I sadly learned yesterday that my first mentor, the wonderful Fashion Designer Gina Fratini passed away on May 25th 2017, Ironically exactly 30 years from the day we first met and she presented me with my Designer of Year award at my graduation show in 1987.
Gina was 85 years young. I completely missed her obituary in WWD on June 9th, as that night we were flying home to Ireland and it was a hectic day at work.
She created some of the most sought-after evening wear in the 70's and 80's, dressing everyone from members of the royal family, Diana being her favorite, to Hollywood Movie Stars like Elizabeth Taylor. She took me under her wing when I first moved to London and allowed me to design several pieces during my internship with her that made it on to her collection.
She loved my shocking pink silk cloque bomber jacket which she wore herself.
We remained friends when I went on to work at Donald Campbell, and she even brought me back to Dublin as her protégé the following summer, when she was invited there to judge the best dressed lady at the Irish Tennis Open. I would pop in to visit often, and after she closed her doors and moved on to Hartnell, I continued to visit. It was there she designed the white silk chiffon Gown For Diana, pictured below in the portrait by Sir Terence Donovan and worn again for the Royal visit to Brazil.
When I struggled to complete the sewing on my sister Deirdre's wedding gown, Gina told me to bring it in and her girls baby hemmed the miles and miles of organza layers on the gown.
Pictured below is a blush pink silk taffeta bridal gown I designed for Gina's collection in 1988.
Gina was "minded" by a wonderful Irish woman, Marie from Tipperary, who had been in Gina's employ for decades, taking care of the house, Gina's meals, running errands and keeping the studio ship shape. I fondly remember Marie who was mad about me, popping out with purse in hand to put a few pennies on the horses! She and Gina were like sisters and were inseparable.
Gina had married many times, and was quite the girl about town in her youth, but the love of her life was actor, singer /song writer Anthony Newly, (He wrote 'Goldfinger " and Nina Simone's 'Feeling Good" and was nominated for an academy award for the film score of "Willie Wonka and The Chocolate factory"). She fell madly in love with the dashing Tony as a young woman but it was complicated and their lives separated. After decades apart, and several marriages for each of them, true love re-united them, and the now retired Gina moved to join Tony in Jensen Beach, Florida (taking Marie with her) where they lived happily together until her Tony passed away in 1999. Gina's Marie Sadly passed away several years ago.
We had remained friends and stayed in touch via letters over 30 years .. which sadly dwindled down to our annual Christmas cards filled with news, loving wishes, and fond memories, and usually a lengthy phone call always to confirm her address in Florida, as I had a few addresses. Gina didn’t have e-mail and of late had suffered from macular degeneration.
She had the loveliest sweet gentle voice, and it sparkled down the phone line filled with effervescence. She was thrilled when I would call.
I called this Christmas on a crazy Saturday of card writing, once again unsure which address was Gina's, but the number was no longer in service .. which worried me. I thought she may have returned to England. I received a letter in the mail last night, from a family member who had just received some Christmas mail for Gina, and she said she cried when she saw my big fat envelope in the pile.
She told me Gina Loved getting Don's letter, and would pour overdetails, of late she would take out her magnifying glass to read it. She had wanted to contact me, but didn’t have my address and couldn’t find it among Gina's things. Gina Passed away unexpectedly during a trip to England on May 25th, 2017
She was a dear, sweet, loving, kind, generous, and super talented fashion designer and pattern maker.
She will be buried later this year in Florida, beside her beloved Tony.
May dear sweet Gina Rest In Peace.