Ellen Stewart: The Pioneer of La MaMa and a Forgotten Fashion Past

If you search her name on the internet, you’ll get a lot of biographies about this amazing woman as a theatre director and founder of La MaMa,. in 1961, it started out in a tiny basement theater at 321 East 9th Street, in New York. It was something she did so that her brother, struggling script writer and his friends would have a place to create and perform their theatre works. It is now known as the  off-off Broadway theatre that allows artists to experiment with their projects, stories, and pieces that literally allows free range in artistry. many notable actors including Robert De Niro, Sam Shepard, and Bette Midler have been in this theatre to work and perform.


Her Career in Theatre had range and provided many opportunities for those who used the facility but, what about her career in fashion? Many articles mentioned Stewart as a designer who worked in Saks Fifth Avenue, a high-end department store for women clothing. And that’s pretty much it. Which is understandable because later in her life is where she grew more success after taking a different path in her career but, as an African American woman in the 60’s ad 70’s ( the decades she worked in Saks fifth Ave) there were a lot of struggle in success to become a designer in upstate New York.


 It would be very interesting to hear her story, where at the time, it was not possible for African Americans and especially women to be a designer at a high-end department store.  Unfortunately, Stewart passed back in 2011, so getting her story from her perspective is lost however, it would still be interesting if there were more of her work discovered from the years working in Saks Fifth Avenue and the transition to theatre.