NEW YORK — Hedda Kleinfeld Schachter, a bridal industry pioneer and Holocaust survivor who decided over a half century ago that brides deserved better than cookie-cutter dresses, has died in Manhattan. She was 99.
Word of her March 29 death has spread steadily, drawing her praise and reflecting her decades-long impact on an industry that once offered few options for would-be brides before she expanded the possibilities, attracting women to her Brooklyn business from across the world.
Women’s Wear Daily published quotes from a 1985 interview when she said: “You are creating a heroine on a stage. The bride is on display, she has to be put together beautifully, and we have to edit and guide the customer, and be able to picture her under the chandelier or in a church.”
A posting about the death on the website of the Bridal Council, a non-profit organization of industry powerbrokers, contained comments from Barbara Tober, former editor-in-chief at Brides magazine. She said Schachter “brought new life, new designs, new elegance and certainly prosperity to the world of bridal.”
She added: “We are all better off because Hedda led the charge when we most needed a ‘role model.’”
Born in Vienna, Austria, the woman known more commonly as Miss Hedda and other family members escaped the Holocaust by fleeing to Cuba. A year later, they moved to Brooklyn, where her father opened a store that initially specialized in furs but would later become I. Kleinfeld & Son.
And a year after that, she was married to Jacob Schachter, who died in 2008.
By the late 1960s, Schachter began importing wedding dresses from Europe and sales quickly accelerated, leading the business to become primarily wedding gowns within a decade.
By the 1990s, it was selling thousands of dresses a year after Schachter worked to transform the industry by encouraging designers with other specializations to put their creativity to work on wedding dresses and by searching the world for new trends and designs.
Also in the 1990s, the company changed ownership several times while continuing to capitalize on the Kleinfeld name. That reputation helped it to become the setting in 2007 for the reality show “Say Yes to the Dress.” The store had moved from Brooklyn to Manhattan only two years earlier.
The New York Times quoted Schachter’s son, Robert, as saying that her death resulted from an intestinal blockage.