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Obituary: Adrienne Steckling-Coen, Sportswear Designer, 71

Adrienne Steckling-Coen, better known as "Adri," a sportswear designer respected for her clean lines and colorful patterns, died Sunday.

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NEW YORK — Adrienne Steckling-Coen, better known as “Adri,” a sportswear designer respected for her clean lines and colorful patterns, died Sunday of Parkinson’s disease at her home here at the age of 71.

Adri was born Mary Adrienne Steckling on Nov. 7, 1934 in St. Joseph, Mo. She attended the School of Fine Arts in St. Louis, where she won a guest editor’s spot at Mademoiselle magazine in New York. While there, Adri decided to transfer to the Parsons School of Design. It was at Parsons that Adri met her mentor, Claire McCardell, a critic at the school.

Adri graduated from Parsons in 1958 and embarked on a series of fashion assistantships that would land her in the studios of designers such as Oleg Cassini and Anne Fogarty. She also worked at retailer B.H. Wragge up until the launch of her own collection for Adri Designs Inc. in 1966. Adri launched many sportswear lines from that point forward under several different labels, including Collectors Items and Clothes Circuit.

Particularly at the beginning of Adri’s career, her clothes were heavily influenced by McCardell. The two shared a staunch dedication to creating clothes for the modern woman.

In 1966, WWD quoted Adri on the eve of the launch of her first collection: “My fashion direction is unequivocally contemporary. I want to break down the barriers. This is not a sportswear collection….These are clothes — costumes, pantsuits, dresses, at-home things — for the woman who leads an active life,” she said.

Adri opened Adri Studio Limited on Seventh Avenue in 1976, which made women’s designer sportswear. The collections were designed “for the modern woman who can be elegant without being too ‘froufrou,'” said Adri’s former assistant, Nadia Abdella, on Monday.

The business remains today, but is now a private client, buy-and-order-based business run out of Adri’s loft on West 20th Street. It plans to still issue a spring collection.

Jeanne Atkinson, former chief executive officer of Adri Ltd., said, “She was one of the most consistent designers I have ever known.” In her designing, “Adri was a real purist and very much of an iconoclast. [She was her] own woman.”

Adri was recognized with a Coty American Fashion Critics “Winnie” award in 1982. The Smithsonian Institution acknowledged both McCardell and Adri’s contribution to the burgeoning sportswear sector in a 1971 exhibit titled “Innovative Contemporary Fashion: Adri and McCardell.”

Beyond all else, Adri was dedicated to her craft and “was reviewing patterns and colors until the end,” said her nephew, Michael Camerini.

In addition to her nephew, Adri is survived by her two sons, Paul and Axel Coen.

Details of the memorial service were unavailable at press time.