The New York-based, Ethiopian-born bridal and eveningwear designer Amsale Aberra, who launched her namesake Amsale business in 1985 and opened a Madison Avenue flagship boutique in 1997, passed away today of uterine cancer, a representative of the brand confirmed to THR.
The 64-year-old designer, known for her understated aesthetic even during the OTT ‘80s, counted many stars among her clients. She designed Hilaria Baldwin’s champagne-hued wedding gown (a look from the Amsale spring 2013 runway collection) for her June 2012 marriage to actor Alec Baldwin, and dressed A-listers including Halle Berry, Heidi Klum, Salma Hayek, Vivica Fox, Gayle King and Bethenny Frankel. Jessica Alba wore an Amsale bridesmaids dress to a friend’s wedding in 2013.
— Amsale Bridesmaids (@AmsaleBrimaids) December 5, 2013
Amsale gowns have also been famously featured on the silver screen and television. Kate Hudson donned a $12,500 beaded, drop-waist wedding gown by Aberra in Something Borrowed, while Julia Roberts wore an ivory satin, off-the-shoulder gown with a train by Amsale in the 1999 film Runaway Bride; ABC purchased a $6,600 strapless Amsale wedding dress for Sandra Oh’s character, Cristina, to wear in the final episode of Grey’s Anatomy. The designer’s bridal gowns were also featured in the films 27 Dresses, When In Rome and The Hangover, and on TV shows Private Practice and Brothers & Sisters.
Aberra had some television appearances of her own. In 2011, WE aired the reality show Amsale Girls, a behind-the-scenes peek into the upscale New York bridal salon that focused on the hunt for the perfect gown, with styles ranging in price from $4,000 to $75,000.
With an eye to the future of the company, Aberra had already identified her successor, hiring Margo Lafontaine, most recently senior studio director of Vera Wang where she had worked for nearly 12 years. She will oversee Amsale’s design and development team and joins studio director Sarah Swann.
As Aberra requested, the company’s launch of its Spring 2019 bridal collection and runway show will continue as planned on April 13.
“Amsale was not only an inspiration to the company, but someone who inspired and impacted everyone around her with her strength, kindness, and humility,” said Amsale CEO Neil Brown in a statement. “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.”