Designer Patti Cappalli built a name for herself with innovative concepts in sportswear and leisure wear. Now she hopes to be remembered as the team player who took women out of dressy dresses.
For Cappalli and partner Rick Beach, the goal since June has been "evening wear with a casual sportswear approach." Their unusual collection, which debuts Monday at the California Mart during spring fashion showings, can be "very chic or very jazzy," Cappalli says.
It's built on 24 pieces, ranging from $100 lace tights trimmed with sequins and satin roses to an $850 cancan-style skirt. The exclusive skirt fabric, the designers say, was designed by them and made by the same Swiss firm that serves haute couturiers Christian Lacroix and Karl Lagerfeld.
"We're giving evening wear a versatility it never had before," explained Beach, who designed hand-loomed knits in San Francisco under his own label before moving here to develop sportswear for Anne Cole.
The mix-and-match pieces often started out as question marks, said Cappalli. "We would ask ourselves: What if the customer is going to Spago or Morton's or Trumps? How does she want to look from the neck to the waist? Because that's what everyone sees."
In reply, they designed sweaters with coquettish rhinestone "strap" designs, lavishly decorated quilted satin jackets and lace bustiers.
Because no woman will stay at the table forever, there are pants and a number of skirts, including long romantic styles in lace and a mini-model covered with a longer layer of fringe.
In addition to the very dressy components, there are matte jersey basics
Aimed at Working Women
Everything is aimed at "a woman, who works at home or at a job," Cappalli says. "She doesn't go out every night. She probably has a smattering of special occasions throughout the year that are very important to her. She wants to look and feel terrific in the same kinds of styles she wears on a day-to-day basis."
The almond-eyed designer, still wearing her signature pixie haircut, took a sabbatical from designing in 1985.
When she first agreed to meet Beach for lunch, it was to give him some pointers, she recalls. After 3 1/2 hours, "We had a business." When it came time to decide who would get top billing, it was easy. Their labels read "Rick Beach, Patti Cappalli," she explains, "because it fit better that way."