A woman comes to his Long Island City studio frantic for the perfect dress, maybe for a wedding, a special dinner, an anniversary dinner. They've flipped through mountains of magazines and scoured miles of clothing racks in a fruitless search for the right gown that flatters their figure and matches the occasion.Kole gives them what the big chains and department stores can't: A custom dress at a reasonable price."The idea is to get the dress that looks best on the individual," Kole said. "They don't find anything that works for them so we have to become engineers."Kole has garnered international recognition designing evening, bridal and special occasion clothing for women. He has dressed U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Mary Hart from "Entertainment Tonight" and Miss Universe Winner Chelsi Smith, whom Kole outfitted in a red silk chiffon gown during her 1995 pageant win. Flip on "Wheel of Fortune" this month and there's a good chance you'll see Vanna White in a Kole ensemble - the game show's wardrobe department commissioned the designer for seven pieces.Kole has been producing top-quality wears in Long Island City since the 1980s, first with his Chris Cole Enterprises, a partnership company he dissolved in the late 1990s, and most recently with Crisada Inc., a private corporation in which he is the sole shareholder.Kole has three lines: Couture, or custom-made designs that run from $1,500 to $3,400; Custom Bridal Couture, wedding gowns that cost between $2,000 and $5,000; and Crisada, a direct-to-market brand weaved overseas that retails for $400 to $1,400 at Saks Fifth Avenue, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus.The 45-year-old Cyprus native said he never imagined becoming a successful designer when he immigrated to Astoria in 1978."I came to this country thinking I was going to become an architect, but my passion for fashion won me over," he said.Kole built his reputation on his custom designs. He launched Crisada during the post-Sept. 11 economic downturn amid fears that the fashion market was slumping."We wanted to give the customer a more popular price," Kole said. "We felt that that's where the market was going."His studio at 39-13 23rd St. is having an open house on Mother's Day weekend. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 7, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 8, visitors can view and try on pieces from his Crisada line, which will be available for discount prices ranging from $175 to $600.Couture gowns are sold by appointment only. Call 877-274-7232 for more information or visit his Web site www.chriskole.com.Reach reporter Matthew Monks by e-mail at news@times
©2005 Community News Group
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