Born: Gianantonio Iorio in New York City, 28 April 1938. Education: Studied at the Academia delle Belle Arti, Rome, 1956-57; graduated from Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, 1959. Family: Married Molly Anthony; children: Mark. Career: Designer, Devonbrook, New York, 1959-68; designer, Adolph Zelinka, 1968-70; established John Anthony Inc., New York, 1971-79; custom tailoring, from 1986; debuted ready-to-wear collections, 1994, 1996, and 2001. Exhibitions: Riverside Theatre and the Center for the Arts, Palm Beach, Florida, 2001. Awards: Maison Blanche award, New Orleans, 1964; Silver Cup award, Kaufmann's Department Stores, Pittsburgh, 1964; Mortimer C. Ritter award, Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, 1964; Coty American Fashion Critics "Winnie" award, 1972; Coty Return award, 1976.
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Born Gianantonio Iorio in Queens, New York, to a metalworker, John Anthony has evolved into a dress designer who uses the most luxurious fabrics in the simplest shapes with unequalled taste. Educated at the Academia delle Belle Arti in Rome, and the Fashion Institute of Technology, Anthony worked for several wholesale companies before opening his own house with the manufacturer Robert Levine in 1971. He immediately marketed his look towards the top end of ready-to-wear, establishing a glossy, up-to-the-minute fashion image and selling to leading retail stores.
Anthony's first collection was an edited Marlene Dietrich look, featuring masculine tailoring in pinstripe and herringbone wools, softened with blouses underneath, or pleated and smocked crêpe dresses. By 1976, he was showing the soft, liquid separates that became his trademark; ice cream colors seemed to melt into clothes that were so light they almost floated. Anthony believes designing clothes is a fusion of function and purpose. The function appears to be his logical, wearable approach; the purpose lies in his pared-down minimalist ideas. He edits collections down to their bare essentials and, while other designers often show over 100 styles per collection, he makes his statement in half this number. His subtle, understated clothes are designed for a young, sophisticated woman. He uses natural fabrics like wool, crêpe, chiffon, jersey, satin, and menswear fabrics. He is particularly noted for his cardigan sweaters or pullovers, teamed with skirts and his elegant gala evening gowns, in contradictory daywear fabrics.
His modern understatements have brought him commissions from high-profile clients like the wives of U.S. presidents, including Betty Ford, Rosalynn Carter, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who needed to attract attention through impeccable taste rather than outrageous overstatement. Performers Lena Horne, Audrey Meadows, and Julie Andrews were also among his customers through the years. Muted color is another strong feature of Anthony's work. He believes the color palette in a collection should intermingle, so one item can easily go with everything else. His first collection was predominantly black with white, navy, and red. He claims to hate shock colors like turquoise or fuschia, and has usually been faithful to a range of beiges, christened with names such as peanut and cinnamon.
Anthony considers the designer's job as one to make things easy for the customer. Yet behind this ease lies a renowned skill for cutting, tailoring, and overall dedication to developing a specialist style, which has won the designer Coty awards. He was one of the first designers to promote the idea of easy-to-travel clothes that could be rolled up in a ball and thrown into a suitcase with no danger of wrinkling. Anthony recommends his customer buy a few things that work for her each season, then interchange and adapt these garments to create several different looks.
For the fall 1994 season, Anthony released his first ready-to-wear collection in nearly a decade, called John Anthony Couture. Featuring coats, suits, day dresses, and cocktail and evening dresses consisting of lamb-trimmed brown wool, navy mandarin-collared pantsuits, and little wool jersey dresses with full, above-the-knee skirts, the collection pieces wholesaled at $500 to $1,900. Showing his charitable side, Anthony's show was a benefit for pediatric cancer patients at Sloane Kettering Memorial Hospital. The spring collection featured, according to Women's Wear Daily, "A line dresses in red silk for day, evening columns in white taffeta and silk and two stunning ball gowns, one a whirl of strapless tulle, the other a pale pink silk gown overlaid with black lace."
Anthony's masterpieces have traditionally sold in the higher-end marketplace, with a coat going for $6,000, a suit for $8,000, and an evening gown for $20,000, but the line he released in 2001 featured sizes up to 16 and the price tags range from $1,800 to $5,000, putting his works within reach of the average upper middle-class consumer.
updated by Daryl F.Mallett