Lila Bath was raised in New York City where she studied at Parson’s School of Design and the Art Students’ League. She started as a commercial artist but her experience with fashion merchandising led to a career as a buyer for Best and Company in New York where she honed her fashion sense and retail skills. In 1943, wanting to get away from the city, Ms. Bath decided to move to Mexico for a new job and the adventure of living in another country. In Mexico City, Ms. Bath was hired as a buyer by Salinas y Rocha, the owner of a furniture store who wanted to expand it to include apparel. After four years of traveling to Chicago, New York, and California as a buyer, Ms. Bath decided to go out on her own as a designer. She set up shop in Taxco, Mexico, with the backing of a local businessman.
At the 1948 International Trade Fair in Chicago, her Mexican inspired designs were shown for the first time. The fabrics she used were loomed, painted, and embroidered by hand. Many of her ideas were inspired by Mexican regional costumes, adapted to the needs of the modern day. She counts the Mexican wedding dress as her most popular, original design; it is constructed using tucked cotton and lace. Her signature trademark is found in the way she highlights blouses, skirts, and pants made of Mexican cotton paisley with sequins and beads. During her time in Mexico, she also worked with native craftsmen, teaching them how to develop their skills for haute couture. She was a pioneer in the apparel industry in Mexico and brought worldwide awareness to the beauty of the fabrics and artistry of the country that inspired her designs.
Lila Bath's works have been exported all over the world. In the 1950s, some of her major clients included Neiman-Marcus, Saks, and Harrods of London. She eventually owned several boutiques in Acapulco and Mexico City but closed her businesses in the early 1980s.
Throughout her distinguished career, Ms. Bath received many awards including the Golden Accolade at the International Fashion Show in Las Vegas. In 1968, Joske's, a San Antonio department store, gave her the Camillia Award for the opening of The Hemisphere. The Institute of Mexican Fashion gave her a Golden Scissors Award, and her clothing has been exhibited many times at the Goldstein Gallery at the University of Minnesota. In Mexico and San Antonio, she was the founding Regional Director of the Fashion Group International, a professional organization of fashion industry executives.
Ms. Bath's love of fashion design and the realization that a good education extends beyond the traditional classroom inspired her to donate her designs and a monetary gift to the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW). The result of her generosity is the Lila Bath Scholarship and the Lila Bath Gallery which is the foundation of the UIW Textile and Apparel Collection. Ms. Bath died in 2006.
The Lila Bath Gallery is designed as an inter-disciplinary venue incorporating fashion design, theatre production and other academic specialties at UIW. The gallery serves as a teaching and research facility for students. Both visiting and permanent exhibits will address current issues of society, expressed through works of art and design.
The intimate exhibition space of the gallery is located in the Joyce building at the heart of the campus. The vision of the Lila Bath Gallery is to:
This scholarship, awarded every spring in conjunction with The Cutting Edge Fiesta ® Fashion Show, is funded by a bequest of Lila Bath. The scholarship is primarily for Mexican citizens enrolled in the UIW design program.