Monday, September 5, 2016

Leo Narducci.. meet a living legend of fashion



As a bit of an introduction and as a lead in to the start of Spring “17 fashion week in NYC, let me restate what I had written of another designer:  “At one time, somewhere around the mid to late 60s, designers came out from the backrooms (behind the showrooms) on Seventh Avenue and became personalities in their own right. Designers such as Bill Blass, Anne Klein, Leo Narducci, Donald Brooks and Stan Herman are a few of the names that come to mind and fit the bill. They were employed by labels which hitherto never had a marquee designer attached to the label.” It was a time when there was an oft used phrase heard in and around 498, 530 and 550... “Can we get up there?”
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Leo Narducci was the innovator, the handsome young man who emerged from the sample rooms and became a vital symbol of the New York fashion scene. He was young, he was hot, he was full of personality, he had talent to spare and he gave women the clothes that they wanted to wear. He wasn’t about structure or uptight but rather about fluidity, ease, prints and this sort of laid back glamour that had been as rare as hen’s teeth on Seventh Avenue. He was the new breed of designer!
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I am fortunate enough to call Leo a friend as he and I have a connection, albeit it is one that lived only in my own head for many years. I grew up with his name indelibly etched into my mind because Leo “provided” my mother with one of her most prized possessions as well dressing her for one of the milestones of her abbreviated life. When Leo and I finally met so many years later, I was suddenly reminded of the magic times and people that I was privy to know while growing up in the rarefied air  around Seventh Avenue. At this stage in life I am actually humbled by the friendships that I have made with some of these great legends of fashion. You know, the ones who started it all on Seventh Avenue, the ones who made the rest of the world sit up and take notice and yes the ones who paved the way for all of us!
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Leo remains an enduring presence in the world of fashion whether it is at the Rhode Island School of Design or working on any of his own design projects. He has, like few others, withstood the test of time in a business where ladies and gentlemen are scarce commodities. It’s my honor to have been able to chat with Leo for this interview and it is one of my great personal badges of honor  to call him friend ... my mother would be so impressed and yes Adele, “ we can go up anytime!”
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Jeffrey Felner: if you were still competing in the fashion world today, what would be your take on the general tone and feeling of your collection and why?
Leo Narducci: Interesting question I never felt that I was competing, but  always did my own thing….the only times I tripped myself was when I tried to be on trend…I was at my best when I followed my own instincts which leaned toward classic looks with my own twist…… Going forward, I will not be doing collections in the traditional way…Everything will be with E-commerce in mind with concentration on Key items, which will be my best ideas for the particular theme…i.e. Travel……this will be an assortment of easy care and easy wear pieces that are modern simple, and chic…..pieces that can go to work, or the beach or out to dinner.
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 JF: who in your opinion epitomized or epitomizes the height of fashion and why? In other words who brought or brings the most to the table?
LN: I love to watch the collections online….Standouts to me are consistently good collections like Karl Lagerfeld…….I think that Marc Jacobs has put American design on the international map and his time in Europe helped him grow….He’s not afraid to make references to other designers’ work …His ode to St Laurent and the 70’s was brilliant and he made it all look chic and contemporary.. 
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JF: looking back, can you speak to the past and present of the state of the fashion business?
LN: The business has changed but needs to evolve rather than have pie in the sky hopes.…We have a hodgepodge of stuff which is labeled “Fashion” some good, some bad, and some awful…..It used to be much more selective…too much emphasis on celebrity.
The young designers today do not always give themselves time to grow and mature…The project Runway mentality prevails and is not a good barometer of what the Fashion business is all about.  We all seem to be looking for the new normal.  It breaks me up when all the talk is all about bringing the Industry back to the US…..Ralph makes headlines when he announces that x% of his collection will be made here. Really????
In my eyes, we are in a global business now and should be concentrating on what our participation should be in the big picture which should most certainly include some portion made in America.
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JF: dinner for 6 including you... who do you invite... no matter the time frame... anyone at all... and why?
LN: Hmmmmm my best friend, Patti Cappalli Taylor…we’ve been friends since our college days at RISD and speak to each other at least once a week ….We’ve shared our ups and downs for over 50 years!! And besides she knows how to keep things interesting and lively...Definitely my late partner, Ed Diamond who was the handsomest man I ever knew and was by far the love of my life….He had the heartiest laugh in the world. The late Joan Rivers who I never knew but I always liked the fact that, aside of her talent as a comic, she seemed genuinely nice… To me she was my role model of aging with style. My Lord Jesus Christ who has been a strong force in my life through thick and thin, especially in the past few years….it would be interesting to hear his take on everything directly. My young friend Grey Kammerrer who I mentor…He keeps me on my toes and it is a pleasure to pass on my knowledge and experience and I continue my own creative journey with and through him.
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JF: if you could rewrite your history what would you change and why?
LN: It is what it is…..I believe that there is a plan and it can’t be changed.
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