Simply Ethiopian

Amsale a name that spells Success!

Once a wedding gown is completed to perfection, Amsale Aberra experiences the thrill as well as jitters of getting married all over again. She tries on every gown and says, “If I were getting married next week, this would be the one.” Amsale is well known for her simple, elegant, and timeless creations.

Every bride on her wedding day, dreams to be flawless, beaming, and graceful in her dress. Amsale aspires her bride to be the star and not the gown. She emphasizes that, “It is such an important day, you want the dress to fit perfectly and be comfortable enough so you feel like you’re floating.” Amsale wedding gowns are exceptional for their rich fabrics, intricate handcrafted beading with crystal and lace accents, without being flashy.

Besides wedding dresses, her minimal, chic and feminine evening wear which range from $500 to $4,000, are a hit because they are so versatile. According to Amsale, her designs are a solution for every modern woman who attends lavish affairs as well as midweek black tie events, “It’s an option other than the little black dress with pearls.” Amsale’s unique combination of sheath dresses with sheer illusion tank tops, evening suits and silk ball gowns have caught the eye of many famous Hollywood starlets like Halle Berry, Salma Hayek, Vanessa Williams, and Kim Basinger who have graced the red carpet wearing Amsale. Julia Roberts wore one of Amsale’s bridal designs for the smash hit, Runaway Bride. For her role in Analyze This, actress Lisa Kudrow of Friends was also dressed in the designer’s wedding dress.

The incident, that led to the present multi-million dollar bridal and evening wear business at her 1,500-square-foot emporium on Madison Avenue, called “The Amsale Boutique”, was her hunt for the perfect wedding dress. To her dismay, she found all the bridal gowns overdone and ostentatious, so Amsale, who was then a design assistant for Harve Bernard, designed her own sleek and stylish wedding gown. Amsale recalls, “There were questions in my mind about whether there was a demand for such a dress. I thought, was I the only one who wanted a simple gown? I took no formal surveys, but asked married people and those in the bridal industry who showed an interest.”

Similar responses from her informal survey encouraged her to publish a full page $13,000 photo ad of one of her dresses in the Bride’s magazine. Immediately, she was overwhelmed with orders, which she fulfilled with her small crew of couture sewers from her loft in the garment district. Realizing that there was a high demand for her designs in 1986, Amsale and her husband film executive Neil Brown invested $50,000 of their own money to launch a bridal collection bearing the name, Amsale.

After establishing herself in the bridal business Amsale introduced her couture evening wear in 1997. Her designs have been featured in Vogue, Instyle, WWD and W, Hello!, and Harper’s Bazaar. Today, her gowns can be found at select boutiques and retailers such as Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Neiman Marcus. However, Amsale does not offer the same dresses in her boutique that are available in retail stores.

Her passion for design began when she was in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia where she lived with her parents, Mr. Aberra Moltot, who served as the vice-minister for National Community Development, her mother Mrs. Tsadale Asamnew, a homemaker, and her half sister Aster Yilma. Amsale created her own clothes and was excited when Aster introduced her to Simplicity Patterns after a visit to America. “I could do my maxi skirts and hot pants,” recalls Amsale.

In 1973, Amsale moved to Poultney, Vermont, to study commercial art at Green Mountain College. Months after her arrival to the U.S. there was a revolution in Ethiopia and her father was imprisoned, which led to financial difficulties for her family. She dropped out of school and moved to Boston to live with her sister. While waitressing at a coffee shop, she met her future husband Neil Brown, then a Harvard law student. In 1981, she graduated with a degree in political science and enrolled in New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology to pursue her real passion. After graduating with a degree in fashion design she got a job as a design assistant with Harve Bernard. Today, Amsale lives with her husband and 15 year-old daughter Rachel in New York and The Hamptons.

To succeed in the business Amsale advices, “You must be committed and do it with passion. If you don’t enjoy it, get out.” Despite her success in the competitive world of fashion, Amsale is not a household name. This is because Amsale does not vie for media hype, “We don’t want to grow beyond our means,” states Amsale. Her goal is to maintain her brand’s uniqueness, focus on a steady growth and most of all wants her work to speak for itself. tf

Follow your dreams…

Do you want to become the next Amsale? Tadias has compiled a list of Fashion & Design schools for aspiring fashion designers. We list these nine schools and their contact information as a service to our readers, but we cannot give guarantee for any of them. You should contact each institution directly and make independent evaluation of their curriculum.

Fashion Institute of Design
& Merchandising
919 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90015, US
(800) 421-0127

California Design College
Suite 700, 3440 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90010, US
(213) 251-3636 or 1-877-GO-TO-CDC

Academy of Art College
79 New Montgomery Street
San Francisco, CA 94105, US
(800) 544-2787 Fax: (415) 263-4130

The Art Institutes
18 Locations in the USA

Bauder College
Phipps Plaza
3500 Peachtree Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30326, US
(404) 237-7573 Fax: (404) 237-1642

Bradley Academy for the Visual Arts
1409 Williams Road
York, PA 17402, US
(800) 864-7725 Fax: (717) 840-1951

Brenau University, Art and Design Department
One Centennial Circle
Gainesville, GA 30501, US
770-534-6299 or 800-252-5119

Brooks College
4825 E. Pacific Coast Highway
Long Beach, CA 90804, US
(800) 421-3775

Where to buy

By Appointment Only
625 Madison Ave.
New York, NY 10022, US
(212) 583-1700

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