I am rocked with sadness over the loss of one of the most talented, gifted and passionate women that I know. The photo on her obituary of Ann in repose is not the sassy women I knew. Let me tell you the Ann Gish that I knew.
We only saw each other once or twice a year, often failing to get together at trade shows or drinks or dinner when I was in New York. We might talk or email or text occasionally between shows. Over time we have commiserated on suppliers, natural disasters, kids, design, buyers, ageing, you name it.
Our friendship goes back around 30 years or more when I was told that I needed to meet her…by more than one person. I would go to her booth in New York or she would look for me at the Dallas or Atlanta trade shows, but we kept missing each other. I decided to just wait in her booth for her one day because it was getting out of hand, how many people told us we had to meet each other.
I knew her as the woman who invented gorgeous washable silk napkins. They were in a broad range of luscious colors and sold by all the same stores that sold my product and they looked great together. Her sumptuous line of linens was about to become my next purchase. Her color sense, her spot-on love of texture and her deftness at combining both never failed to delight the eye. I definitely wanted to meet a designer so gifted.
So, while I was waiting for her my eye caught on some amazing looking skirts. They were trimmed with a very thick roll of piping; they were short like an ice skating or cigarette girl outfit. So, I tried one on. But there was no mirror to see myself in. There were no buttons or zippers either, just a big slit. I was confused…what kind of skirt was this? I didn’t realize it but I was starting to talk to myself out loud when a woman across the way shouted out the answer so all could hear, “It’s a tree skirt, you moron!” or something as pejorative. I was chagrined. The woman walked towards me with a big grin and said something about how nice it looked on me and introduced herself as Ann Gish.
Our next meeting was in San Francisco, probably at a Neiman Marcus event. I needed to finish a deadline and was having trouble finishing the edge of a glass and tile mosaic table. It was for an event at the L.A. County Museum of Art and I asked Ann for her help. I did not like the wood trim used to make the table’s edge. I thought it needed something softer, crazier, unexpected. So, Ann took me to Britex Fabric, a store off Union Square with 5 floors of fabric, trims, and notions that was known in San Francisco as a shrine of fabric choices. An overwhelming one for the rest of us but not for Ann Gish, in less than 5 minutes she rounded up an olive-green pleated silk wide trim and brown velvet piping. She shoved them at me and said, “Here’s your table trim.” It was gorgeous and it worked beautifully without her even seeing it. Watching her work, with her fingers flying through bolts, analyzing colors and textures was fascinating and a highlight of our friendship. It was truly a glimmer at her genius.
Our friendship only went up from there. I knew Ann had lived in Santa Barbara and I in Santa Cruz. I pegged her for an x-hippie like myself but when I ran into her in the lobby of a hotel wearing a full-length mink coat that pre-conception went out the window. I was so surprised to see any Californian (never cold enough for fur here) in a full-length mink coat I was gobsmacked and immediately said something dirty loud enough for the rest of our trade show buddies to hear. Ann was indignant at my comment about how she got that coat- specifically what she did (to whom) to get that coat. She said, “I bought this coat myself.” I repeated my observation much to the delight of the small crowd of exhibitors, reps, and customers that was beginning to gather around us. We traded a few more barbs, belly-laughing in between.
Or the time she walked into the Javits Center one summer during set -up looking so chic in flip flops with a peasant skirt and a giant rhinestone belt spelling out “DAVID.” The rest of us were sweating it out in shorts and sneakers. I had to have one of those belts right away and she sent me down to the jewelry district to get one. I got 5, one for each member of the family. But mine said “ART.” I got a lot of wear out of it and wish I had a picture of the two of us in our 8” wide rhinestone belt buckles.
Which brings me to David, what a sweetheart. Always with a smile, like the rest of us enamored of whatever came next from her wonderful mind and smart mouth. I cannot imagine the emptiness such a vivacious soul as Ann must leave behind. I wish David, her daughter Jane and the rest of the family and friends’ peace of mind in their grief.
Always the one to get the last laugh, I am told Ann asked the hospice people, “How soon can I die?”
Rest in peace girlfriend. Give ‘em hell wherever you’re going!
- Annie Morhauser
Read an interview with Ann Gish by Elle magazine.
Read the article written in her memory in Architectural Digest.
Take a look at Ann Gish's contemporary silk bedding, decorative pillows, and tabletops at anngish.com