Born: Morristown, New Jersey, 23 September 1955. Education: Attended Montclair State College, Montclair, New Jersey; graduated from Parsons School of Design, New York, 1978. Career: Showed first collection, 1979; launched Mary Jane Marcasiano Company, New York, from 1980; introduced menswear line, 1982; licenses from 1985 include shoes and jewelry; business bought by Hampshire Designs, New York, 1995; Marisa Christina, Inc. acquires label, 1998. Exhibitions: All American: A Sportswear Tradition, Fashion Institute of Technology, April-June 1985. Collections: Fashion Institute of Technology, New York City. Awards: Cartier Stargazer award, 1981; Wool Knit Association award, 1983; Dupont Most Promising Designer award, 1984; Cutty Sark Most Promising Mens-wear Designer award, 1984. Address: 138 Spring Street, New York, NY 10018, USA.
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My design philosophy and how I want to look as a woman have always been intertwined. My first collection came out of a desire to wear something that didn't exist yet. There is always a dual purpose when I design—the aesthetics of the line and color have to coexist with wearability. Therefore, I test all the yarns and fabrics first on myself.
Color is where I start when I'm working on a new collection, simultaneously matching color with the surface of the yarn or fabric to enhance the color impact. My goal is to create a wearable surface of color, texture, and light. My shapes are simple. I like the ease of knitwear, giving enough room for the garment to move around the body, both covering and revealing it. Necklines are very important to my designs. I use simple geometric shapes to create a presentation of the face, neck, and decolleté.
I am designing for the lifestyle of the modern woman who needs clothes that can take her from day into evening, cold to warm weather, sexy to serious. I want a woman to be as comfortable in all of my designs as she is wearing her favorite sweater. Complete knitwear dressing combined with Lycra-blend stretch fabrics are how I achieve this.
I don't impose a "look" on my customer—my customer has her own style or I help her to discover her own. This is one of the great satisfactions in designing.
—Mary Jane Marcasiano
Mary Jane Marcasiano began her business as primarily a sweater knit house, a focus she has maintained throughout her years in business. The company, located in the SoHo district of New York, has grown and now includes woven fabrics as well as knits. When beginning a new collection, Marcasiano starts with color, simultaneously matching the color with the yarn or fabric to enhance the impact of the completed look. The yarns she prefers are rayon, cotton, silk, linen, and blends of these fibers. In woven fabrics, rayons and silks are favored, owing to their lightness and draping ability.
At a more experimental level, she also utilizes yarns and fabrics with Lycra and superior uses of polyester and nylon. Her ultimate goal is to create a wearable surface of color, texture, and light. Shapes are always simple, as required by the needs of her specific knitwear designs. Beginning with the neckline, Marcasiano uses a variety of geometric shapes to create a pleasing presentation of the face, neck, and decolleté. The ease of wearing her knitwear as well as the woven elements of the collection allow the garments to flow around the body, both covering and revealing it.
Throughout the years Marcasiano's designs have been influenced by a wide variety of historical and artistic movements. The ancient cultures of Egypt, North Africa, Greece, and Rome, with clothes that were the ultimate in simplicity, are an obvious influence on her minimalist designs. Etruscan and Roman jewelry and the Neo-Etruscan movement in Europe have also influenced her designs.
Her target market is women who buy designer-price clothing and appreciate quality, comfort, and ease in their garments. Many professional women, women in the arts, and women involved in the fashion industry wear the Marcasiano label. Exclusive department stores such as Bergdorf Goodman in New York and Neiman Marcus in Dallas have recognized Marcasiano's talent for understanding and designing for the American woman.
Marcasiano and her designs began receiving more exposure, due to business deals that launched her label into new retailers. First, in 1995, Hampshire Designs, a New York sweater firm, bought Marcasiano's business. Then in 1998, Marisa Christina, Inc. acquired the label. Under the new ownership, Marcasiano is producing products accessible to a spectrum of consumers in a range of prices and has been able to penetrate new markets, introducing her quality knit designs to a wider audience.
In her desire to create beautiful and wearable knitwear, Marcasiano follows in the footsteps of women designers such as Coco Chanel, Sonia Rykiel, and Jacqueline Jacobsen (Dorothée Bis)—typical of women designers in Europe who have influenced her work. Her personal innovations in the advancement of knit dressing in America, through the use of unusual yarns, stitches, and simplification of the shape of sweaters, is an inspiration to a new generation of young independent designers working on their own.
—Roberta Hochberger Gruber;
updated by Megan Stacy
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