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Fabrice

FABRICE

American fashion designer

Born: Fabrice Simon in Port au Prince, Haiti, 29 January 1951; moved to the U.S., 1964. Education: Studied textile design and fashion illustration, Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, 1969-70. Career: Freelance textile designer, 1971-76; formed own company producing hand-painted and beaded gowns, 1976; mens-wear line introduced, 1985; abandoned designing for painting, 1990s; abstract paintings exhibited in New York and Palm Beach, 1997. Awards: Coty American Fashion Critics award, 1981. Died: 29 July 1998, in New York.

Publications

On FABRICE:

Books

Milbank, Caroline Rennolds, New York Fashion: The Evolution of American Style, New York, 1989.

Articles

Wihlborg, Lee Wohlfers, "Style," in People (New York), 25 April 1983.

Milbank, Caroline Rennolds, "Fabrice," in Interview (New York),December 1986.

"Famed Fashion Designer Fabrice, 47, Succumbs in New York," in Jet, 24 August 1998.

"Fashion Designer Fabrice Simon Dies at the Age of 47," in People Weekly, 24 August 1998.

***

Since founding his company in 1976, Haitian-born Fabrice was known primarily for eveningwear targeted to the high end of the custom and ready-to-wear markets. He trained as a textile designer. When he turned from textile to fashion design in 1975, not surprisingly he began to work in hand-painted fabrics. His first significant sale was a small number of gowns purchased by the New York specialty shop Henri Bendel. Bendel's was instrumental in establishing the career of many young designers. This was the heyday of Bendel's "open house," where the store's buyers set aside a weekly time to view, sometimes to purchase, work from unknown artists. Typically, these unknowns lacked major financial backing and production resources. More than a few of them were also producing hand-painted silks in limited quantity. It was a labor intensive but otherwise relatively inexpensive way to enter the world of fashion.

Fabrice sought to distinguish his product from others and to expand his market. He found the way when he discovered a selection of beaded motifs originating in Haiti. Fabrice commissioned Haitian beaders and embroiderers to execute his designs, beginning in 1979. Although he still worked with hand-painted fabrics throughout his short career, he is best remembered for his distinctive beaded gowns.

Fabrice's work reflected a contemporary approach to the ancient craft of beading. His gowns were imbued with a modern sensibility, designed from within a frame of reference suggesting a response and asking for a second look. His beaded squiggles invite comparison with the paintings of Joan Miró and with the graffiti found on public buildings. On a dark ground, his abstract designs seem suspended in space, like the lights of a far off bridge at night. More easily read patterns also startle and amuse when worked in bugle beads. Imagine, for example, a beaded gown patterned like an argyle sock, or one inspired by a woven ikat. Fabrice's references included cobwebs and comic strips; he acknowledged trendy street styles without ignoring past traditions.

In his formal menswear collections, Fabrice offered alternatives to the traditional black tie ensemble. He showed silk t-shirts for evening, pairing them with houndstooth or floral damask dinner jackets, or with unstructured smoking jackets for an even more relaxed look. Acknowledging the street influence on his work, Fabrice introduced a bridge collection in 1992 called Graffiti. His nylon, rayon, and Lycra Spandex dresses in stinging colors with contrasting insets or appliqués were sleek and colorful wearable graphics. In his ready-to-wear and in his custom clothes, Fabrice's wit always complemented his artistry.

The extent of Fabrice's fashion reign was brief; he made a major splash and then gave up dressmaking for painting. Though his boldly colorful abstracts received some critical praise, he will be remembered for the flashy beaded gowns wore by a bevy of celebrities, including Iman, Madonna, Natalie Cole, Whitney Houston, Ivana Trump, Shirley MaClaine, and Kathleen Turner. In July of 1998, at the age of 47, Fabrice succumbed to AIDS in New York City.

WhitneyBlausen;

updated by NellyRhodes

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