“We are proud to note that Amsale Aberra is a graduate of FIT, and we are pleased to welcome back this gifted fashion designer as a board member,” said Edwin Goodman, chairman of the board.
Aberra, who is known professionally by her first name, is the co-founder, co-CEO, and creative director of the Amsale Design Group, which includes the Amsale, Christos, and Kenneth Pool labels. Her wedding and eveningwear is sold in her flagship boutique on Madison Avenue, at leading U.S. retailers such as Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Neiman Marcus, and in prestigious stores internationally.
Aberra started her bridal and eveningwear design business in 1985, when she was unable to find an elegant and understated gown for her own wedding. With a sketchpad of designs and a small team of couture sewers, Amsale worked out of her loft in New York City. Her philosophy was then and remains today to create “forever modern” garments.
Born in Ethiopia, Aberra grew up with a love of fashion, designing and making clothes for herself. Since there were no fashion designers in her homeland at that time, “I never knew that designing beautiful clothes was a profession to which one could aspire,” she said. She travelled to the U.S. to study commercial art, but when a revolution in her home country disrupted her studies, she began working multiple jobs and making her own clothes to save money. “That’s when I first thought of becoming a fashion designer,” she continued. After receiving a degree from the University of Massachusetts in Boston, Aberra enrolled at FIT. After graduating from FIT with a BFA in Fashion Design, Aberra went to work as a design assistant for Harvé Benard, launching the custom bridal gown business bearing her name two years later. The Kenneth Pool label was started in 2003, and the assets of the Christos company were acquired in 2005.
Aberra’s gowns are frequently worn by celebrities and featured on television shows and in movies. For two consecutive years, Kenneth Pool gowns were worn in the season finales of the TV series Grey’s Anatomy, this past year as actress Katherine Heigl’s wedding dress. Gowns from the three labels are regularly featured in fashion magazines and in films, such as 27 Dresses, The Hangover, and When in Rome. Aberra has twice been included on Ebony magazine’s “Power 150” list of the 150 most influential African Americans. She has been profiled in Time, The Wall Street Journal, and Women’s Wear Daily and has made appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and Entertainment Tonight.
FIT is governed by its own Board of Trustees, which is charged with the administration of the institution and support of its mission. Board members include Edwin A. Goodman, chair; Elizabeth T. Peek, vice chair; Richard A. Anderman; Jay H. Baker; Robin Burns-McNeill; Judith I. Byrd; William Cope, IV, student trustee; Yaz Hernández; Joan B. Hornig; George S. Kaufman; and Beverly S. Mack.
FIT, a leader in career-oriented education, is a selective college of art and design, business and technology of the State University of New York (SUNY), with 44 majors leading to the AAS, BFA, BS, MA, and MPS degrees. The college serves more than 10,000 students and offers courses in a wide range of fields.