THE TIMELESS CLASSIC
A Spotlite on NORMAN AMBROSE
By Lori Zimmer
Fashion fluctuates from moment to moment, with styles and trends fluidly moving in and out of vogue as time marches on. What is at once the height of fashion one season, is the next season’s joke. Yet trends aside, there are some designers whose visions transcend the test of time, creating pieces for the woman of today, tomorrow–and yesterday.
One such designer is Norman Ambrose. His collections evoke the great women from history, and not just because the looks are timeless, but also because they seem to be made for women of importance. The young designer debuted at New York’s Fashion Week last spring, with a collection that can only be described as refined glamour. Ambrose’s woman does not occupy any decade in history, instead his timelessness is reached by impeccable detail to flattering a woman’s body, coupled with fine tailoring and rich textiles and details. The balance celebrates women without being overly feminine, the timelessness again achieved with strong and sleek silhouettes, often with a fitted pencil skirt cut. Ambrose understands and celebrates the great tradition of couture, using it as a tool to express his creativity and artistic thought.
Gaining experience from his time at Versace and Bottega Veneta after studying at Instuto Europeo di Design in Milan, Ambrose took the plunge to launch his own label when he moved to New York. And after his 2011 debut, the fashion world welcomed him with open arms. Inspired by the golden age of American couture–and the fashion photography of Richard Avedon, Cecil Beaton, Horst P. Horst and Irving Penn–the Fall 2011 collection is much more structured than his gauzy collections he designed while in school. With a specific client in mind, the collection was inspired by the classic sophistication of the women in his family. Jackets and hats look as if they have come from the set of Casablanca; feathers and beading call forth the Hollywood glamour of the 1930s; rich colored fur lines cuffs and the bottom of fitted cocktail dresses evoke the 1950s, swing jackets and shifts of the 1960s, and pant suits and trenches of the 1970s. Yet all together, Ambrose has made a cohesive collection that appears as his own voice.
Lori Zimmer: Your collections are timeless and perfectly constructed—an echo of beautiful women over the last century. I see glimpses of Lauren Bacall, Sophia Loren, Liz Taylor, Marilyn Monroe—all the timeless beauties. Do any particular great women in history inspire your designs?
Norman Ambrose: Thank you for your very kind compliments. Yes, many great women inspire my designs. Depending on the inspiration for a given season, I research the women who are relevant or influential surrounding that subject.
LZ: You wowed the fashion world this past spring with your Fall/Winter 2011 collection, which put you on the map. When creating it, did you know this was going to make your mark on the fashion world?
NA: I put my ‘everything’ into each collection. Being that I design for myself and always with my client in mind, I was very apprehensive of how the media would embrace my clothing. It was a pleasant surprise and a relief to know that 100% of whom I am as a designer left such a positive mark.
LZ: Who is the client you have in mind when designing?
NA: The women I dress, and those I imagine and hope to dress. She is confident, independent, and a leader, embracing the finest qualities of what it means to be a woman. Most importantly, she is not afraid to be feminine for this alluring trait is a most powerful asset.
LZ: Your F/W 11 collection embodies 70s silhouettes. Have you targeted a specific era for S/S 12?
NA: Spring/Summer 2012 evokes a vibe found within the 1960’s and 70’s; one of glamour, but is still very modern. The timeless and well proportioned ideals I stand for have been renewed through altered cuts, forward fabrications, and embroideries.
LZ: Obviously your fine clothing is available only to the well-to-do. What style advice do you have for the glamour-minded lady who may not have the bank account that your clients possess?
NA: Fit is everything no matter what ones allowance is for clothing. Proper attention to your garments fit and hem length makes all the difference. From your neighborhood tailor to the alterations department of a fine retailer, it’s that extra care that makes all the difference.
LZ: What has inspired your forthcoming collection? What should we expect?
NA: For Spring 2012, the incredible lives of Slim Keith, Doris Duke, Mona von Bismarck in Capri, and Elizabeth Taylor in the South of France were very influential. Ladies who brought strong distinctive style and glamour to areas of the world that at that time were remote. They never compromised their style and I like to think my Spring/Summer line reflects that ideal, unabashed independent glamour under the sun.
LZ: If you could dress any woman in the world, who would it be?
NA: I am grateful to all who already are or those who would like to be my client. To me, a dream client is one who respects me for my vision, trusting me to dress them in the most flattering and attractive manner, as that is what I do best.
Norman Ambrose is a San Francisco born, New York based women’s wear designer. His Spring/Summer 2012 collection debuts Monday, September 12th, at 2011 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.
Written by Lori Zimmer
Edited by Meaghan Coffey
Photography by Hadar Pitchon
Design by Jillian Mercado
Special Thanks to Mauricio Padilha & MAO PR
Norman Ambrose, In his studio, New York, NY, 2011, Photography by Hadar Pitchon