NEW YORK — Carmine Porcelli, who brought salesmanship and enthusiasm to some of Seventh Avenue’s most heralded brands, has died of an apparent heart attack, said family friend Mark Ross. He was 60.
Porcelli, a former executive at Oscar de la Renta, Halston and Esprit, was found dead in his weekend home in New Paltz, N.Y., on Sunday, Ross said.
“He had great energy,” said Robert Duffy, president of Marc Jacobs, who befriended Porcelli in the early Eighties when both had weekend homes in Stoneridge, N.Y. “He always had a million suggestions. It was very contagious. I used to say he always brought his cookies to the party.”
Porcelli was born and raised in Manhattan and was graduated from the High School of Art and Design here. He received a bachelor’s degree in business from New York University and a bachelor’s degree in fashion design and merchandising from the Parsons School of Design.
Early in his career, he was a designer and merchandiser for Something, a defunct bridge-priced dress collection by Oscar de la Renta. He then worked for 10 years as managing director and president of Albert Capraro Ltd., a designer-priced ready-to-wear firm that ceased operations in 1985. That year, Porcelli looked for a new direction and became the head of the fashion department at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
Marc vanderHeyden, who was then vice president of academic affairs at Marist, told WWD in 1990: “When I asked him to take over in 1986, after he had been teaching in the department for a year, I had ambivalent feelings about whether this was really a place for a high-profile fashion department. It has become one of the toughest majors on campus. The fashion students learn a sense of fine art and good taste.”
While far removed from Seventh Avenue, Porcelli was as proud as a designer showing a new line when he gave a reporter a tour of the school’s facilities and described the fashion program.
“These kids teach me every day,” Porcelli said in a 1990 interview. “It’s a dream of mine to see just one of my students make it big. I don’t have children of my own, and this gives me a sense of going on because these kids will never forget the things I have taught them.”
In 1993, Porcelli returned to Oscar de la Renta, where he eventually became the design director of licensing. He left for Halston International in 1996, taking the same post and reviving the iconic brand.
In 2001, Porcelli relaunched the denim brand Bonjour before joining Esprit in 2004 as director of licensing. He resigned from Esprit in October.
Porcelli is survived by a sister, Angela Ludwig, and a brother, Frank, as well as two nieces and three nephews.