Gloria Vanderbilt, Anderson Cooper's mother and iconic fashion designer, dead at 95

Gloria Vanderbilt, fashion designer and socialite, has died, her son CNN anchor Anderson Cooper said Monday. (REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)

Gloria Vanderbilt, an iconic fashion designer and socialite, has died, her son CNN anchor Anderson Cooper confirmed Monday morning. She was 95.

Cooper said Vanderbilt had gone to the doctor recently and discovered she had “very advanced cancer in her stomach that had spread.”

"Gloria Vanderbilt was an extraordinary woman, who loved life, and lived it on her own terms," Cooper said in a statement that was read on CNN. "She was a painter, a writer and designer but also a remarkable mother, wife and friend. She was 95 years old, but ask anyone close to her, and they'd tell you she was the youngest person they knew, the coolest and most modern."

Vanderbilt built a career as an artist, fashion designer, actress and socialite. She was celebrated in the fashion world in the 1970s and went on to sell millions of pairs of jeans with her trademark white swan logo. Vanderbilt partnered with Mohan Murjani, who introduced a $1 million advertising campaign in 1978 that turned the Gloria Vanderbilt brand into a sensation.

CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt. (AP)

At its peak in 1980, her brand generated over $200 million in sales. And decades later, famous-name designer jeans — dressed up or down — remain a woman's wardrobe staple.

Vanderbilt's life was chronicled in sensational headlines from her childhood through four marriages and three divorces. Her father, railroad heir Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt, died in 1925 when she was 1 after years of heavy drinking that lead to liver disease.

She was also thrust into the spotlight at the age of 10 when she was the center of a custody battle between her mother, Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, and her aunt, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney in 1934. Vanderbilt, the beneficiary of a $5 million trust fund, became the "poor little rich girl" at the time. Her aunt, who controlled $78 million and founded the Whitney Museum of American Art, won custody of her.

Gloria Vanderbilt Vanderbilt, the intrepid heiress, artist and romantic who began her extraordinary life as the "poor little rich girl" of the Great Depression, survived family tragedy and multiple marriages and reigned during the 1970s and '80s as a (AP)

Vanderbilt's aunt ended up cutting her out of her will when the then-17-year-old married Pasquale di Cicco. They divorced by the time she was 21, but she went on to marry three other times — conductor Leopold Stokowski in 1945, award-winning movie and television director Sidney Lumet in 1956, and author Wyatt Cooper, who is Anderson Cooper's father, in 1963. That marriage ended when he died in 1978 at age 50.

Vanderbilt wrote several books throughout her life, including "It Seemed Important at the Time: A Romance Memoir," in 2004 which detailed her marriages and other men she dates — from Frank Sinatra to Marlon Brando — throughout her life. She wrote in the memoir that Cooper was her only happy marriage.

The “Anderson Cooper 360” host remembered his mother in an on-air eulogy Monday on CNN. He recalled hearing her laugh and how they sounded similar.

"I never knew we had the exact same giggle," Cooper said during a visit before her death. "I recorded it and it makes me giggle every time I watch it."


The anchor said his mother was filled with love.

"What an extraordinary life. What an extraordinary mom. What an incredible woman," Cooper said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.