Tuesday, March 24, 2009

R.I.P. Mrs. Albrizio


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 housesin 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 Albrizio 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.  

1 comment:

Bongohat said...

I too studied under Mrs. Albrizio at F.I.T. for a short while.I had my first show at a "Mad Hatter's Tea Party" at the American Craft Museum. I was brand new and self taught. A fairy tale woman walked in, hunched over with a cane and the air in the room changed. Everyone became reverent and respectful. She walked up to me, looked at my hats and asked if I had any formal training...I of course replyed no. She then said gave me some unexpected and amazing compliments to me whilst everyone watched. Then she told me to call F.I.T. the next day, to register for classes and instucted me to take ALL my classes with her. Suffice to say, that did not happen, but I did get to take Bridal with her until she had to leave because of illness. I cherish her input to this day and will always be grateful for the "tough love" she gave me.

Linda Ashton