Life Story: Michael Frankenberg, 71; Successful Clothing Designer

Michael E. Frankenberg passed away on May 10 at St. Peter’s University Hospital in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He passed while being held by Kenneth Clarici, his husband and partner of 13 years. Michael suffered cardiac arrest at home and never recovered from resulting complications. He was “71 years young” as many of his friends would tell him.

Born in Dayton, Ohio on April 27, 1946, he attended the University of Dayton for one semester. His love of art, music, fashion and design convinced him that his career goals would be nourished by attending the Dayton Art Institute. His talent was encouraged by his mentor Ann Tabatchnik. She recognized his painting skills and watched him blossom. In her unsuccessful effort to convince him to be a professional artist he focused on his love of fashion and design and decided to pursue a career on Seventh Avenue in New York City.

With that goal in mind he entered a contest sponsored by Glamour magazine and Butterick patterns and submitted his sketch of a jumpsuit. He was one of 10 contest winners and his jumpsuit and pattern were featured in the March 1970 issue of Glamour magazine. With his contest winnings he headed to New York City to pursue his dream. He developed his pattern making skills on the job and attended evening classes at Parsons School of Design. While at Parsons he was fortunate to have been taught by American designer Norman Norell. His design idols were always Norman Norell and Yves Saint Laurent.

Before retiring from 40-plus years on Seventh Avenue he had the privilege to work as the head patternmaker for such labels as Dalton Sportswear, Regina Kravitz, Norma Walters, Calvin Klein, Liz Claiborne, Emanuel and Express Design Studio of The Limited. His true talent was in “branding” a label, developing a specific identifiable personality to each brand name. He retired in July of 2014 after 10 years at The Jones Group where he was Director of Product Development for their dress division which included Anne Klein, Jones New York, Nine West and Evan Picone.

On October 2, 2016 he and Kenneth Clarici, his partner of 12 years, were married at the Cranbury Inn in Cranbury. The ceremony was officiated by the Reverend Harry Bronkar and Jaymie Kosa.

Upon retirement in July of 2014 he decided to dedicate his creative time to his love of art and returned to oil painting. He studied at the Arts Council of Princeton in Princeton. There he was blessed to study with the well known artist Karen Titus Smith. He was invited to further his studies at her studio classes in Pemberton. He felt truly blessed to have met her and to study the art of oil painting under her guidance. He would always say “These were the happiest years of my life.”

He is survived by his husband Kenneth Clarici of Somerset and sister Michele Frankenberg of Tobyhanna, Pa.

All appreciated donations can be made to the Arts Council of Princeton, 102 Witherspoon Street, Princeton, NJ 08542-3204. For information call 609-924-8777. Donations can be made by check or online at http://artscouncilofprinceton.org/donate/ and select “Memorial Gifts &Special Funds.”


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