Spanish designer working in New York
Born: Spain, 1934. Education: Studied fashion, École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, 1951-53. Career: Assistant designer, Maggy Rouff, Paris, 1953-56; designer, Hirsh of Brussels, circa 1956-58; designer for Dior boutiques, and Dior lingerie and knitwear licensees, Paris, Germany, Denmark and the U.S., 1960s; designer, Revillon, New York and Paris, 1961-73 and 1984-85; established own lingerie firm, New York, 1973; introduced ready-to-wear line, 1980; also designer for Vanity Fair, from 1984; regular attendee of the Igedo Dessous and Beach Show, Dusseldorf. Awards: Winner, International Wool Secretariat Competition, 1954; Coty American Fashion Critics award, 1975, 1981; Coty Special award for Lingerie, 1974, 1977; Council of Fashion Designers of America award, 1981. Address: 5 West 19th Street, New York, NY 10011, U.S.A.
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Koski, Lorna, "The Survivor: Designer Fernando Sanchez Has Seen, Done—or Outlived—It All," in W (New York), July 1994.
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Munk, Nina, "The Beauty and the Beast," in Forbes, 23 October 1995.
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"Presidential Picks," in WWD, 6 September 2000.***
Born of a Spanish father and a Flemish mother, Sanchez began his career in high fashion ready-to-wear in Paris after studying at the École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture. He started out at the house of Dior, where he produced knitwear, lingerie, and accessories for the prestigious company's chain of boutiques. From there he moved to design assistant at Yves Saint Laurent before starting up his own company in 1974, after a period of working in both New York and Paris.
With a name already established for extravagant and exotic fur designs for Revillon, he rapidly built on his reputation through the creation of elegant, easy separates with an ambiguous functionality— they had no obvious place in the formal etiquette of dress. Such clothes as his soft, fluid camisoles with matching pyjama trousers and wrapped jackets or overshirts could be worn just as easily to bed as to dinner at an upmarket restaurant. He was quickly assimilated into the circle of New York fashion designers, which at the time included Halston, Calvin Klein, and Mary McFadden.
Sanchez's experimentation with separates dressing struck a chord among affluent American women in the 1970s and seemed to fit the notion of independent femininity that had filtered into fashion imagery and marketing. The ideal of self-reliant womanhood was superficially acknowledged in the whole concept of separates—the idea of putting together garments in one's own individual way, rather than being dictated into sporting a designer look from head to toe. Sanchez's separates were, however, like those of other American designers, always created with an organic whole in mind.
In the 1980s Sanchez was recognized for his use of lace appliqué which appeared extensively on his nightwear, and the fan motif became his trademark as was the bold use of synthetics and vibrant color. His more contemporary forays into the ready-to-wear market followed the same lines as his original, understated, and elegant ensembles—with their basis in the language of lingerie, for which he received Coty Special awards in 1974 and 1977.
The entire concept of underwear as outerwear, what Sanchez himself referred to as "homewear," was especially suited to the designer. He continued to experiment for the remainder of the 1970s and well into the 1990s, although in a less obvious fashion than Jean-Paul Gaultier or Dolce & Gabbana. Designs in middle and late 1990s were sleek, flirty slip dresses for the same sort of fashionably wealthy woman who, like her counterpart in the 1970s, didn't want to stand out from the crowd. Yet some Sanchez designs, like brightly colored ostrich-feather jackets, were intended for the opposite effect. Such creations also caught the eye of animal rights activists, who continued to protest the use of any animal or bird parts. Sanchez, like many of his fellow designers, including Nicole Miller, Karl Lagerfeld, and Ralph Lauren, wasn't terribly concerned about being politically correct—as long as the designs were selling.
Sanchez exhibited at the 1994 Igedo Dessous and Beach show in Dusseldorf, Germany, at a time when many American designers stayed home. After a seven-year absence of the German show, the Igeldo trade fair nevertheless provided participants, like Sanchez, with a chance to hook up with European distributors. Expansion continued to be an important factor for Sanchez, especially since many had jumped on the innerwear-as-outerwear bandwagon. Yet Sanchez's designs were still among the best in the business. Anne Stegemeyer, writing in Who's Who in Fashion, Third Edition, (New York, 1996), described his designs as "Seductive, luxurious, trendsetting, and expensive…[he] has been given credit for reviving interest in extravagant underthings," long before Victoria's Secret came onto the scene. Women's Wear Daily similarly enthused in April 1998, "Sanchez sent out the beautiful silk slips and quilted kimonos his customer can't lounge without, and the evening looks— full-skirted taffeta dresses, velvet opera coats, and stretchy bodysuits with embroidered organza and tulle skirts—that make her feel grand."
updated by Owen James