Designer Neil Bieff flatters women’s curves

Neil Bieff knows how to flatter a woman’s figure.

As his website says, it’s about “showing what is best, camouflaging what’s not.” One-size-fits-all is an unheard of description for the designer’s collections. His women’s couture celebrates the female body through the use of vivid colors, soft textures and curve-hugging cuts.

‘They’re feminine and sensuous, but they’re not girly,” he says of his clothing.

Bieff is a fashion veteran, having worked in the industry for years. Throughout his career, he has created everything from men’s coats and suits to women’s evening gowns, one of his current collections. His acute attention to detail, use of luxe materials and ability to capitalize on his background in painting by methodically layering colors set Bieff apart from other designers.

But what he is most passionate about is enhancing the female form.

“Most of the clothes that I look at have absolutely no relationship with the body, which is what most of my clothes are about,” he says.

The client should be wearing the garment, Bieff adds. The garment shouldn’t be wearing the client.

“My clothes do not look good on a hanger. I look at other people’s clothes on the hanger and they really just scream at you, because the shape is already built into it, and that’s wonderful. I mean, what will you be drawn to first? I think you’ll be drawn to the hanger appeal.”

For Bieff, creating clothing to look appealing on a store hanger is impractical. When paired with a female frame, Bieff’s pieces come to life, and isn’t an appropriate fit what women’s fashion is all about?

Bieff always liked fashion, but it wasn’t until a vacation to Europe during his college years that he expressed an interest in a design career. At the time, Bieff was pursuing a painting degree at Syracuse University in upstate New York. After returning home, he changed his major from painting to fashion.

“I stopped in Paris and my friend’s uncle was the head of United Artists for Europe (a Hollywood film company,) and every night we went out for dinner with fashion designers and models, and it was all very glamorous and I thought, ‘What a great thing to do!’” he says. “The last day of school, (the dean in Syracuse) took me up to his studio, took out a mannequin… and said, ‘You go from there,’ and I did.”

Bieff began his career working as an assistant to Arnold Scaasi, creating couture for women.

“The first piece of fabric I cut when I worked with him was $135 per yard, which would be 10 times that today,” he says. “If that’s the first thing you’re cutting and you’ve never cut a piece of fabric before in your life, it’s interesting. You learn to cut precisely.”

Bieff worked for Scaasi for about a year and then began designing junior clothing in the ’60s. Afterwards, he worked in the coat and suit market and within five years of graduating college, he started his own company.

Bieff, who has a studio in Ossining and a factory in India, also travels doing trunk shows in which the designer brings his collection to a store so shoppers can see the range of the creations. Some of Bieff’s designs are available at Mary Jane Denzer in White Plains. Denzer, the owner of the eponymous store near The Ritz-Carlton, Westchester, says of Bieff: “He’s very talented and one of the few designers whose clothes are hand-embroidered. Plus, he has a marvelous sense of color.”

“Trunk shows are great because every woman is different,” Bieff says. “I love it, but it’s tortuous, because everything is a special order and you’ve basically met the person and you really want to please the person, so there’s a lot of pressure in doing that. But, there’s a lot of pressure in anything. If it weren’t that, it would be something else.”
Bieff is passionate about the fashion industry even though he believes it has changed – and not for the better.

“I think that very little is about clothing today,” Bieff says. “I think clothing is just driving these businesses forward. It’s the easiest way to get press. I think most people in the industry feel this way. To me, it’s more about branding and building a name, because the money to be made is far greater in accessories, shoes, bags and perfumes… I think it’s changed in that sense that it is no longer a design-driven business or a dress-driven business.”

Bieff, on the other hand, steers clear from allowing the changing industry to influence his designs and remains dedicated to creating quality pieces. “The learning experience never really stops.”

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