Here is a photo of the last time I saw Koos in his workroom in Nov of 2011.
February 3, 2015, Koos van den Akker died of colon cancer at a hospice in New York surrounded by good friends. The model for our book, Kathleen Scully, and former assistant to Koos kept me there in spirit with her texts.
I’ve known for a few months that he had Stage 4 Colon cancer but had to keep it quiet. They didn’t want anyone to know and I couldn’t get to NYC in the last months of the year with the holidays, travel and all.
You can read my full tribute that I wrote for Threads online if you click on the link here but I wanted to say some other personal remarks here.
You’ll notice in my tribute that I didn’t even mention that he designed the sweaters that Bill Cosby wore on his tv show. People only seem to know Koos for those sweaters but it’s such a small part of his career.
I met him when I was about 20 years old. When I was studying Fashion Design at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY, I only wanted to work for a Couture house vs. mass merchandising companies. I wrote him a letter, had an informal interview and got the internship for my Senior year.
I remember the first time I saw him. Two men were talking in the factory. I went to the man in the suit but he walked away...Koos was the one in the wild surfer type, loud printed shirt! I should have known.
lf you really know him, his gruff, grouchy personality is just the outer layer and not at all the ‘real’ Koos. The real Koos was someone who just wanted to love and be loved and was a workaholic. Unfortunately, his one beloved partner died a long time ago and his frustration was what appeared on the surface too often.
He loved to have young people around him. He loved to mentor them and see their success. When he didn’t call me a ‘housewife’ (and not in a good way), he told me how lucky I was to leave NYC and have a family and a good life. He told me that I did it right. I think that was the real Koos.
We, in the inner circle, put up with some of the harshness because we admired his talent and respected him greatly. He had high expectations and was very demanding of himself and others…but that is a good quality in an artist. I know that many times when I thought…seen it, he would change it up and show us an amazing garment that would take my breath away!
So, we lost a very creative person and a friend but he trained his staff so that they can continue beautifying women in his style and vision. I cherish the coat that he made for me when I wrote his book,Koos Couture Collage. It is a treasure because I felt his gratitude and appreciation.
Every phone call ended with “Be Well!” but the last call I had with him, he said, “Love you”. And I cried for hours…