Everything old is new again, thanks to recent Parsons School of Design graduate Anthony Galante – the first recipient of the inaugural Norman Norell Couture Design Award.
This past May, Galante, 31, was one of 14 design students enrolled in the “Norell x Parsons” external projects spring 2017 course whose Norell-inspired looks were evaluated by a panel of judges that included Cody Award-winning designer Jeffrey Banks, Neiman Marcus Fashion Director Ken Downing, photographer Michael Avedon and fellow Parsons alum, fashion designer Jason Wu. An homage to Norell’s mermaid-style gowns from the 1960s, Galante’s hand-sequined silk georgette evening dress blew the competition off the runway. It also earned the recent graduate a $5,000 grant from Norell and two pages in the iconic 2017 Neiman Marcus Christmas Book. The special-order gown, to be produced in a limited edition of four, retails for $2,500.
“I didn’t always know I wanted to be a fashion designer, but now it feels that I’m finally doing what I’m meant to do,” said Galante, who took his first sewing class at New York City’s Mood Fabrics in 2014. “I got hooked and, soon after, took a second one.” The former fundraising and strategic development professional became a true fashion convert. “I started looking for fashion design programs and found a great one at Parsons,” explained Galante. “I applied, hopeful but not sure I’d get in – and when I did, it felt really right.”
“The first impression I had of Anthony’s work when I saw it in the Norell competition was how surprisingly mature it was,” said Banks. “Little did I know that, in fact, fashion was Anthony’s second career path.”
Banks, whose forthcoming book Norell: Master of American Fashion hits shelves in February has become a friend and mentor to the junior designer. “Jeffrey came to our couture class at the beginning of our spring semester and shared that Norell was one of his critics while he studied at Parsons,” said Galante. “We gush about Norell, and he’s been very supportive as I start my career.”
“What strikes one first about Anthony is his respectful civility and beautiful manners,” said Banks. This respect and civility is evident in Galante’s approach to designing and the business of fashion. “The fact of the matter is that a year and a half ago I was in my first semester at Parsons, learning the basics,” said the newly minted designer. “At the end of the day I wanted to make beautiful, special clothes for the woman who wants a one-of-a-kind wardrobe.”
“Fashion is something Anthony really wants to do – it’s his passion,” said Banks. “Not unlike Norell, who [himself] said ‘this is all I ever wanted to do.’”
At the moment, Galante is working on a few new pieces for his Norell capsule collection which he’ll unveil sometime this winter, and he’s taken on his first made-to-order client. The Chicago native is also sketching out a first non-Norell collection under his newly established eponymous label, Anthony Thomas Galante. “Having my first garment for sale in Neiman Marcus is crazy,” he laughed. “And my hope is that all of my gowns sell and that people remain interested in what’s next from me.”