Adrienne Steckling was born in 1934 in St. Joseph, Missouri, USA. Her shortened name was ADRI.

She attended the School of Fine Arts at Washington University and in the summer of 1955 became guest editor of Mademoiselle's college issue.

The following year, she studied at Parsons School of Design in New York, where she was strongly influenced by designer Claire McCardell, then a lecturer at the school.

From 1960 to 1967, Adri worked for the wholesale house of B.H. Wragge. She then designed for her own division "Clothes Circuit" at Anne Fogarty Inc. premises. In 1960 her name also appeared as Adri for Collector's Items.

In the 1960's she worked most often in natural and synthetic mixtures of jersey, creating simple and fluid designs. Her short little dresses tended to be soft with V necked, wrapped fronts and high waists.

In 1971 she was honoured by a fashion exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington.

From 1972 to 1974, she began producing her own line of clothes with the label ADRI, including accessories.

Her clothing is functional, practical and easy to wear. She believes in building a wardrobe piece by piece with interchangeable separates.

In 1975 she formed Adri Clotheslab Inc. She continued to make garments in synthetic jerseys, but later in the 1970's she turned to natural fibres such as unbleached linen.

She continued through the 1980's to work with separates made in bold and natural fabrics, concentrating on black, white, beige and primary colours and with an easy-fitting cut.

Since changing her corporate name to Adri Studio Ltd. in 1994, Adri has continued to design small collections. Hard at work in her New York studio, she has focused on designer collections exclusively. With her Egyptian partner, Nadia Abdella, Adri continues to fashion the fluid, timeless pieces for which she has always been known. "The concept," she says, "remains the same." This design concept was always, she noted, a very flexible, contemporary one and has continued into the 21st century quite successfully. She creates one exclusive designer collection a season that is both wholesale and retail. The Adri collections are available through exclusive stores and show in private clubs, such as The Ruins in San Francisco. This approach, both simple and consistent, and the adaptable charm and enduring quality of an Adri garment, have created a niche for the designer and, "It's working," she says.

The Look

Adri's early years with B.H. Wragge taught her the principles of tailoring and mix-and-match separates, long a staple of American sportswear. Designing for Anne Fogarty reinforced the feminine focus of Adri's design philosophy. Always, she returned to McCardell's tenet of form following function. Shapes were simple, skimming the body without extraneous detail or fussiness, often based on the practicality of athletic wear. While McCardell favored dresses, Adri emphasized trousers, later designing skirt-length trousers, or culottes, for variety. From the beginning Adri utilized soft, pliable fabrics such as knits, jerseys, crepe de Chine, challis, and leather. Her clothes were identified by their floaty qualities and she maintained that this softness made them easy to wear and provided relief from the frequent harshness of modern life. They were also ideal for tall, long-limbed, slender figures like her own. During the late 1960s Adri presented V-necked short dresses with high waists or wrapped fronts, in solid colored synthetic jerseys. Natural fibers, such as unbleached linen, came of use in the 1970s and knits continued to be staples for Adri skirts, trousers, and tunics in various lengths. By 1980 a typical Adri evening look consisted of silk trousers topped by a strapless chenille top and fluid lace jacket. Interchangeable neutral solids such as beige, black, and white were combined with bold primary colors so Adri's customers could collect the separates throughout the years and create their own ensembles, without having to purchase a new wardrobe each year. The simple timelessness of the designs, as well as their easy cut and fit, made this possible. Prices were in the moderate to better sportswear range. Adri wore her own apparel to accept her Coty award in 1982: a belted silver-grey (she called it "platinum") mohair sweater over midcalf culottes made of grey suede. Soon afterwards she branched out into menswear, creating unisex sweaters, cardigans, and vests. Evening looks continued to be based on day shapes, but fabricated of highly colored striped shiny rayon or mohair. Pullovers, jackets, and vests were frequently long, and Adri kept experimenting with new materials, such as eelskin, for her contrasting boldly colored belts, or handloomed Japanese fabrics with interesting textures. A touch of the opulent 1980s was evident in her use of tapestry jackets to be worn with velvet trousers, as well as damask and silk Jacquard. Clothes like these can be easily adapted for homesewers, and Adri contracted with Vogue Patterns during the mid-1980s for a relationship that continued into the 1990s. The same McCardell-inspired sporty yet fluid lines were evident; shirtwaist dresses with topstitching detail, softly gathered jackets, shaped hemlines with gracefully flounced skirts, cummerbund accents to shorten the appearance of tall, slim figures, gently gathered waists, and easy wrap dresses were some of the offerings available to seamstresses wishing to recreate Adri's classic multifunctional designs.

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