Alfred Fiandaca may go down in fashion history with Dominic Rompollo, Albert Capraro and Oleg Cassini.
He's the 39-year-old Boston designer who had his first showing in New York at the Pierre Hotel this week. And though there was no fron-row seat saved for Joan Kennedy, he said he was racing back to Boston after the show to "work out some clothes" for Kennedy to wear when her husband announces his candidacy for president next week.
If Dominic Rompollo's designs for Rosalynn Carter, Capraro's for Betty Ford, and Cassini's for Jacqueline Kennedy Onasis as first lady, hardly broughy them fortunes through their White House connection, Finandaca has a lot of other things going for him.
For starters, his is one of the few real custom houses around today, making high-quality, beautifully tailored clothing. But he also knows how to make movie-star spotlight clothes.And he can number as his followers Christina Ford, Racquel Welch, Nancy Sinatra, Audrey Meadows and Stephanie-Mills, who was at the Fiandaca show Thursday.
Mills will wear Fiandaca designs for her one-woman show at the Metropolitan Opera House November 18 and a week later at the Kennedy Center.
The Mills-Fiandaca conection is a recent one. "I saw his clothes on a TV show in Boston and loved his things," she said after the show. "I called him and asked him to make my wardrobe both on stage and off."
But Joan Kennedy's tie to Fiandaca is long standing. They met nine years ago when Joan Kennedy bought one of his halter-style tennis dresses at aNewberry Street shop called Set Free. "We've kept in touch," said Fiandaca, who more recently made Kennedy's white wool coat and dress she wore for the pope's visit to Boston.
But another costume he made for her to wear for the dedication of the Kennedy Library, she kept in her closet and instead wore a favorite Ultrasuede coat.
If many of the classic styles Kennedy selects from Fiandaca are white or pastel, she opts for more brightly colored designs when she shops at the prestige Boston boutique Charles Sumner. From there, she has purchased a plum-colored suit with satin blouse by Jenny, a dark purple velvet Halston wrap dress, and a long red satin strapless dress and jacket, assistant store manager Suzanne Ciampa reluctantly said.
If a White House connection has never been real money in the bank for designers, a few have never hesitated to cash in other ways. Oleg Cassini, who was never accepted by the fashion establishment, parlayed the White House tie into many franchises including perfume, luggage, men's wear and even an instant coffee jar.
Ladybird Johnson, who tapped established designers such as Molly Parnis, Adele Simpson and Jerry Silverman for her wardrobe, may have given Seventh Avenue its biggest boost in return -- a fashion show in the East Room of the White House.
Betty Ford and daughter Susan carried their loyalty to Albert Capraro long after they left the White House. It apparently wasn't enought, however to keep Caprario in business.
But Rosalynn Carter has always been reluctant to credit the designers of her clothes beyond the initial nod to Rompollo, who made her Inaugural wardrobe. Calvin Klein and Kasper appear to be her current pet clothing providers.
Far more faithful and outspoken was Joan Mondale toward her designer, Eleanor Brenner. Modale even showed up for one of Brenner's Seventh Avenue openings, but just the same, Brenner closed her business about a year ago.
Fiandaca, who says very quickly that he's only one of the providers of the Kennedy wardrobe, makes clothes in the price range of $250 to $3,000 that are carried by Neiman-Marcus and I. Magnin in Washington. He started in business 20 years ago with $362 he earned working after school and summers in his father's tailoring b usiness.
Fiandaca says he's aware of the shift to short lengths in the recent Paris collections, but that's not his current style. He once made minis -- but only two or three inches above the knee. His current length stops at the knee or below.
Joan Kennedy's appearance at the Nixon White House in a mini-skirt in the late 1960s was not Fiandaca's doing, he says, and he thinks she's unlikely to choose such a style again.