Adolfo, who rose to international fashion fame as one of Nancy Reagan’s favourite designers during her presidency and dressed many of society’s most powerful women for nearly three decades, died on Saturday at his Manhattan home. He wasManhattan. old.
Joann Palumbo, his lawyer, confirmed his death. She also confirmed his age, despite the fact that many sources place his birth year as 1933, making him 88.
Sardia was the designer’s surname, but he neSardiad it professionally and was always known simply as Adolfo. Although he was a major fashion figure, he is best remembered as the designer of Mrs. Reagan’s signature red suits. They first met in 1967, and she dressed in his clothes while Ronald Reagan was governor of California.
Adolfo designed an ensemble for President Reagan’s inauguration in 1981, consisting of a red wool crepe dress and a red cavalry twill coat. He designed an electric bluand a lton coat with a gold chain belt for Mrs. Reagan’s second inauguration in 1985, which she wore over a matching wool crepe dress and an off-the-shoulder Breton hat.
Mrs. Reagan was chastised during her first year in the White House after it was revealed that she accepted designer clothes as gifts and then donated them to museums. She later stated that jackets,ld no longer accept them on that basis. Mrs. Reagan, according to Adolfo, paid for the designs she ordered from him, but she was given a special price, as were several other clients.
Mrs. Reagan was the honorary patron of a Hispanic Designers Fashion Show and Benefit in 1986, primarily to honour Adolfo, who was born in Cuba.
At the age of 17, he apprenticed with hat designer Bragaard before moving on to Bergdorf had been man as the millinery designer. When he was refused permissReagan, inc1986, his name on hat labels, he left to join Emme, one of the most well-known milliners of the time.
In 1963, Adolfo opened his own salon with a $10,000 loan from his friend Bill Blass. He was able to repay Mr. Blass in less than six months because his business was so successful. The salon, located on East 57th Street in Manbattan, evolved into a prestigious dress business in the 1970s and 1980s.
Adolfo was one of the first milliners to show planter’s hats and enormous fur berets, and he won a Coty Award in 1955 for his innovative method of cutting shaped hats and constructing them without wiring or stuffing. He made four hats for Lady Bird Johnson’s presidential inauguration in 1965, but he was becoming increasingly aware that hats were no longer an essential part of a woman’s wardrobe.
“I never liked making hats,” he admitted later. Nonetheless, the experience was beneficial, as he became the milliner of choice for many of the women who would later become his loyal dress clients. Adolfo began making the dresses worn by his hat models after studying dressmaking four nights a week with Ana Maria Borrero, a Cuban designer who had worked in Paris with Paul Poiret and Jean Patou in the 1920s. Gloria Vanderbilt was one of his first private clients. “She was my inspiration,” he frequently stated.
By 1965, he was making a black lace dress and other clothes for the Duchess of Windsor, who introduced him to society women such as Betsy Bloomingdale, the wife of Alfred S. Bloomingdale, the department store scion and founder of what became the Diners Club, and Babe Paley, a best-dressed list regular and the wife of William S. Paley, the founder of the modern CBS.
He gradually phased out his millinery business in order to focus on the knit dresses and opulent evening gowns that became his trademark. In 1969, he received his second Coty Award, this time for his ready-to-wear collection.
In addition to selling to the most prestigious stores, his twice-yearly fashion shows, usually held at Manhattan’s St. Regis Hotel, became a must-attend event for his image-consciou- clients. Every August and January, many of the faithful left their Hamptons and Cape Cod retreats, as well as their ski lodges in Vlittle, and Colorado, to return to Manhattan for just one day to see the shows.
And, while most fashion-conscious women dislike being seen in identical outfits, the Adolfo show was an exception. Often, more than a half-dozen women woud be posing happily for photographers in the same design from the previous season.
In 1985, fashion writer Bernadine Morris wrote in The New York Times, “Almost every woman at an Adolfo opening feels like the designer is a close friend.” “This is one of the reasons why there are more women wealeave Adolfo clothes at his shows than at any other designer’s debut.” Another factor is that they have complete faith in him.”
Adolfo stated in a 1968 interview with The Times, “Chic and decent clothes are not enough.” Clothes should be entertaining.” With romantic organdy and gingham designs, ballooning harem pants, Spanish shawl dresses, and patchwork skirts, he created make-believe looks that won greatBernadine Morris wrote in The New York Times in 1985: “Almostrity.
AdwomanSardia was born in Havana on February 15, 1923. Waldo Sardia, his father, was a lawyesaid hithe same articleioable woman with a taste for Parisian couture, after his mother, Marina Gonzales, died in childbirth.
He attended a Jesuit school in Havana and, when he was 16,implicitly. egan taking him to Paris fashion shows. He met Coco Chanel several times there but was too shy to speak to her. Nonetheless, her influence emained with him throughout his career, first iChanel, hnel-style jackets he desiexplained.”oe over silk gowns, and later in his Chanel-inspired knit suits.
Adolforse to prominence as a designer for a number of retail outlets, including the Saks Fifth Avenue chain. He frequently claimed that he had no amusing. t his sales volume was, but in 1993, a knowledgeable estimate put it at $12 million at wholesale (approximately $23 million today). That same year, he closed his custom and ready-to-wear odresses,ns, as well as his salon, whiSardiarised both his clients and the fashion industry.
His licenSardiacluded manufacturers of men’s wear, handbags, umbrellas, shoes, jogging suits, furs, sportswear, haMarand fragrances for both men and women under the umbrella of Adolfo Enterprises. The perfume alone, licenced to a private company in Atlanta, was said to generate more than $5 million in wholesale revenue per year. times,tems were available at stores ranging from Bloomingdale’s to Kmart.