At some point around five years ago I was invited to the show of a designer I had never heard of. As luck would have it, the designer was Norman Ambrose and it was at that point that my infatuation and coverage began. I was awed by a young man who understood and possessed the skillset of master dressmakers, designers and great couturiers. The clothes reflected an astounding comprehension of why women would buy his clothes as well what can make a woman exquisitely dressed. Some might say he is an old soul or born too late but as Diana Vreeland
said "...Don't think you were born too late. Everyone has that illusion. But you aren't. The only problem is if you think too late?"
To my utter delight Norman carried the torch for clothes that befit the women that can afford them and wish to look a certain way. Yes, times have changed, but to me the one thing that remains constant is that a woman still wants to be beautiful, feel beautiful and be admired and complimented when she enters a room. Norman offers women these opportunities.
His career has evolved from where he started but the young man has adapted and forged his new path by adhering to his brand's DNA and with a skillset and taste level that has propelled him to his present situation. So ... with all this praise and laudatory talk, it's now Norman's turn to speak or his brand and the state of fashion as he sees it ... In his own words ...
Can you tell us briefly how you arrived at your present professional station?
Many years of dedication and hard work! My life's mission is to honor the women I love and share that love with all women, this credo drives me daily. I have a passion for making beautiful clothes and love the creation process. I've been in business nearly 10 years now and it feels like the blink of the eye.
: Do you have any mentors or style icons who influence your work and why them?
I think of my clothes as timeless and tend to draw from women who embody this ideal. For example, I have always been captivated by Jacqueline Kennedy and her sister Lee Radziwill. They embody a timeless, cultured beauty where refinement and an effortless spirit are in complete harmony.
If you could invite any five people to dinner who would they be and why?
Assuming this would be one of many dinners I am to host; here are 5 that come to mind in the immediate. (For seating purposes, I've selected two couples and then a single that would sit at my side.)
Guests 1 & 2- Gloria Swanson & Rudolph Valentino- I have a fascination with old Hollywood beginning with the silent film era. Both Gloria and Rudolph would have many fascinating stories to re-tell of their zenith days in films, and to listen would be magic.
Guests 3 & 4- Princess Diana & Dodi Al Fayed- Lovers who's lives ended far too young and in such tragic circumstances, it would be wonderful to hear firsthand what it is they loved about one another and what life was like at the time of their untimely deaths.
Guest 5- Lastly but certainly not least would be the god-mother of fashion herself, Diana Vreeland. Her witty sense of humor and natural gift of story-telling would make her a charming dinner companion to hold court with.
Norman Ambrose is an American fashion designer. At 26, Norman was the youngest couture designer to be on the fine apparel floor, his collection sitting alongside storied labels Chanel & Oscar de la Renta. | Photo: NormanAmbrose.com | Link | Norman Ambrose, Designer, Dress, Retro, Vintage,
There is no doubt that the fashion system is broken; if there is anything or a few things that you would or could change what would they be and why?
NA: The fashion industry is undergoing a paradigm shift. I don't view the fashion industry as necessarily broken but rather as an opportunity. For the past decade the industry has experimented with discounting, fast fashion, social media, more is better and on-line selling. Trying to navigate all these waters, it is my belief that many brands lost focus and forgot who they are as a brand or made missteps with their customers that cost them dearly. We are in the digital age and navigating the waters to determine where the next best thing in fashion will fall.
As a young brand and designer, I face many of these challenges. In speaking with friends in other industries, they also face some of the same challenges the fashion industry does, fast pace, lack of innovation, funding, mentoring, and a platform. So I view it as everyone is trying to figure out the digital age. For me and the brand, it comes down to product and the experience that you provide your customer. I just stay true to myself and design beautiful product that can be worn by my customers, to make them feel enchanted, carefree, and confident. The brand developed a strategic direction and we navigate the waters like everyone else but keep asking the question of ourselves "is this our core, is this who we are?" Being centered allows the brand and I to guide the company at a time when the waters are uncertain around us.
JF: Let's speak of internet sales vs. brick and mortar; how do you view those points of sale and why?
NA: We are witnessing a cyclical cause and effect with relation to internet sales and brick & mortar. For example, let's take the traditional department store. The department stores as we know them are trying to compete and maintain their bottom line as a large number of their customers switch to online purchasing for a majority of their consumer needs. Unfortunately, the in-store experience is being greatly affected. We've seen the loss of customer service, a lack of associate knowledge, a limited assortment & sizing, lack of differentiation between the stores, and the dilution of brand messaging affecting how the customer connects with the products. This downgrade and lack of differentiation has discouraged consumers from purchasing in store and justified the ease at which they enjoy purchasing the same products online.
The type of company you are determines the strategy of how you sell to your customer. Being a luxury brand, it is important to differentiate and create a mystery behind the product. It is key to understand the type of product that can sell online vs. in store, controlling your points of distribution. When selling luxury, your customer wants to feel good about themselves and what they are purchasing by having a personal experience. Whether selling in store or online, it is paramount that you provide cohesion in that experience.