Alfred Fiandaca, Designer, Dead at 72

Known for his coolly classic, understated looks, which were cut to flatter rather than demand attention, his line appealed to a variety of political wives.

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Fashion designer Alfred Fiandaca, 72, whose creations for Ann Romney were highlighted when she wore them on the campaign trail last fall, died of complications from a stroke on Saturday morning.

This story first appeared in the February 12, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

Fiandaca, who attended the Fashion Institute of Technology and the former Traphagen School of Fashion, launched his first, self-named collection in 1960. In 1961, he opened an Alfred Fiandaca shop on Maverick Street in Boston; it moved to Newbury Street two years later and to Albany Street in 2009. Bergdorf Goodman, Henri Bendel and Saks Fifth Avenue also carried his clothes.

The designer, a third-generation member of his family to be involved in design, was known for his coolly classic, understated looks, which were cut to flatter rather than demand attention, and thus appealed to a variety of political wives, among them Nancy Reagan, Lady Bird Johnson, Muriel Humphrey, Kitty Dukakis and Joan Kennedy. He designed for Audrey Hepburn and Julie Andrews, too. Fiandaca told WWD in October that Romney had chosen his pieces off the rack, often wearing suits and dresses that she already owned, and had never requested a made-to-order design.

For instance, Romney wore one of his cream suits to the Oct. 3 presidential debate. When asked about his reaction to it, Fiandaca said: “I was pleased, first of all, because it was not a brand-new outfit. It’s from my 2006 fall collection. She’s secure enough to wear something she likes, no matter how old it is. That’s always been my fashion philosophy: If a man can wear a suit for seven to 10 years, why can’t a woman? I also loved it because I had no idea it was part of her wardrobe.”

He added that it was important to Romney that her clothes be made in America, and that she dressed for her husband: “Mitt likes her to wear red and pink, to have a defined waist and to show her figure, because he’s very proud of her.”

In 1969, WWD called Fiandaca “one of the favorite couturiers of the Boston ladies,” noting that “[h]is appointment book is like a mini Boston Social Register.”

“I think fashion should be collected like art,” the designer said at the time. “And the ladies do collect [it],” WWD wrote.

Caroline Collings, president of his company, Alfred Fiandaca, said, “We were business partners for 22 years. He was warm, talented and loved what he did. He always felt privileged to have a profession that made him happy, and he would say, ‘I never worked a day in my life’ ”— because he enjoyed what he was doing so much that he didn’t consider it work.

Fiandaca is survived by his daughter, Michelle Fiandaca; a son, Alfred Fiandaca Jr., and his husband, floral designer Carl Bartels, whom the designer married last year. There was a private service for the family on Saturday, and memorials will be held in Palm Beach, New York and Boston — the cities where he had shops — at a later date.

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