designer Charles Nolan has died at the age of 53, the NYT reports:

Nolan The cause was cancer of the head and neck, said Andrew Tobias, the financial writer, who was Mr. Nolan’s partner of 16 years.

Early in his career, Mr. Nolan was a major force behind the expansion of mainstream American sportswear labels like Bill Blass, Ellen Tracy and Anne Klein. But he was perhaps better known publicly for the work he did dressing private clients, including many prominent women on the political scene.


Mr. Nolan was fond of highlighting how wearable his clothes were by hiring nonprofessional models, like a retired New York City police detective, the captain of a Fire Island ferry and the swimmer Dara Torres.

But his most surprising political statement, at least in the eyes of his colleagues on Seventh Avenue, came in 2003, when he abruptly quit as the head designer of Anne Klein, where he had led a successful turnaround of the brand’s image, to volunteer for the presidential campaign of Howard Dean, the former governor of Vermont.

Mr. Nolan said he had been disillusioned by the hesitancy of major designers to get involved in, or even talk about, politics — although there was little evidence that his own activism had negatively affected his career.

“Fashion is about image,” Mr. Nolan said. “People I know are afraid to take political stands because they are afraid to turn off their customers.”

On a personal note, Charles Nolan was a friend of mine, as is Andy Tobias.

It's such a very sad loss. I give thanks for Charles' life and celebrate the generous, loving, and exemplary couple they were, and will always be.

Charles Nolan, Designer, is Dead at 53 [nyt]

(Top, a photo I shot of Andy and Charles at the 2008 Democratic National Convention)


  1. Rick says

    A sad loss. Thanks Charles and Andy for your lives. You have inspired me and I am sure many others.

    A big hug to Andy.

  2. Alex Parrish says

    I am so sorry for your loss. The loss of a friend at so young an age affects one’s life deeply. May he rest in peace.

  3. gregg says

    I knew nothing about this man. Thanks for posting this and my sympathies to all who knew and loved him.

  4. tcw says

    Neck/oral cancers are disproportionately more common in gay men. It is important to be screened regularly. If detected early, they are among the more treatable cancers.

  5. says

    Mr. Nolan & Mr. Tobias have been those very rare among “A-Gays”—they’ve actually shared their wealth over several years with countless gay charities and educational projects such as documentaries on gay history, as well as noted, been “hands on.” My deepest condolences.

  6. Dback says

    I wasn’t really familiar with Mr. Nolan’s work, but every gay man of a certain age knows (or should know) Andrew Tobias, whose autobiography “The Best Little Boy In The World” is essential gay reading. He’s been a real leader in so many ways. Hugs to him, to Andy, and anyone else who knew Charles.

  7. coolbearinmd says

    Sorry for your loss, and thanks for the great work you do giving us news we don’t find in the papers.

  8. Giovanni says

    Truly sad. A lovely, talented man with a lovely store (and sister!) in the west village. The bf and I shop there every christmas for the moms and moms in laws. Bon Voyage brother.