NEW YORK -- Fashion designer Charles Nolan, known to have a passion for American classics but skew them with a modern edge and personal touch, died Sunday at age 53.
Nolan, who also was noted for his political interest, had battled cancer several years ago, and it came back this past fall and moved aggressively, said Maggie Savage, the vintage buyer for the Charles Nolan store in Manhattan's Meatpacking neighborhood.
The store was open Sunday, said Savage, who added that its future was unclear but that she hoped it would continue.
Women's Wear Daily, which first reported Nolan's death on its website, said he died of liver cancer.
Nolan took a hiatus from the fashion industry in 2003 and worked on former Democratic Vermont Gov. Howard Dean's presidential campaign.
"He was a wonderful, very matter-of-fact person," Dean told WWD. "For someone who had a tall record in the world of fashion, he was surprisingly unimpressed with his own success."
Nolan returned to the fashion world in 2004 with his own label. This time, however, the former designer for corporate fashion houses Anne Klein and Ellen Tracy scaled back and put his own spin on everything, down to the furniture in his store and his off-the-beaten-path runway shows. In one recent season, he featured Olympian Dara Torres on the catwalk; the year before that, dancers from the American Ballet Theater were his models.
A review of the spring 2008 collection on Style.com said Nolan seemed inspired by American sportswear pioneer Claire McCardell.
"The collection, accordingly, had an innocent, Kennedy-era Camelot mood," the review said. "It featured many sweet dresses and smart Jackie O. coats and ended with a very traditional bride."
Nolan graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology and apprenticed under Bill Blass and Christian Dior before moving to Ellen Tracy. In 2001, Anne Klein hired him to revive its image as a hipper, more fashion-forward brand.
Nolan, a native New Yorker, was a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
His partner was Andrew Tobias, a financial writer and treasurer for the Democratic National Committee.