chad m. weisman
For decades, fashion designer Sandy D’Andrade has been weaving a wintry tree of life into her opera-inspired garments. Although her signature design, the “Winter Tree,” bears no leaves, it is a living, breathing “symbol of life,” the designer said. “It’s one of those images that crosses through every age and every culture, every religion. We draw it reaching down into the roots, into the earth to symbolize potential and growth, healing and renewal.”
D’Andrade — who was once a costume designer for operatic works — and her husband, Matthew Alperin, welcome Chautauquans to their display, which is located in the Film Room of the Main Gate Welcome Center. The trunk show will last from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
A portion of the profits from each year’s trunk show benefits Chautauqua Opera Company’s Young Artists Program.
The couple hopes that customers will shed their retail jitters and embrace the theme of the weekend sale: “Shopping Can Be Fun.” This weekend gives Chautauquans an extra two days to browse D’Andrade’s collection of handmade garments.
The opera-inspired knitwear on display includes an Oriental kimono based on the apparel of the title character of Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma. Also available is a fisherman sweater inspired by Peter Grimes (Chautauqua Opera’s first mainstage performance of the 2013 Season) and a jacket with a flamenco feel, drawn from French composer Georges Bizet’s masterwork, Carmen. Each article of clothing is woven from the finest cotton, rayon and silk.
Much like the operatic works that inform D’Andrade’s designs, the garments available in the Welcome Center are grand in their employment of intricate details. After all, the designer has been doing needling and handwork in a variety of capacities since she was a young girl.
The artist credits her attention to detail to her love of the creative process, which she developed at Philadelphia College of Art (now the University of the Arts), where she studied printmaking and painting.
“One of the things that was most valuable in art school was learning how to conceive of an idea and follow through — develop it, analyze it and wrap it up,” she said. “It was a very demanding program.”
In school, D’Andrade developed the belief that “the most intrinsically exciting thing about creating things is the act of creation itself,” she said. “The other most exciting part of creation is when you’re done, when you put it all together and it’s a complete presentation to the world.”
D’Andrade leaves little room for doubt when it comes to the sheer volume of work she applies in readying each garment for display.
“In-between [conception and completion] is work,” she said. “It is hopefully work one enjoys, as I do, but you really have to apply yourself.”
Her husband handles a number of the logistical challenges that the business faces. Matt deals with advertising, marketing, sales and delivery, and he is also deeply involved in his wife’s creative process.
The couple spoke very highly of their Chautauqua customers.
“I meet so many intelligent people,” D’Andrade said. “I love having intelligent customers who are involved beyond simply telling me, ‘Oh, that’s pretty.’ ”
Without the trappings of mass production to alienate the seamstress and her husband from the point of sale, Alperin and D’Andrade are intimately involved in each component of their business. They work constantly to ensure that their knitted garments are readily available to a population of buyers who will cherish them, both for the love that goes into their creation and for the source of each garment’s inspiration.