When I started in the millinery business in New York City, my friend, Andrew, sent me to Albrizio Millinery to block my hats. This was entre into one of the most important hat houses in the city. They make hats for the Metropolitan Opera, for theatre, for top designers in the business. The name Albrizio is known in the church lady circles, in the rap world, in fashion because they have their own label, as well as allowing those of us who design hats, to use their facilities.
At the studio, Marie reigned supreme, Goddess of the hatblocks, Queen of the feathers, and bulwark to the hat industry in NYC. Marie and her sister, Ann Albrizio, had started the hat business in the post-war garment industry. Ann started teaching at FIT and molded future hatters (Kokin, Patricia Underwood, Eric Javits, to name a few) of America with her strict verbose manner. Between the two of them, they kept the industry afloat through the lean years in the 1960's and 1970's, when hairspray was more important than the hat.
Marie was my point person, since her sister, the legendary Mrs. Albrizio, had retired. At Albrizio's, Marie let me block one hat or a dozen, sewing my straw braid, and coping with my questions on a weekly basis. Although Patricia Underwood might have an order in for hundreds of pieces, and Kokin might have the finisher busy for days, Marie always managed to slide one of my hats into the process, and helped me learn the business.
Andrew was close to the sisters, so I was invited for dinner at home. Marie's grandson, David , was taking over for Marie, who was at home attending to Ann, house-bound, but still receiving guests. To say the least, the factory/studio and family were one, and the atmosphere was warm, and more encouraging to small designers than any environment in New York City. The garment center used to be like that: a small business, kept in the family, that embraced newcomers and lent a helping hand to their education by opening the door.
This is what Ann Albrizio leaves behind.....generations of milliners, hat-makers, lovers of hats. Students who shine in the current fashion world, and those to come, ever thoughtful of Mrs. Albrizio, and all that she gave us.
Last night, March 23rd, Mrs. Albrizio left us. May that door stay open, and may we all celebrate her life, her work, and her contribution to American fashion.