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Frank S. Rizzo, mentor, clothing designer

Feb. 28, 1930 – Aug. 3, 2016

Frank S. Rizzo, a Buffalo native who influenced a flock of leading clothing designers as a teacher and dean of fashion at the Parsons School of Design in New York City, died Wednesday under hospice care in his home in Crossville, Tenn. He was 86.

Mr. Rizzo’s proteges included Isaac Mizrahi, Donna Karan, Louis Dell’Olio, Willi Smith and Marc Jacobs.

The son of husband-and-wife interior decorators, Frank Samuel Rizzo was a graduate of Grover Cleveland High School, studied drawing and painting at the Albright Art School and took correspondence courses in fashion design.

After serving in the Army in the Korean War, he spent two years in Japan studying Japanese textiles and color theory at the Kamakura Art School. Returning to the U.S., he enrolled in Parsons, where he won the Silver Thimble Award, and graduated in 1958.

He designed for labels such as Jablow, Hannah Troy and Ceil Chapman, became noted for his bridal fashions, and opened his own boutique in midtown Manhattan in 1960. He returned to Parsons to teach in the Fashion Design Department in 1966 while continuing to work as a designer and served as chairman of the department from 1983 to 1996.

Cherished by his students, Mr. Rizzo was honored at a dinner party hosted by Mizrahi last summer during his annual visit to Manhattan.

“Frank was a great example of not just a wonderful citizen and a great teacher, but he was a great role model as a gay man,” Mizrahi told the fashion publication WWD. “He was perfectly integrated into society, he was incredibly liked, nice and wonderful.”

Survivors include his partner, Richard Hatler; and a sister, Marietta Adymy.

Services will be arranged.

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