28 Days of Black Fashion History: Amsale Aberra
Updated: Feb 3
If you’re looking for a simple, sleek, stylish and timeless wedding gown, you’re first stop should be the Amsale showroom in New York City. Amsale Aberra’s bridal designs are as sought after as her equally famous competitors Vera Wang, Carolina Herrara or Monique L’huillier to name a few. Her designs embody the “forever modern” philosophy of her company.
Born in Ethiopia, Amsale loved fashion as a young girl. However, becoming a fashion designer wasn’t something she even considered until, after a revolution broke out in Ethiopia, she was forced to move to the US to finish her undergraduate education at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. There, she began to design and make her own clothes out of necessity (because she couldn’t afford to buy new things) and the budding thought of becoming a designer began to grow.
Amsale moved to NYC and enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology. After graduating, she began as a design assistant for Harvé Bernard. Again, out of necessity, she designed her gown after being unsuccessful finding a dress that was clean and sophisticated for her own wedding. Armed with a sketchpad filled with designs, a few clients and a small team of sewers, her business was launched in her Manhattan loft apartment.
(left) Illustration of Amsale’s “Dahlia” dress. (right) Sara Rue wearing the “Dahlia” wedding gown when she married Kevin Price in 2011.
The Amsale Group includes three distinct bridal collections: Amsale, her classic, clean and simple collection; Christos, a more soft and romantic line; and Kenneth Pool, a more edgy, dramatic, and over the top line.
The “Callie” ballgown from the current Amsale bridal collection.
Her designs have become a favorite among many celebrities including Halle Berry, Salma Hayek, Vivica Fox, and Heidi Klum. Amsale dresses have also been featured in many films and television programs including “Runaway Bride”, “The Hangover”, and “Grey’s Anatomy”.
Halle Berry wearing custom Amsale to the Golden Globes awards in 1999.
Sandra Oh (right) wearing an Amsale strapless, mermaid gown in an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy”.
“I want a bride to be thrilled with her wedding-day look for years to come, because her dress has a timeless beauty that reflects her true essence.”
Julia Roberts wearing Amsale in “Runaway Bride”.
In addition to her many other achievements, Amsale became the first Black female designer to be elected to the CFDA. Her company continues to inspire and give back, most recently partnering with her alma mater, FIT, to form the Amsale-inspire initiative, dedicated to defeating systemic racism in the fashion industry by creating opportunities for Black students to develop entrepreneurial skills to develop successful businesses and careers.
Sasha Barresse (middle) wearing Amsale in “The Hangover”.
Did you know Amsale originally studied Commercial Art in Poultry, Vermont at Green Mountain College. She then moved to Massachusetts and received a B.A. degree in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts-Boston before heading to New York to study at FIT.
This post was originally published on February 13, 2018.