When Amy Page DeBlasio was 12, she traveled to Italy with her family. She visited the Uffizi Gallery, in Florence, where she found “The Birth of Venus,” the famous Renaissance painting by Sandro Botticelli. She took out her sketchbook and started to draw her own version of the portrait.
“I’ve always been artistic,” says DeBlasio, who is now 33 and has carved out a career as one of Rhode Island’s leading fashion designers. “My mother is a lawyer, my father is a doctor. I’m sure they’d love it if I was a heart surgeon. But they wanted me to explore my creativity from a young age. When I was doing an art project, I could sit there for hours.”
DeBlasio discovered fashion as a student at the Gordon School, in East Providence. She credits her art teacher, Toni Dumville, with introducing her to fabric.
For a textiles assignment, DeBlasio created a wrap skirt with two fabrics that clashed dramatically. DeBlasio liked the clash. The sharp contrast of different patterns became the hallmark of her designs, and it continues to this day.
“I don’t know what compelled me, but I begged my mother for a sewing machine,” says DeBlasio, who put the new acquisition to good use.
As a teenager attending the Wheeler School, she continued to experiment with clothing and even made her own prom dress. While her peers preferred long, sparkly gowns in silver, DeBlasio’s dress was short and multi-layered with gold highlights. She created a necktie so her date would match her offbeat ensemble.
“I have a way of mixing fabrics. A normal person would think, ‘Those two don’t go together.’ I really try to push the boundaries, but still keep it a balanced composition.”
Today, Amy Page DeBlasio's design studio in Pawtucket bears her initials, APD.. Her studio doubles as a boutique that customers can visit, by appointment.
DeBlasio specializes in high-end designs, garments that can sell for hundreds of dollars apiece. Her catalog is colorful and frenetic: leggings covered in taxicab graphics; a pixelated shawl; a denim jacket patterned with metallic paint. These are the bold styles that dominate in New York fashion circles, styles that are as much fine art as clothing.
“I don’t like to design what I see out in the world,” DeBlasio says. “I don’t follow trends. I design what I like. I’ve tried to blend urban attitude with edgy sophistication.”
Despite her high-concept design work, DeBlasio is down-to-earth. She grew up on the East Side of Providence and has been a lifelong member of Temple Emanu-El. She has taken a Birthright trip to Israel, a formative journey that she says strengthened her connection to Judaism.
Today, DeBlasio and her husband are raising their two children with a strong Jewish framework. She wears a necklace that displays her Jewish name.
“Judaism has always been a big part of my upbringing and a key part of who I am,” she says. “[The Birthright trip] really blew me away. No matter how different we were, we all shared that unbreakable bond of Judaism. I finally was old enough to really understand. I felt part of a greater whole.”
After high school at Wheeler, DeBlasio experimented with jewelry and considered studying metal design. She took classes at the Rhode Island School of Design, but it was at the University of Rhode Island that she earned a bachelor’s degree in Textiles, Fashion, Merchandising and Design – as well as a B.A. in Italian Language and Literature. Now her family lives in Rumford, a short drive from her studio.
Visiting DeBlasio’s website, you may think that her business is a larger operation than it is. The layout is sleek and professional, and the online catalog is rich with offerings for both men and women.
Rhode Island Monthly has named DeBlasio the Best Fashion Designer three years in a row, which is all the more impressive for a company that was founded in 2017.
Yet APD is a surprisingly small operation. DeBlasio designs every item herself; she has one part-time assistant and a local seamstress to help out.
DeBlasio is committed to ethical production, and all the retail clothing is put together in New York City. Otherwise, she handles nearly every aspect of the business herself, from conception to distribution to social media. This, on top of raising two sons, makes DeBlasio one busy designer.
“Even when it gets really tough – and it does, a lot of times – I really couldn’t picture myself doing anything else,” says DeBlasio. “When a customer can wear my clothes with confidence, it makes what I do worth it.”
This year, DeBlasio tried something new: Her work is showcased at the Worcester Art Museum through Sept. 12. The exhibit, “The Iconic Jersey: Baseball x Fashion,” displays both historic baseball jerseys and speculative sportswear from contemporary designers.
DeBlasio received a personal invitation from the art museum’s curator, Erin R. Corrales-Diaz, in 2019, when the exhibit was in its formative stages. She and Corrales-Diaz had never met before, and the curator had no idea that APD was based in Pawtucket, home of the Pawtucket Red Sox baseball team before it migrated to Worcester, Massachusetts.
DeBlasio has a rich collection of men’s fashions, and she specializes in high-end streetwear. The exhibit gave her a chance to deconstruct baseball jerseys and make them her own. She has two entries on display, one jersey covered in images of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the other reimagined as a woman’s dress.
“I’ve always loved [the] baseball jersey and its streetwear element, and I wanted to elevate that style,” says DeBlasio. “Why does it only have to be a men’s garment? It’s the perfect juxtaposition, taking an athletic jersey and making it dressy and sophisticated. It’s not for some 17-year-old baseball player. I really make everything high fashion.”
Many of DeBlasio’s peers have left Rhode Island to seek their fortunes in fashion hotspots like New York or Los Angeles. DeBlasio does have a strong relationship with larger cities, but she is determined to stay in Pawtucket, and she hopes that other designers follow suit.
“I am not leaving Rhode Island!” she exclaims. “I am happy here. I make it work. I am determined to make it.”
To see the full APD collection, visit Amypagedeblasio.com.
ROBERT ISENBERG (email@example.com) is the multimedia producer for the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island and he writes for Jewish Rhode Island.