Born: New Haven, Connecticut, 1955. Education: Graduated from Boston College, 1976; traveled in Europe, summer, 1976; studied at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York, 1976-77. Family: Married Marilyn Cousa, 1985; two children. Career: Assistant designer for womenswear, Schrader Sport, New York, 1977-78; freelance designer, selling to Camouflage and other New York menswear stores, 1977-78; formed own company, Andrew Fezza Ltd., 1979; designer, Firma by Andrew Fezza for Gruppo GFT from 1986; designer, Andrew Fezza Company, joint venture with Gruppo GFT, from 1990; maintained Assets by Andrew Fezza boutique to 1991; launched leather collection, 1996; formed joint venture with George Weintraub & Sons, New York, 1997; signed license agreement with Supreme International for sportswear line, 1998; new licensing deal for neckware and belts with Aron Group, 2000; signed with Farash & Robbins for watches, 2001; also licenses hosiery, outerwear, other smaller accessories and produces tuxedos. Awards: Chrysler Stargazer award, 1981; Cutty Sark award, 1982, 1984, 1985; Coty American Fashion Critics award, 1984. Address: 300 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10022 USA. Website: www.andrewfezzatux.com .
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Andrew Fezza's designs are based around unchanging elements that have characterized his men's clothing throughout changing labels and businesses. Relaxed drape, soft silhouette in all garments, but never at a loss of proportion, are combined with an interest in unusual materials, whether in leather or fabric, luxurious richness in fabric more often associated with womenswear, and mellifluous color harmony in individual collections, always including neutrals and earthbound tones. Respect for American sportswear is challenged and complemented by a sensibility that is not provincially American or traditional, often with influences from Italy.
In such intensity of conviction and integrity of sensibility, Fezza is unusual in menswear (although he trained for and has designed womenswear, he is traditionally a menswear designer) and has inevitably been called an American Armani, so sincere and sustained are his design objectives. Menswear is seldom thought of as a profession for purists with distinct aesthetic marks, given the market-driven practicality of the field, but Fezza has flourished with an uncompromising crusade for male attire. He suffers, however, from the Armani characterization. So reminiscent is his style of the Milanese master that some have chosen, especially after he entered into production agreements in 1990 with Gruppo GFT, to call Fezza a "poor man's Armani."
Almost all advanced menswear designers in the 1990s were displacing collars, mutating jackets into longer and softer shapes, and watching the textile industry for both innovation and the most sumptuous materials. Similarly, Fezza created tailored clothing with the unconstructed effects of the Armani-inspired contemporary jacket, for casual living as well as the conventional office, but so have almost all other menswear designers of the past decade. But looking at Fezza's tuxedos, one is definitely reminded of Armani's style.
Fezza's aesthetic, however close at times to Armani's, is nonetheless his own. That he began in knitwear and leather, as Armani had some five or six years earlier, is partly a matter of how designers can get started in small-scale production and partly an example of parallelism, but not of derivativeness. Points of differentiation include Fezza's deep colors, consistent in his collections, his reliance on sportswear, and a keen sense of comfort for the American male body, large and athletic.
Fezza brings his own style to each achievement, beginning with his first sweaters, made freelance and delivered by hand to Camouflage when still working in womenswear at Schrader Sport, soon after graduating from the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. Subsequently, his leathers, of which the Daily News Record wrote in 1981, "Andrew Fezza is a leather innovator. In his approach to color, silhouette, and texture, Fezza has consistently broadened the scope of American leather design, which is rapidly catching up with the European market," generated excitement and esteem for their directional colors, embossed treatments, and knowledgeable shapings; unconventional for leather, but not extreme.
Fezza likewise brought a lifetime interest in luxurious textiles and the traditional designs of textiles into menswear, often making a garment seem even softer and more costly by virtue of the fabric. Even his earliest collections, in the early 1980s, brought together linens, cotton, silk-wool blends, and knits with leather and suede. Arguably, Fezza brings elements of womenswear sensibility to mens-wear with such emphases as proportion and luxury in textiles. In such a characteristic, he indicated the great shift in menswear in the 1980s and 1990s.
Few menswear designers possess Fezza's unity and clarity of vision. Business shifts, which might have diverted or deflected most other designers in the big business climate of menswear, have not deterred him. In his second decade as a still-young designer, Fezza pursued the relaxed new look, acknowledging Europe but affirming America. When he says he entered the menswear business because he was uninspired when looking for clothing for himself, he anticipates some characteristics of his designs: so purposeful they are elegant, so unassuming they become the nonchalance of high style in menswear, and so luxuriously casual they fit the lifestyles of men in the 1980s, 1990s and beyond.
Fezza deliberately avoided, with one or two exceptions in the early 1980s (with some justice, Melissa Drier in Daily News Record attacked his spring 1984 collection as overworked), any of the excesses of menswear, with extraneous detailing or extreme proportions, but he has insisted upon clothing with texture and an interest in color and shape. A 1983 press kit for Fezza reported, "Andrew's unique hand with fabric, shape, and color reflects a designing mind that is both thoughtful and provocative, without surrendering to fashion 'trends,' either here or in Europe. But from the beginning, Andrew Fezza's trademark has been his individuality." In this instance, a press kit is true. In the fixed and fascinating domain of menswear, Andrew Fezza has offered a highly consistent and individual aesthetic in the last decades of the 20th century, dressing such stars as Del Amitri guitarist Iain Harvie.
In the mid-1990s, Fezza joined Donna Karan, Joseph Abboud, and Ralph Lauren designing power suits for businessmen, as well as working in the sportswear segment, going so far as to hire Ceppos Consultants to represent him in his worldwide marketing efforts. He also designed specialty wear such as a wool houndstooth sport coat, and Perry Ellis International licensed the Andrew Fezza name for its line of sportswear in the 1990s, adding it to their already existing Perry Ellis and Mondo di Marco lines. In 1996 Fezza segued into leather, the next year he created the Andrew Fezza New York line of sportswear and dress shirts for sale in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico.
Fezza's nod to the 21st century is a website, in which the designer and his work are described. "During his almost twenty-year career as a menswear designer, Fezza has artfully combined a European sensibility toward style and quality with an unerring understanding of the active and casual lifestyles of the American sportswear customer. The sportswear and dress shirts reflect Andrew's unique talent, his recognizable way with color and fabric, and his ability to create complete, impactful collections. Without surrendering to trends, the designs convey a modern sensibility that stakes out its own distinctive territory in the marketplace." With all of his work throughout the last two-plus decades, Andrew Fezza has become synonymous with sophisticated yet affordable design.
updated by Daryl F.Mallett