Legendary fabric painter and silk manipulator Jeff Fender has died. He was 60 years old.
Born and raised in the mountains of North Carolina, Mr. Fender was a purveyor of beautiful things. In the 1980s, Mr. Fender worked as an assistant to costume designers Patricia Zipprodt, Florence Klotz, and Barbara Matera, refining his work until his apex moment assisting Hilary Rosenfeld on the film Dirty Dancing, which led to the founding of the his own Jeff Fender Studio.
Mr. Fender specialized in silk painting, dyeing, and distressing, as well as dramatic embellishments including rhinestones, foil, and hand embroidery.
On stage, he provided custom textile treatments for a number of beloved costume designers, including Ann Roth, Suzy Benzinger, Gregg Barnes, Greg Gale, Paul Tazewell, Susan Hilferty, David Zinn, Ann Hould-Ward, Colleen Atwood, Sandy Powell, and more.
On Broadway, his work could be seen in Shrek, Follies, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, South Pacific, War Horse, The Addams Family, Side Show, Tuck Everlasting, Something Rotten!, Peter and the Starcatcher, Cabaret, Waiting for Godot, Of Mice and Men, Les Misérables, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Mean Girls, Legally Blonde, The Color Purple, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and more.
As a fabric worker, much of Mr. Fender's work has gone uncredited to the public eye. His work can still be seen on Broadway in The Book of Mormon, Some Like It Hot, Aladdin, and Sweeney Todd.
Mr. Fender was the favored fabric painter during the height of the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, hand painting various wing adornments and costumes worn by models and performers alike, including Taylor Swift, Nicki Minaj, Ariana Grande, and others. His hand-painted silk was also favored by touring artists, with Mr. Fender providing custom designs for Britney Spears, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry, and Madonna.
The drag community was also close to Mr. Fender's heart, with Mr. Fender providing designs for an array of queens, including Bianco Del Rio, with whom he shared an extended creative relationship.
Mr. Fender is survived by his younger brother Greg, his wife Renee, and their 3 daughters.