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Adri fashion design business records

 Collection
Identifier: KA-0107-01

Abstract

Mary Adrienne Steckling Coen (1934-2006) graduated from Parsons School of Design's Fashion Design Department in 1958. In 1966, "Adri" -- her professional name -- developed her own line and continued designing under her own labels for the rest of her career. In 1982, Adri received the prestigious Coty American Fashion Critics "Winnie" award. The records document Adri's business and professional life, with materials largely arranged according to year and season. Includes clippings and tear sheets, photographic materials, press kits, presentation portfolios, sketches, swatches, and video recordings.

Dates

  • 1960 - 2007

Creator

Language of Materials

The bulk of the materials are in English, with a few documents in Italian and in Japanese.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use. Please contact archivist@newschool.edu for appointment. Requests for access to video recordings requires advance notice.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives and Special Collections. Please contact: archivist@newschool.edu.

Biographical note

Mary Adrienne Steckling Coen (she professionally used the name "Adri" without a surname) was born in 1934 in St. Joseph, Missouri. She began attending St. Joseph Junior College in 1953 where she studied retailing and design before moving to St. Louis to enroll in the School of Fine Arts at Washington University. Adri moved to New York City in 1955 after receiving an invitation to serve as a student guest editor for Mademoiselle magazine's 1955 college issue. She enrolled in the Fashion Design Department at Parsons School of Design, where she won a Mildrid Orrick Silver Thimble Award in 1957. While at Parsons, Adri completed an assisantship at Oleg Cassini, Inc. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Adri maintained her connection to Parsons by serving as a visiting critic. In 1991, Adri joined the Parsons School of Design faculty.

Adri worked as a design assistant for B.H. Wragge from 1960 until 1967. In the late 1960s, she founded Design Establishment with business partners Leonard Sunshine and Anne Fogarty. From 1968 until 1972, this venture formed the Clothes Circuit by Adri collection and Collector's Items by Adri divisons of Anne Fogarty, Inc. In 1975, she established Adri Clotheslab, Inc., a company through which she eventually licensed Habitat Industries to produce and market collections under her eponymous label. She changed the name of her business to Adri Studio, Ltd. in 1994. Her apparel was primarily sold through specialty stores or to private clients. Additionally, Adri maintained a licensing arrangement with Vogue Patterns. In the mid-1990s, Adri hired Benita A. Pullar, who worked under the name Brandy Alexander, as Vice President of Sales and Nadia Abdella as a business partner and manager.

As a designer, Adri often acknowledged the influence of fellow Parsons alumna and sportswear designer Claire McCardell. Adri's apparel was comfortable and often loose-fitting, allowing for ease of movement. She was known for oversized sweaters with wide arms, culottes, and neutral-vibrant pairings. Adri made extensive use of knitwear and often experimented with unusual, imported textiles. Her designs bear evidence of a "Bohemian" look, and, indeed, she often used her downtown Manhattan loft and its environs as a backdrop for fashion shoots. As described by Benita Pullar, "Her clothes were totally ageless, timeless and elegantly casual. The fabrics she used were mostly from the best Italian fabric producers, fabulously mated for each one of her seasonal collections...It was the beginning of a new and younger, timeless and modern, more casual manner of dress for women" (E-mail to the New School Archives, 11 May 2012).

Adri received the prestigious Coty American Fashion Critics "Winnie" award in 1982. Additional professional recognition included an invitation in 1986 to represent the United States for the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun's "Best Five." Adri died in 2006. She was predeceased by her husband, children's book editor Fabio Coen, whom she married in 1982.

Extent

39.3 Linear Feet (11 binders, 12 boxes, 12 oversize boxes, 1 oversize folder)

Scope and Contents of Collection

The Adri fashion design business records include administrative files, clippings and tearsheets, photographic materials, print publicity materials, sketches, presentation portfolios, and videotapes. The bulk of the records documents Adri's professional design work following the establishment of Adri Clotheslab. While the records collectively span the late 1960s through 2006, different forms of documentation are unevenly represented by decade. For example, press kits are concentrated in the 1970s. The records do not include student work, personal papers, or records of her work for B. H. Wragge, with the exception of one publicity scrapbook.

The General series includes a Coty American Fashion Critics' Award program, a videorecording and congratulatory correspondence from the year she won, inspirational clippings collected by Adri, correspondence with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, materials related to Parsons School of Design annual awards shows, and an undated sketchbook.

Administrative records consist of cost records, cutting tickets, and other forms of documentation regarding the manufacture and pricing of Adri garments. This series is not comprehensive.

Project records are primarily comprised of documentation for seasonal collections, arranged chronologically. Records include fashion sketches, swatches, price lists, information sheets and style boards, although not every format is present for each season. Over three decades are represented, allowing researchers insight into how Adri's designs evolved over the course of her career. A large portion of materials in the seasonal collections files from 1997 to 2007 were donated by Adri Studios' Vice President of Sales, Brandy Alexander, whose name will be seen on many of the documents. Additional projects include a proposal for a retail establishment in partnership with Anita Gallo and Bill Haire and materials related to Adri's lengthy affiliation with Vogue Patterns.

Publicity includes clippings and tearsheets documenting press coverage of Adri's designs; photographic prints, slides, and negatives depicting apparel designed by Adri as well as images of Adri herself; press kits comprised of press releases, fashion photographs, and captions; promotional cards for trunk shows; and videotapes of runway shows in the United States and in Japan, interviews, and promotional recordings.

Organization and Arrangement

Organized in 4 series: I. General; II. Administrative records; III. Project records; IV. Publicity

Other Finding Aids

For selected item-level description and images from the Adri fashion design business records, see The New School Archives Digital Collections at http://digitalarchives.library.newschool.edu/index.php/Detail/collections/KA0107.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Initial donation to the New School Archives by Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini, close friends of Adri, in 2009. Additional records donated by Adri's business associate, Benita A. Pullar, in 2012. Fourteen publicity scrapbooks were added in 2014 after they were transferred from Parsons School of Design's School of Fashion.

Related Materials

Adri's student work in the 1950s will be found in the New School Archives' Parsons School of Design Fashion Design Department records (PC.02.02.01). These records also include clippings about Adri's career after graduating from Parsons School of Design.

A sound recording of a direction Adri gave at Parsons in 1995 will be found in the New School Archives' audiovisual collection (PC.07.02). In it, Adri describes her project, titled, "Circa 2000: New Designers Sign in." She stresses her philosophy of "non-seasonal thinking" and discusses the fashion market.

Photographic documentation of Adri serving as a critic/lecturer at Parsons School of Design will be found in the Parsons The New School for Design Photograph collection (PC.04.01.01).

Adri may abe featured in video recordings of the following Parsons Annual Fashion Critics Awards Shows: 1992, 1994-1995, 1999.

Processing Information

Original folder labels have been retained wherever possible. Titles have been changed or altered when the original title was absent, unclear, or inaccurately labeled.
Title
Guide to the Adri fashion design business records
Status
Completed
Author
New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
Date
May 22, 2014
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin

Revision Statements

  • April 17, 2013: New School Archives Staff updated inventory and extent to reflect most recent accession.