Friends, colleagues, retailers and media turned out Friday afternoon for the Amsale spring 2019 fashion show and a special tribute to Amsale Aberra.
The founder, co-owner and creative director of the Amsale label died April 1 at age 64. Interest was such that two runways shows were planned at the Gramercy Hotel’s rooftop terrace. After seeing the spring offerings from the Nouvelle Amsale and Amsale collections, guests watched a video tribute.
Aberra’s husband Clarence O’Neill Brown, who is chief executive officer of the company, said of the turnout, “It’s so, so powerful. It’s such a heart-wrenching loss, which I don’t have to explain. But there has been such an outpouring of love, admiration and support that will energize all of us to be sure we do exactly what she would have wanted us to do.”
Aberra secured a succession plan, hiring Margo Lafontaine as design director of the company. Brown said many attendees had mentioned how Aberra “inspired them to join the bridal industry or another particular pursuit just by her encouragement, inventiveness or entrepreneurship.” And several shared with him “I-was-there-when” vignettes including Hedda Kleinfeld Schachter and two colleagues who recalled the designer’s first unsolicited visit to Kleinfeld, an effort that led to her first wholesale account.
The show closed with A101, a duchess satin column gown with a sheer illusion neckline, pleated train and hand-rolled satin rosettes, which was Aberra’s first gown in 1990. That finale reflected and acknowledged “how she really changed the bridal industry and how iconic the introduction of simplicity and refinement in the Eighties was such an important contribution,” Brown said.
Having worked with Aberra earlier in his career, Mark Ingram, owner of Mark Ingram Atelier, said, “Today’s show really evoked the old Amsale of the Nineties which was the epitome of clean before anybody was doing it, so finely tailored and magnificent weighty fabrics. It was just a very strong, stunning and powerful collection.”
A few weeks ago Ingram had texted a photo of one of his clients’ being married in the National Cathedral wearing a Peter Langner gown named in honor of Amsale.
Austin Scarlett, who worked for Amsale from 2006 through 2009 as the creative director of the Kenneth Pool collection before starting his own bridal line, also turned up. “Amsale is the one who really taught me the business and showed me the bridal world as an industry. It’s a celebration of her design vision which is one of streamlined, refined simplicity. Everyone today recognizes that she created this new vision of bridal. I’m here to celebrate her vision as a designer and her personality as a woman. She was also a lovely woman.”
A video of Aberra sketching in her showroom and on-air with Oprah Winfrey and other TV interviewers played as a finale. Asked if she was a perfectionist, Amsale said, “I am a perfectionist. But the perfectionism comes from not asking for the impossible but, ‘What is the best that you can do?’”
Event planner David Monn attended Friday’s show in the name of friendship. Monn, who coordinated Aberra’s funeral arrangements at Riverside Church, said, “The arc of time today is so incredibly beautiful. She was such a beautiful light as a person. I always related to her work because it was edited and refined. But she was bigger than that. She was that inside…Her services this week were so glorious. And today, the first day that spring is really happening, we are on this terrace and the collection is so breathtaking. It’s a testament to the future.”