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Kay Unger is an American fashion designer, currently she is the creative head and public face of Phoebe Company LLC and its brands; Kay Unger New York, Phoebe Couture, Unger by Kay Unger and Kay J’s by Kay Unger. Kay resides in New York City’s SoHomarker neighborhood where her two sons often come by to visit.


Kay was born in Chicago, ILmarker and first studied painting in the Fine Arts Program at Washington University marker before switching to design at Parsons The New School for Designmarker in New York Citymarker.

Upon graduation from The Parson’s New School for Design in the late 1960s, Kay worked as one of three apprentices for Geoffrey Beene. After a year, she decided to develop her own line. Modeling the client after herself, Kay set out to fill a void in the fashion industry for “clean dinner dresses.” In 1972, along with her two business partners, Howard Bloom and Jon Levy, she founded The Gillian Group. Kay sold her dresses under the Gillian label, where the group and its many divisions quickly became one of the largest suppliers of women’s apparel in America. They grew into a $125 million company before going bankrupt in 1994.

Company/Brand History

15 days after closing the Gillian Group, Kay and the former president of the dress firm, Rob Feinberg, founded Phoebe Company LLC. It was here where Kay established the line bearing her name, Kay Unger New York. She began by offering women colorful alternatives to the little black dress and other predictable fashion staples, drawing inspiration from both Jackie O. and Audrey Hepburn among others.

In 1999, Kay was inducted as a Leading Woman Entrepreneur of the WorldTM. In 2005 the company launched Kay J’s, a whimsical print pajama brand. In 2007, they launched Phoebe Couture, a more youthful and edgier line of dresses for day and evening. Later that same year, they began opening Kay Unger and Phoebe Couture boutiques in Chinamarker through a licensing agreement with the JT Group of Hong Kong. In September 2008 Kay Unger New York Eyewear and Phoebe Couture Eyewear were launched.

The $40 million company’s dresses, suits, and eyewear are currently sold in more than 24 countries including the U.K.marker, Turkeymarker, Brazilmarker, Australia, and Spainmarker.

The Kay Unger New York and Phoebe Couture labels have been worn by Oprah Winfrey, Salma Hayek, Vanessa L. Williams, Tyra Banks, Kathie Lee Gifford, Paris Hilton, Dakota Fanning, Angela Bassett, and Marcia Cross. Her designs have been featured on television programs including “Gossip Girl,” “The Sopranos,” “Ugly Betty," ”Pushing Daisies,” “30 Rock,” “Two and a Half Men,” “The Today Show,” “Sex in the City,” “Tim Gunn's Guide to Style,” and “Dancing with the Stars”.

Kay prides herself on customer relationships. She makes frequent in-store appearances where she offers advice on clothing flattery techniques and personal style.

Kay is an active member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). Additionally, she is on the Board of Directors at her alma mater, Parsons/The New School for Design, as well as a participant in their education program in the Dominican Republic, where she has traveled as a guest instructor.


Kay has been a longtime member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, of which she also served as the first woman board member. Her passion for women’s causes led to her role as board member and founding member of The Committee of 200, an organization that advances women’s leadership in business, and the Women’s Campaign Forum. A cancer survivor herself, Kay has a personal interest in funding cancer research and raised over $250,000 for cancer research while she served as the president of the Fashion Group International. Today, she continues her efforts working with Stand Up To Cancer, a groundbreaking initiative dedicated to accelerating cancer research while bringing new therapies to patients more quickly, by raising funds and awareness in the fashion industry. On May 4, 2009, Kay Unger was recognized by City of Hope as a "Woman of the Year" who has made notable contributions to her profession, her community, and her charitable causes.


  1. Creative Marketing Plus. "Kay Unger - Fashion Designer and Philanthropist." Press release. New York, NY. Nov. 2008.
  2. Listfield, Emily. "Conquering Space." O at Home Summer 2007: 106-11. Retrieved on 18 Feb. 2009
  3. Cantando, Mary (2006). “The Woman's Advantage: 20 Women Entrepreneurs Show You What It Takes to Grow Your Business”, p.91-94. Kaplan, USA. ISBN 1419535714.
  4. Gruber, Roberta H. "Kay Unger." Fashion Encyclopedia. 25 Jan. 2009. Retrieved on 18 Feb. 2009
  5. Wilson, Eric. "Merrily They Dress." The New York Times 20 Nov. 2008. Retrieved on 18 Feb. 2009
  6. Chatzky, Jean. "Episode 24." Oprah & Friends. XM Radio. 28 Aug. 2008. Oprah & Friends. 28 Aug. 2008. Retrieved on 18 Feb. 2009
  7. Smith, Samantha. "Questions about formal gowns? Unger answers." The News & Observer 13 Oct. 2008. Retrieved on 18 Feb. 2009
  8. Smith, Samantha. "Another reason to love Kay Unger: Phoebe Couture." Weblog post. The Fashion Plate. 6 Oct. 2008. Retrieved on 18 Feb. 2009
  9. Covert, James. "Fashion's Silk-Road Dream." New York Post 28 Dec. 2008. Retrieved on 18 Feb. 2009
  10. Feitelberg, Rosemary. "Tadashi, Kay Unger Opening Asia Units." Women's Wear Daily 11 Aug. 2008. Retrieved on 18 Feb. 2009
  11. Lieberman, Bari. "The Comeback Queen." PINK Magazine Feb. 2009. 4 Feb. 2009. Retrieved on 18 Feb. 2009
  12. Nicola, Gloria. "It's All About the Visual Effects." 20/20 15 Mar. 2009: 22-26.
  13. Creative Marketing Plus. "Phoebe Company's Global Strategy." Press release. New York, NY. Oct. 2008.
  14. "Young, Thin, & Fabulous (yes, you!)." Woman's Day 5 May 2009: 62-66.
  15. Smith, Samantha. "Kay Unger coming back to Raleigh." Weblog post. The Fashion Plate. 24 Sept. 2008. Retrieved on 18 Feb. 2009
  16. City Of Hope. "Hoda Kotb and Kay Unger to receive top philanthropic honor from City of Hope." Press release. New York, NY. 30 Mar. 2009.

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