A True Original

I normally don't write profiles. I guess because, outside of the subject's immediate circle, there are relatively few whose stories are compelling enough to be worthy of the attention of the general public. With that qualifier, allow me to introduce: Albert Capraro, Lindenhurst High School Class of 1961, Bicentennial Designer of the Year for 1976, and personal designer of choice to none other than First Lady Betty Ford. I'd say his story has mass appeal, wouldn't you?

Mr. Capraro's path to success began to take shape way back in high school while walking the halls of Lindy. His influences ranged from several members of the art department to his beloved guidance counselor, all of whom nurtured his already-outstanding talent for both fashion and film, even going so far as to attend the “fashion shows” and “movie premieres” he would put on at his home.

After graduating from the prestigious Parsons School of Design, Mr. Capraro landed his first job working with a French designer on Park Avenue. He then moved on to a position with noted designer Joberie, headquartered on Seventh Avenue, Fashion Avenue. From there, he catapulted to the opportunity of a lifetime, working with Oscar de la Renta - his “mentor” - with whom he flourished for eight glorious years.

Mr. Capraro eventually started up his own label, of which his first collection was quite a success. As he dryly observed, “I was an 'overnight' sensation after ten years.” However, it was exactly this achievement which provided the necessary steppingstone from which there would be no turning back. After reading a favorable review of his clothing line, First Lady Betty Ford invited Mr. Capraro to a personal consultation at the White House. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Through the years, he designed for a vast collection of women from all walks of society, including the likes of Julie Andrews, Marlo Thomas, Sophia Loren, Barbara Walters, Marissa Tomei and several of the Miss Americas. In 1976, he accomplished the “hat trick” of being the simultaneous designer-of-choice for Miss America 1976, First Lady Betty Ford and American Ambassador Ann Armstrong, helping to crown him with his most-cherished title of Bicentennial Designer of the Year for 1976.

Mr. Capraro is currently retired after 40 years in the business, although he continues to profess his great desire to win an Oscar or an Emmy for his designs. (He has the television experience, after all, playing himself on As the World Turns many years ago, as well as appearing as a guest of Barbara Walters, Phil Donohue and countless others over his career.)

For a man whose designs now qualify as “vintage” on E-bay; for someone who used to regularly mingle with all walks of stars, he comes away from the whole experience with one sentiment that stands above the rest: “Ego doesn't work.” As a result, Mr. Capraro finds himself equally comfortable designing costumes for a Hicksville High School theatre production – which he has done several times – as he did while living the lavish life of limousines, champagne, star-studded galas and black-tie affairs...all words which are still “music “ to his ears.

The man who was originally inspired to design by Princess Grace's wedding gown and who recently donated the original mannequin and about twenty of his designs worn by the First Lady to the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids, Michigan, now lives by the simplest of mottos: “Pursue and persist...Love what you're doing.”

What a lovely person. What outstanding accomplishments. And to think it began all those years ago in the halls of Lindy High School. His is a story that deserves to be shared.

And admired by all.

 

{Published: October 11th, 2016}

 

Jamie Lynn RyanComment