All My Dead Designers

Sorting through a pile of samples of graphics I’d designed over the years, Dennis asked, “What’s that pile?”
“Oh, those are the dead designers I worked with.”
“Sounds wretched.”
“Right,” I said and went on sorting.
There’s a waxing nostalgia in me since in October I’ll be traveling to NYC again for the Perry Ellis book launch (Rizzoli), and I just returned from a wedding of New York friends where I reunited with both Mark Ingram who was Sales Manager at Carmelo Pomodoro when that very talented designer died and also with Leo Chiu, the late Bill Robinson’s partner in life. So many talented people gone–lives and legacies lost–and here I am weeding out samples I’ve hauled from NYC to Rockaway to Amenia and now through two moves in New Orleans.

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I like to think of myself as a designer’s designer; we came together, they and I in the 70s and 80s, them needing branding, packaging and advertising and we collectively designing beautiful things. The dead designer list is long —
Carmelo Pomodoro
Perry Ellis
Angelo Donghia
Bill Robinson
James Terrell
Willi Smith
Carroll Cline
Thommie Walsh
Bernie Chaus
All of my late clients, except the last three, died of AIDS related illnesses; the plague that rolled through the fashion-able industry as though it were a bowling ball. A big, black one, powerfully thrown.
There were others, of course, who didn’t die, and others still that have died, but these are the ones who got sorted into the pile along with Izod Lacoste which should perhaps have never lived together in the first place.
Having survived a few deaths close to me, I know that we all need time to recover. So on the eve of 9/11, twelve years later, I thank those designers for hiring me, for the insights they shared with me that ignited and fueled my design career. It was an awesome haul from 1973 when I first appeared in NYC as a Guest Editor for Mademoiselle and left for New Orleans only last year. I’ve kept our processes and our samples alive even though you are gone. Adieu.

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