It is with a heavy heart that we bid farewell to fashion designer Amsale Aberra, who passed away on Sunday surrounded by friends and family at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital. The creative director, founder, and co-owner of the AMSALE fashion house was 64 years old.
“Amsale was not only an inspiration to the company, but someone who inspired and impacted everyone around her with her strength, kindness, and humility,” says Neil Brown, Amsale’s husband and CEO of the brand. “Working side by side we spent 360 degrees of our life together, and I know only too well both her creative genius and her infinite goodness. Words cannot express the personal loss that we feel, but we are comforted by the avalanche of support we’ve received and the commitment of our team to carry on Amsale’s legacy.”
Pre-dating Vera Wang, Amsale was the first designer to offer brides a selection of simple wedding dresses when her business launched in 1986. This led to the opening of a small New York City boutique on Madison Avenue, with an expanded and refurbished façade opening in 2001 and 2017 respectively. During her earlier years, Amsale specialized in custom designed wedding gowns, and her first wholesale client was Kleinfeld in 1991 – a partnership that began in 1991 when she ventured to Brooklyn and presented her collection to Hedda Kleinfeld Schachter, who purchased it on the spot.
Over the span of her career, Amsale’s wedding gowns were featured in several Hollywood films and television shows including Runaway Bride, 27 Dresses, American Wedding, Grey’s Anatomy, and The View. Her gowns have also graced the red carpet, worn by stars like Halle Berry, Julia Roberts, Salma Hayek, and Kristen Bell. Even more impressive was Amsale’s impact on the African American community, as the Ethiopian-born fashion mogul was twice included in Ebony magazine’s “Power 150” list of the 150 most influential African Americans and honored with a legacy award at the 2012 Black Enterprise Women of Power Summit.
Whether Amsale was performing her duties as a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America and a trustee of the Fashion Institute of Technology, or serving on the international advisory board of the Ethiopian Children’s Fund, she was always looking towards the future. As such, she had already made arrangements for her successor – Margo Lafontaine – to oversee the AMSALE design and development team; and at her own request, the company’s Spring 2019 Bridal Collection and runway show will still continue as planned on April 13th.
At this time, the Grace Ormonde Wedding Style team sends our love, thoughts, and prayers to Amsale’s family.