Howard Silver, Purveyor of Luxury and Niche Fabrics, Dies

Kali Hays
·3 min read

Howard Silver, who expanded his family textile business Jasco Fabrics, has died at age 71.

Silver suddenly died last week, March 6, his wife of 50 years Maida confirmed. The cause was septic shock and ischemia. Designer Jeffrey Banks described Silver’s death as “unexpected” in a Friday post to Instagram.

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“Howard was that rare species, a true gentleman who had the highest form of integrity, both in his dealings with you and in the product he produced,” Banks wrote.

He said he met Silver when he was still a student at Parsons, saying Silver “was always welcoming to students and young designers alike.”

“He was loved and respected by all who knew him,” Banks said.

Silver’s company was a family venture started by his father in 1946, and quickly became the fabric source for legendary American designers like Claire McCardell and Norman Norell. It remains one of the only luxury textile mills making its goods in America, noted for its signature matte and wool jersey fabric made famous in the 1970s by the rise of the wrap dress and later used extensively by Donna Karan.

Silver joined the company in 1980 when he was 30 years old, after a time spent working in Jewish communal service. He quickly positioned Jasco again as a key purveyor of luxury fabrics that could be made in custom colors. He also led the innovation of new fabrications, occasional one-offs for designers, and was one of the first to create organic and eco-friendly fibers. Designer Stephen Burrows noted recently that Jasco was the place he went early in his design career in order to find the type of jersey fabric he needed to create a new lettuce-hem design.

Silver received in 1981 the Textile Designer Award from Cotton Inc. and in 1994, Parsons gave him an honorary Gold Thimble Award, normally only given to fashion designers.

Over his 30 years leading Jasco, the firm produced textiles and fabrics for essentially every notable American designer, including Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Vera Wang, Norma Kamali, Albert Nipon, Geoffrey Beene, Bill Blass, Isaac Mizrahi, Isabel Toledo, Richard Tyler, Diane von Furstenberg, Anna Sui, Maria Cornejo, Zac Posen, Brandon Maxwell and even the choreographer Martha Graham, who designed looks for her dance performances. Jasco also worked with major American brands like J. Crew, Land’s End and Banana Republic. Beyond working directly with major designers and brands, Jasco produced a number of private label collections for an array of major retailers.

With such a list of clients and an extensive history of engaging students and young designers, Silver was inducted into the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2001 by Oscar de la Renta. He was the first, and remains the only, textile designer in the CFDA.

“Howard Silver loved our industry, and was adored by the talented creatives he worked with over the years – from the now-renowned designers whose careers he helped launch to the hundreds of students that he so generously donated fabric to,” Lisa Smilor, executive vice president of the CFDA said. “He was as much a collaborator in the design process as he was a friend. He found great joy in delivering top-quality and innovative materials that brought their creative visions to life.”

In addition to his wife, Silver is survived by two sons and four grandchildren. His son Daniel Silver is an executive at Netflix leading its documentary features department and his son Rafi Silver is an actor and a member of faculty in Columbia University’s acting program.

There is no memorial service, but in lieu of flowers or gifts, the family is requesting donations be made to Temple Israel Center of White Plains and Westchester Jewish Community Services.

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