Born: Las Vegas, Nevada. Education: Scholarship to study music, University of Southern California, turned to theatre and making costumes; graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, Los Angeles. Career: Began designing swimwear, 1978; worked for Jantzen, then became swimwear designer for Anne Cole, California, 1982; left Anne Cole, 1984; designed the Viewpoint by Gottex swimwear line, 1984; opened Randolph Duke, Inc., and unveiled his first collection, 1986; developed a sportswear line under his own name, New York, 1987-92; debuted his first men's line, Duke Men, 1990; dissolved his company, 1990; signed a contract with 168, Inc. for a swimwear line, 1990; launched first jewelry collection, 1991; reorganized sportswear line under the name Randolph Duke, 1993-95; named creative designer, Halston International under the Signature Collection and Halston Lifestyle, 1996; began designing formal wear, 1996; debuted his formal evening wear, 1997; left Halston, 1998; opened store and began designing in Los Angeles, 1999; debuted the Randolph Duke Resort Collection, 2000. Address: 260 West 39th Street, New York, NY 10018, USA.
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Randolph Duke came to realize the fame of being "the Duke of Stars" after he made his formal eveningwear debut during fall 1997. Hollywood embraced his styles and designs with marked enthusiasm and admiration; among the likes of his Hollywood followers are Sharon Stone and Celine Dion. Duke progressed from swimwear to sportswear to evening wear, a progression that came naturally for a designer who has claimed that change itself is his inspiration; this particular need is what made him Hollywood's designer of choice in the late 1990s and the beginning of the 21st century.
Duke began his career designing simple yet stylish swimwear. He worked as swimwear designer for Anne Cole in 1982 and stayed until he ventured off on his own, creating for his own label from 1987 to 1992. His designs were vibrant, young, colorful, and full of innovative fabric use. Though he had shifted from swimwear to clothing design, Duke returned to swimwear in from 1993 to 1995, again giving the garments fresh, lively looks.
The transition from swimwear to sportswear seemed a natural step for Duke. When he joined Halston International in 1996, he continued his fashion style from his years of producing collections for his own label. The aim was to reach working women with a fashion sense who were also functioning on a limited budget. In 1997, he enlivened the Halston show at the New York Historical Society with a collection of cashmere tube tops and sexy, fitted evening dresses. Jackets for spring came in either a fitted, cropped style or a multipocketed safari design, along with four or five colors with coordinating prints.
During his years of creating sportswear collections under his own name, Duke's designs were bold, simple, tailored in contrasting stitching, and included supple knit pieces to round out his line. Almost all fabrics were domestic and the result was a charming, trendy sportswear collection full of life. Included in a hip 1989 line was a bright yellow motorcycle jacket, sharp suits, and an array of wet-weather wear including raincoats.
In 1998 Duke opened a store in Los Angeles and successfully began creating his own line of formal eveningwear. He introduced the future of fashion with circular shapes and red snapper-skin sandals. His gowns made a bold statement in 1999, starting with a dark velvet dress with braided shoulder straps and a long slip in mohair over beaded tulle. Moving back into sportswear in 2000, Duke presented a resort collection with a selection of blouses, including one in taffeta with two drawstrings down the center that, when pulled, rose up to show the midriff. The collection also introduced a t-shirt emblazoned with rhinestones, sequined ombre pants in lavender, sequined ombre short skirts with matching cashmere twinsets, and a beaded sarong skirt.
Being the Duke of Stars, Randolph Duke found himself increasingly catering to Hollywood clientéle. His spring 2001 collection was composed predominantly of elegant eveningwear. His designs have become highly visible at awards ceremonies, such as the Academy Awards®, with award-winners Hilary Swank (in a bronze ball gown) and Marcia Gay Harden (in ruby silk satin) in 2000 and 2001 respectively. Duke's designs, whether for high profile clients or not, continue to be bold, direct, elegant, and of star quality.