Business & Finance

Sacred Heart Gifts Teams with Legendary Designer

Designer Joan Calabrese, third from right, and the Sacred Heart staff. From left: Teresa Berishaj, Cristina Fierro, shop owner Grace Pietrosanti, Calabrese, Maria Rose Pietrosanti and Alana Adinolfi Credits: Nancy Sorbella
Little Keira Thomas shows off her First Communion dress with designer Joan Calabrese. Credits: Nancy Sorbella

MAHOPAC, N.Y.— Sacred Heart Gifts and Apparel hosted its First Communion Trunk Show Sunday, Jan. 15, and the appointment-only event featured legendary children’s couture designer Joan Calabrese.

 “We are so honored to have Joan Calabrese here for our first trunk show,” said shop owner Grace Ruggiero Pietrosanti. “Having Joan here is not a common thing; she did it because she loved seeing us at our industry trade show and was intrigued by the uniqueness of the store.”

Young girls preparing for their First Holy Communion and their moms filled the shop throughout the day.  Each child had a private fitting with Calabrese and the team at Sacred Heart Gifts and Apparel. Calabrese personally managed the tailoring advice and fit recommendations offering style suggestions based upon the girls’ preferred selections. The diminutive designer worked tirelessly throughout the day helping the girls choose a couture Communion dress that will become a treasured family heirloom commemorating the third of the seven holy Catholic sacraments.

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Calabrese, a Philadelphia native, began her career in 1975 after creating dresses featuring “scraps of luxury fabrics” for her own two daughters. After catching the eye of Tom Marotta, then the president of the couture department at Saks Fifth Avenue, her business catapulted into the competitive world of couture fashion design.  The early years were distinguished by her signature attention to detail and every piece was designed, created and sewn by Calabrese.  As time passed, working with her “network of local seamstresses,” she was able to produce more pieces to her exacting standards, which enabled her line to expand to major markets.

Calabrese’s designs have been featured at the world’s most recognized department stores. Several of her dresses are part of the permanent collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art Costume Institute.

In 2008, she partnered with the Mon Cheri line, which has made her own line more accessible to families who are looking for high quality, timeless and traditional elegance for their children’s many special occasions.

“My philosophy has always been to just go with it,” Calabrese said. “There is often no time to hang around and think about it.  Move forward and if you don’t ask, nothing will happen.”

When asked about hosting future trunk shows with Calabrese, Pietrosanti is enthusiastic.

“I am definitely looking forward to next year with her and the opportunity to provide more of our customers with this special experience,” she said.

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