NEW YORK — Patti Cappalli and Leo Narducci, with a fashion friendship reaching back more than 40 years, have teamed up to form DesignDirect Studio Inc., a design studio and consultancy.
After graduating from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1960, Cappalli and Narducci each built lengthy fashion résumés, including signature labels in everything from swimwear to leisurewear.
Narducci won a Coty award in 1965 and went on to work with various firms, including Puritan, before settling into designing private label in the early Nineties for catalogues such as J. Jill from his studio in Boston. A Coty award was the equivalent of today’s Council of Fashion Designers of America awards.
“Semiretirement” is how Narducci described the time he spent in Boston, but he said working on private label “really sharpens your tools, because you’re always dealing with buyers.”
Cappalli’s career has put her on both the East and West Coasts, on her own and at companies like Wippette Sportswear and Addenda.
It was at Addenda in the early Seventies that she helped guide a young Donna Karan on her way to becoming a fashion icon. In WWD last year, Karan said, “I went to Patti and she really was my mentor on so many levels. She took me to Europe for the first time.”
Cappalli later shied away from fashion and opened a “flea market” antique store in Los Angeles in the 1990s before founding Dawg and Katz, a designer dog bowl and dining accessories company.
“We both designed, somewhere along the way, every single category of clothing,” she said.
Having kept in close touch, the pair are now looking for new projects.
About a year ago, Cappalli and Narducci began to put together a sportswear collection for a shopping channel that, should the deal go through, would get an hour-long show in October.
To do this and other jobs, they moved back to the New York area, repeating a journey they both made after graduating, when they were looking for a place in fashion. The two have set up shop at 213 West 40th Street, in the offices of Go Direct, a private label manufacturer with about $5 million in annual sales.
While working with Go Direct and seeking other projects, the duo is concentrating on an area for which they’ve long had an affinity.
“We are both passionate about the customer who doesn’t have lots of dollars to spend on her wardrobe but still wants to look contemporary and fashionable,” Cappalli said.
“Our design studio is kind of a full-service studio in the respect that we’re free to do things outside,” said Narducci. “We can be consultants to people, we’re dipping into a lot of different things. We’ve both had businesses and we understand the nuisances of producing the clothes. It takes a young designer years to reach the point where you understand that. You have to trip a few times before you say, ‘I can walk in these shoes.’”