An offering in my eBay store, and something I picked up as part of a lot at an auction in Maine, is this funny striped cat teapot. Marked Gloria Vanderbilt and Tastesetter by Sigma, it is from the 1970s.The piece is in very nice condition with a few minor chips, no cracks or crazing. A similar teapot sold a few years ago for about $70. The current price is in the $15-$30 range.
Sigma was an import company that started the Tastesetter line to appeal to an upscale sort of consumer. In the 1970s, before Gloria Vanderbilt became famous for her designer jeans, she collaborated with Sigma to produce a line of interesting housewares including this teapot. There is a set of accessories for the pot, green (to match the cat’s bow) creamer and sugar bowl shaped like yarn and a teaball in a mouse shape.
Gloria Vanderbilt’s design work has, what is to me, a very sad shadow. The rights to use her own name were taken from her. An heiress to the Vanderbilt fortune, Gloria, born in February, 1924, is an artist, writer and actor. Her son, Anderson Cooper, is a newsperson with CNN. At the age of 10, the rights to her custody became a scandalous court battle between her mother and her paternal aunt. Custody went to the aunt who was able to prove her mother was squandering little Gloria’s $5 million dollar inheritance ($90 million in today’s money.)
In the late 1970s Gloria became famous as the first to create designer jeans with her name on them. She made millions. Her psychiatrist and attorney colluded to defraud her. The psychiatrist convinced her to change lawyers. The doctor and lawyer worked together to mislead her into signing over various aspects of her business interests, bilking her as they went along. She trusted the doctor, a childhood friend, and gave her lawyer power of attorney. He even sold all rights to her own signature. She finally discovered the fraud, sued and won, but during the time of the lawsuit the lawyer died. The monetary reward was never collected. The lawyer also failed to remit her taxes and she was forced to sell two homes to pay what she owed the IRS. Gloria now uses a logo-like G superimposed on a V to sign her artwork.
Losing one’s own signature is a deep, personal affront. Especially for an artist. Items with Gloria’s name on them, bearing no relationship to her, can still be found today. It is a moral offense that should never have been allowed to stand. The signature mark on this teapot is authentic, made when she still controlled her own name.
Yet, despite the fraud and loss, Gloria does well. She is believed to be worth about $200 million, most earned by herself. Her artwork is admired and featured in galleries. She has written several books and has contributed to various fashion magazines as an authority on design and style. I would say she got her revenge on those who defrauded her.