Norman Norell (born Norman David Levinson on April 20, 1900 in Noblesville, Indiana; died October 25, 1972 in New York City) was an American fashion designer known for his elegant suits and tailored silhouettes.
Early life and education
The son of a haberdasher, from early childhood Norell had an ambition to become an artist. After spending a short period at military school during World War I, he studied fashion design at the Pratt Institute.
In 1922, Norell joined the New York studio of Paramount Pictures where he designed clothes for Gloria Swanson and other stars of silent movies. He then worked as a costume designer on Broadway, making the costumes for the Ziegfeld Follies and the Cotton Club, as well as for the Brooks Costume Company and for wholesale dress manufacturer Charles Armour. In 1928, he was hired by Hattie Carnegie and remained with her until 1941.
When Norell left Hattie Carnegie, he wasn’t yet in the position financially to open his own business. Anthony Traina, a wholesale clothing manufacturer, offered Norell a partnership. Under the partnership, Traina looked after the business side and Norell the fashion side. Traina offered to pay Norell a larger salary if Norell's name wasn’t on the label, less if it was. "Norell took the lower salary and the label, or at least half of it. In 1941, Traina-Norell was born.
Norell’s work at Traina-Norell would become famous for its fit, simplicity, and quality. In 1943, Norell won a Coty Fashion Award and became a critic at the Pratt Institute fashion department, where he was previously a student. 1944, Norell had launched chemise dresses, evening dresses, fur coats, sequined evening sheaths, fur slacks and empire-line dresses.
During the 1950s, Norell was holding twice yearly shows at the Traina-Norell showroom at 550 7th Avenue. These were black tie events with shows planned meticulously.
- Norell: a retrospective collection presented by Parsons School of Design at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oct. 16, 1972. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. 1972.