I “discovered” Francesca of Damon quite by accident about 5 years ago. During my passionate searches for beaded silk dresses, I began running into style of dress that I found the consummate compromise of “Glam Spectacular,” and the slightly above average, “Day Dress.”
At the time of this article, Mrs. Frances Rappaport, Francesca of Damon, is 96 years old, and living in her Central Park apartment of 46 years with one of her three sons. After watching some touching tube videos posted by one son recently, it seems that our small tribute may be coming just in time. Her creativity and her story are both celebrated here.
Frances was born in Odessa in 1922, arrived one of 6 children, in the United States at age five. At age 40, after raising her own family, she started a successful knitwear line called, Francesca for Damon. What a spirit! Her husband, David Rappaport started and ran a exquisite neck wear line called, Damon Creations.
The Rothschilds of the Clothing Business
After David established Damon Creations in 1942, with a borrowed $700. He designed and sold exquisite Italian knitwear and silk neck-wear. Later, Francesca joined him in the business, creating a fashion line called, Francesca of Damon.
“Unusual, but always in good taste!” is David’s succinct and ingenious catchphrase to sum up Damon Creations. It’s interesting to note that Francesca was a top designer in an era when women didn’t hold influential positions in the business world — especially when the woman in question had three sons.
“My friends couldn’t understand my desire to work,” she recalls, “because I had a husband who was doing well. But I wanted to accomplish something for my own self-esteem. At the age of 40, when I started designing, I couldn’t even draw a straight line. Not to be discouraged, we hired an artist to put my ideas on paper. After some time, I learned to do it myself. If the desire is strong enough, you can accomplish anything.”
Frances’ work has been featured in Vogue and Harper’s. Stars like Lucille Ball coveted her embossed and beaded, intricate blouses and canary-yellow suits. Her line appeared in Bergdorf Goodman, Sak’s, Neiman Marcus, I. Magnin, and Nordstrom. She is best known for “the house that made knits couturier.”