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Leo Narducci Archive

Project Category 

Collection-based archival research

Fashion Book  |  Exhibition  |  Film 

Year

2015 - 2022

Location

Providence, RI

New York, NY

Fashion designer Leo Narducci was an artist I interviewed for a documentary film project in 2012. Upon getting to know him, I discovered his designer's archive was comprehensively intact and the stories accompanying each image or article were fascinating. I soon began photographing and cataloging over 700 pieces of the archive, including showroom sketches, photographs, magazine features, and press kits. This research became the oral history project and forthcoming book, Design According to Leo Narducci

 

The Leo Narducci archive offers a glimpse into the fashion world in which Leo’s life and career in fashion serves as a vehicle guiding the reader through the rise of the Young American designers, the American sportswear evolution on Seventh Avenue and its garment industry history throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Leo's story and the story of his contemporaries become the connective dots to a time in fashion history seldom told.  I realized that with each story Leo told me, there were a dozen more to be told. 

Leo Narducci has crafted an extensive and innovative career in fashion for over sixty years to craft modern looks for the American woman, both timeless and unique. Growing up in his parent's garment factory in Brockton, Massachusetts, Narducci went on to graduate from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1960 and moved to New York City. Starting out at Loomtog's, then designing for the label Guy D by Leo Narducci. He quickly made an impression on the fashion world, winning one of several 1965 Coty Fashion Awards with a new group of young designers changing fashion. In 1966, after meeting fashion entrepreneur Ben Shaw, he launched his own label, Narducci, Inc., a division of Geoffrey Beene, Inc.

Seldom are we given the opportunity to sit with someone and hear them speak about the lived experiences that made them who they are today. Interviews from Narducci's friends and colleagues include fashion and textile designers, illustrators, historians, buyers, stylists, museum curators, journalists, and former editors of Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, and Mademoiselle Magazine. This part of fashion history is seemingly told through the more famous names of its day, however it omits the many artists and designers who critically connected and contributed to the fashion world, breaking boundaries and paving the way for the creative innovations of today.

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"What stands out about the young designers of the 1965 Coty Fashion Awards is one word – Invention. They tuned into the mood of the country and people were ready for them. The clothing wasn’t something you just put on your back, it gave you a feeling that enhanced you from the inside. ... They were a fresh bunch of kids with wonderful ideas. The most wonderful was Leo – besides being an absolutely enchanting person, he’s incredibly talented with a sensibility one doesn’t find very often in any one designer. When you walked into a room wearing a Leo Narducci, heads turned and you would be asked, “Who are you wearing?” He remains tuned into the times, now as he was then, capturing the moment."

- RACHEL 'RAY' CRESPIN, FASHION EDITOR, Harper's Bazaar | Vogue | Esquire 

"Leo was making clothes that the stores wanted to sell and people wanted to wear. It’s really that simple when the clothes are easy and accessible. You know, Leo didn’t get enormous amounts of publicity. Instead of making the scene just to get articles written about him in the press, he was in his studio making the clothes."

JULIAN TOMCHIN, TEXTILE DESIGNER

"Leo Roars was my first designer feature written in WWD (Women's Wear Daily). People loved that article and it’s because of Leo and his personality, warm, and charisma. That needs to come through. Personalities add depth to any experience. He wasn’t afraid of color and pattern either. A designer like Leo understood the modern woman and made clothes that were not prescribed and at their core conveyed motion. He was the first designer I ever met who believed clothes could be high style and affordable. "

- KI HACKNEY, FASHION JOURNALIST | AUTHOR

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“As a designer, my focus wasn’t necessarily related to age or income, it was about capturing a youthful feeling. My intuition about fashion has always been my key. I kept an eye on what was happening and what was changing outside the design studio and still believe that fashion meets with function. I was interested in dressing every woman, not only a select few who could afford my designs under the guise of couture. I realized that wealth didn’t determine access to good designer clothes. Income shouldn't limit a woman from a well-made closet."   - Leo Narducci

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Design According to Leo Narducci Book Project 

Fashion influences culture; designers reflect this in their work. Leo Narducci may not be a household name, however women across the globe wore his clothes and his impact in fashion history is undeniable. He championed the modern woman and made high-end designs accessible and affordable. A figure at the epicenter of a cultural revolution, Leo mentored generations of young designers, dressed celebrities from Broadway to Hollywood, and yet he never forgot his roots. Leo Narducci's story is ultimately one about discovery, creativity, perseverance, and reinvention. A story uniquely his own and told for the first time.
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