Go inside the Albright Fashion Library, New York’s Hidden Fashion Closet
It’s been more than 10 years since the Albright Fashion Library, a 20,000-piece collection of seriously stunning clothes and accessories (or what I like to call New York City’s most amazing hidden fashion closet), opened up shop in downtown Manhattan. If you walked past, you may have never known it was there, but thanks to MAC Cosmetics, that’s all about to change. “Albright Goes to School,” a 10th-anniversary exhibition featuring designs from the Albright Fashion Library (AFL) styled by industry insiders and costumes designers, will be on display in the lobby of the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology starting today!
“Beauty and fashion are kind of like twins,” James Gager, the creative director and SVP for MAC, told me via email. “Trends in the beauty and fashion industry are cyclical yet evolving, and working with this esteemed group of stylists, many of whom I am personally close with, allows students and the public to understand the artistic part of fashion and the important role the stylists play in interpreting the total look.”
“From a cosmetic brands’ perspective, this allows us to participate in the conversation with students who represent the future of our industry,” Gager continued. Well, as one would expect, I had to see the AFL for myself! While there, I caught up with Patricia Black, creative director of the library, and stylist June Ambrose to discuss what the AFL means to them.
“As we approached 10 years, Irene [Albright] and I wanted to make a nod to the industry to say thank you to the stylists and to celebrate them,” Black told me. “With FIT, the introduction was made, and we felt like we had to do something to make it work for them. We could open the door and allow the students to actually touch the clothes, review the clothes.”
“We have everything from A to Z—Azzedine Alaïa all the way down to Versace and Zac Posen,” said Black. “We do the blouses, the trousers, the skirts, a lot of the separates. And a lot of the great cocktail dresses. Rather than pay for a dress that she’ll be photographed once in and never wear again, a woman can come in here and be put together by our amazing team. And you can hire out the pieces. Luxury for hire!”
For stylist June Ambrose, the Albright Fashion Library is not only a resource, it’s a haven. “I discovered Albright when it was Imelda’s Closet on 57th Street,” Ambrose told me. “That was maybe about 13 years ago. Oprah Winfry was shooting me for her talk show, and I wanted a really amazing curated, massive closet to shoot in. They allowed me to shoot the piece in their offices, and from then we fell in love!”
“I’ve come to Albright as someone who has come from behind the scenes to having my own television show and creating this celebrity in my own right,'” said Ambrose. “I at times need things for TV or red carpet moments, and they’ve always been there for me.”
“When I worked with MAC on their ad campaign with Missy Eliot, Mary J. Blige, and Lil’ Kim, we borrowed stuff from Albright! So there’s this kind of six degrees of separation, this kind of full circle, between MAC, Albright, and myself that makes sense,” said Ambrose. “Makeup and beauty, for me, really comes before fashion. It also becomes a punctuation to a look. It actually helps you to tell your story because the character that it builds, it kind of enhances one’s spirit. I couldn’t imagine not having beauty as an aspect of fashion.”
__If you’re in New York City during the month of March, check out the “Albright Goes to School” exhibition in the lobby of the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Technology and tell us what you think! __