<< It's an odd thing, but anyone who disappears is said to be seen in San Francisco. >> (Oscar Wilde)
Norman Ambrose was born into a European-American family in the bayside city of San Francisco. Growing up as an only child high up on a hill in the small town of Tiburon, he was left to his imagination from a very early age. Dreaming of the big city and its beautiful people, Norman longed to create beauty befitting the metropolitan world he imagined.
Norman in front of the Tiburon ferry terminal, age 3
San Francisco is a magical place. Recalling the romantic notion of day's past, it was said to be the last city where one would encounter women wearing hats and white gloves. As a young boy, Norman would often think of this, drifting from present to past. Walking from his father's law firm in the Marina, past the mansions of upper Pacific Heights and down into the shadows of the financial district, he witnessed the clashing cultures of free-spirited bohemians and old monied blue bloods of legend. Like the ghosts of the past lingering in the faded marble doorways of Broadway, young spirits danced under the multi-color painted murals of a city reinvented for a new generation. Forever a dreamer, the imaginations of the young boy still enchant Norman, inspiring his work with clashing cultures as a sophisticates fantasy retold.
Nob Hill, circa 1958
A formidable source of inspiration, the stories told by Norman's grandmother of her life pre-WWII had a melancholic undertone. Often filled with longing and at times sadness, in her last home she was surrounded by family heirlooms representing generations of fortitude, a good number of which she managed to salvage before the Russian occupation of 1956. A privileged life interrupted by a catastrophic war and later a revolution, her instinct for survival was equal to that of her family's preservation.
War is ugly, the price of which is far greater and destructive than any foreseeable benefit. These stories were informal lessons in Norman's life. Resolution of conflict should always be sought and preservation of beauty is key to heal the soul. Both lessons have stayed with Norman through the years, translating now into his credo - "No matter our origin, beauty and craftsmanship can be appreciated. It is for this purpose of bringing people together, I create."
The back terrace of Norman's great-grandparents summer home at Lake Balaton, Hungary. 1936 Norman would visit the lake during his childhood.
Norman with the first dress of his first collection. Neiman Marcus, 2007
At first wanting to become an architect, Norman changed studies to fashion in pursuit of a more direct outlet for his creativity. Struggling his first semester with no experience in construction or design, Norman became top of his class by course completion. It was at this time that his love of the craft solidified.
After studying a semester in Milan and graduating from University in 2003, Norman moved to New York. A metropolis full of culture and contrasts, he was inspired to create the beauty he had dreamt of since a young boy. Immersing himself in the fast pace of New York's garment district, Norman gathered resources and contacts to realize his vision and in 2007 founded his eponymous label.
At 26, Norman was the youngest couture designer to be on the fine apparel floor, his collection sitting alongside storied labels Chanel & Oscar de la Renta. A dream now a reality, Norman was becoming recognized as a rising star in New York, receiving acclaim for his vision of reinterpreting an old world ideal into a modern-day business to withstand the test of time.
Moments before presenting at Lincoln Center, 2010
A key component of Norman's success is his firm belief in working alongside the artisans whom bringing each creation to life. Norman is often found drafting patterns or behind a sewing machine when not traveling between the many stores his collection is sold. Norman lives and works in Manhattan.
Lincoln Center, September 2011