Michael Leyva, a multidisciplinary designer, died on September 14 at his home in Providence.
He was accomplished in fashion, interior design, gardening, teaching, entertainment, and management consulting. The cause of death was believed to be heart-related, caused by slipping in his kitchen and hitting his head, according to his friend and Rhode Island School of Design classmate, Maggie McCormick.
Always ready to explore, whether as a hard-working college student, an avid traveler, or an avid cultural scholar of the arts, Leyva lived by two simple words: “Let’s go!”
He has worked on brand projects, including directing Victoria’s Secret, Gilt Group and C.P. Wonder and Lord & Taylor. Leyva, who taught at RISD before his death, also co-founded Sea Star Beachwear and co-wrote and produced Rizzoli’s book “Recipes for Parties” — testing every one of them. During his 15-year tenure at Macy’s, Leyva helped build the $350 million Alfani brand in five years. He was later credited in the media with helping to reverse a $32 million profit loss at J. Jill to a $52 million profit in the 2000s.
Leyva once told WWD companies are about service and offering things people want in an upscale way, “not just about making money. What does Henry Kravis know about crackers?” (referring to Kravis’ leveraged RJR Nabisco acquisition KKR & Co. in 1988.) Nobody knows about the companies they own. It’s not about forcing them to make money. That’s why everything has become so ordinary.”
For more than 30 years, Leyva, a big-picture thinker, has drawn her fashion inspiration from the unexpected, including children’s book characters Heloise and Madeleine for her “intelligent anti-establishment stance” and Joan of Arc for her “feminine and masculine inclusivity.” “. “.
“You really have to have your own personality otherwise you get lost. There’s a huge desire to look trendy, even in some of the older designers. But you can’t be too trendy,” Leyva told WWD.
Born in Denville, New Jersey, one of four children, Leyva was inspired by the elegance of his mother, Maria, and the work ethic of his father, James. The family patriarch rose through the ranks of General Public Utilities to Chairman, President and CEO.
Leyva began working at a young age, long before creating his namesake brand in New York. His wanderlust emerged when he was a high school student in the 1970s, touring Europe as part of a Gregorian choral group. His human flare applies to everyone – gardening until dark, tweaking recipes, tweaking decor, or polishing designs in the shop. “I would get an email first thing on Saturday morning from Michael, telling me that the roast was in the oven, that the laundry was done, that the house was clean and that I was going to the market. And then on top of that he said, ‘And the chicken is seasoned.’” “Michael Leyva can,” McCormick said. To break through walls.”
Along with McCormick, Milod Ferguson, Eric Pike, Allison Munsch-Williams and Richard Pandisio, Leyva worked hard and played hard at RISD, where she danced until dawn in the on-campus Tap Room. “We weren’t just sweating through our clothes. We were sweating through our shoes,” McCormick recalled Monday.
Williams worked as a DJ at the Tap Room, rushing to New York to get the latest music. After graduation, the band’s friends later approached New York clubs like Studio 54, Area, and Pyramid — and the culture with equal abandon. “The key is not just knowing contemporary culture, but knowing what’s coming. We’d go see what’s coming, sniff it out, and Michael would take it back to his design studio the next day.
A family celebration is being planned in Florida and a celebration of his life will be held later in New York.
Leyva graduated from RISD in 1983. His entry into the fashion world began with an internship at WiiliWear, and he soon ended up in Japan where he designed a line of sportswear.
Back in the US in New York, he worked for Unison Pack for two years, then spent a season in Paris designing for the house of France Andreevich, before starting his own company in 1986. His first job was with a casual wear company licensed to Bell. Blass and Leyva helped the famous designer begin his career.
Pandiscio of Pandiscio Green described Leiva as his first friend. Partly because he wore Capezios in all colors like Mick Jagger at the time, Leyva walked so fast because he was always somewhere he was needed. “Any room he occupied, it was clear he was the man in charge. He had a lot of groupies. He couldn’t be bullied,” Pandisio said.
Leyva admired fashion designers Charles James and Gianfranco Ferré, and was a “wonderful seamstress,” Pandicio said. A good cook with an interest in Italian cuisine, he can throw an elaborate dinner party in his bedroom with a hot plate and a bathroom sink. “He was the first student I had ever met who cared about proper cutlery, pots and pans, and a linen napkin,” Pandicio said Monday.
In an early 1990s interview with WWD, he talked not only about fashion, but also about “this hope for democracy and equality. I felt really out of place in the 1980s, which was very baroque. That’s not my thing, I’m a classicist.” .
Before moving to Rhode Island, he gave up his apartment in touristy Soho for a former clothing manufacturing facility in lower Manhattan; Every element of that apartment was centered around art, from the spray-painted leopard print walls by Cope2 to the framed artwork by Gali Rothstein. His friend Baek, Nest’s creative director, said Leyva designed and built “wonderful gardens from scratch. He loved visiting the flower market, organizing arrangements, and was curious about new types of flowers. Every time he moved, he created unique and stunning homes that would look their best.” Interior design magazines.
Leyva was fluid in his talents, and was known to be decisive in what he pursued. He once said: “It is possible to have a successful company and a point of view. It’s not always smooth, but in the end we always end up going up.”
Leva is survived by his mother, Mary, his sister, Linda, and his brothers, James and Chris.