Ronaldus Shamask

Shari Sims

Designer Biography

DOI: 10.5040/9781474260428-FPA081

Ronaldus Shamask was born in Amsterdam, Netherlands, on 24 November 1945. He moved to Australia with his parents as a teenager and worked in window display for Australian department stores before heading to London, UK in his early twenties. While pursuing painting in his spare time, Shamask worked as a fashion illustrator for The Times and The Observer.

In 1968, he was invited to visit the United States by a multimedia artists’ organization called The Company of Man, based in Buffalo in upstate New York. Shamask then spent three years as part of this group, designing sets and costumes for ballet and theater.

In 1978, Shamask and a partner, Murray Moss, founded a company and studio-cum-retail store in New York called Moss on Madison Avenue. The studio/store featured Shamask’s first couture collection, which was received with plaudits from virtually every fashion publication and cited for its unique approach to clothing construction. Inspired in part by the simple shapes of traditional Japanese clothing, along with his experience in designing stage sets and costumes, Shamask experimented with the way that seams could be used to form shapes out of fabric and designed clothes that literally emphasized their own construction. “Intimate architecture” was one of the phrases used to describe this groundbreaking approach—and was the title of an exhibit of contemporary clothing design that featured his works at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1982. By that time, he had already received the prestigious Coty American Fashion Critics’ Award for women’s wear. In 1985, Shamask introduced a menswear collection, and would go on to receive other awards for both his men’s and women’s collections, including the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) award in 1987.

Through the years, his designs took on a more fluid, less rigidly constructed look, sometimes mixing patterns and fabrics within a single garment while hiding the connections between one type of fabric and the other. His color palette ranged from neutral shades of gray, taupe, and beige to stark black, white, and red. By 1996, he had launched his own company, called SHAMASK, and continued to sell his clothes through the most upscale venues such as Neiman Marcus and Takashimaya. He has also maintained his connection to the theater and dance worlds, designing costumes for choreographers Lucinda Childs and Mikhail Baryshnikov, and collaborating with noted jewelry designers whose necklaces, for example, he has incorporated into his dress designs.

Shamask’s architectural approach to fashion design has not gone unnoticed in the art world, as his work has been spotlighted in museum exhibits around the globe, including at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1989, 1996, 1999, and 2003) and the Guggenheim Museum (1997), both in New York; the Kyoto Fashion Institute (1996) in Tokyo; and, most recently, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where the exhibit “Ronaldus Shamask: Form, Fashion, Reflection” debuted in 2012.

Ronaldus Shamask, Autumn/Winter 1985 Photograph by Niall McInerney, Fashion Photography Archive

References and Further Reading

Find in Library Jacobs Laura. ““Ideas on Her Shoulders”.” The Wall Street Journal , 4 December 2012. http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324705104578147333116911050.html?mod=WSJ_article_comments#articleTabs%3Darticle .

Find in Library Milbank Rennolds. New York Fashion: The Evolution of American Style . New York : Harry Abrams, 1989.

Ronaldus Shamask. Website. http://www.shamask.com/ .

Ronaldus Shamask: Form, Fashion, Reflection.” Philadelphia Museum of Art, October 2012. http://www.philamuseum.org/exhibitions/772.html (accessed July 2013).

Shamask.” Neiman Marcus, n.d. http://www.neimanmarcus.com/en-gb/Shamask/Designers/cat51230755/c.cat (accessed July 2013).

Find in Library Shapiro Harriet. ““Ronald Shamask’s Wearable Architecture Makes Him This Season’s Flying Dutchman”.” People , 24 August 1981. http://www.people.com/people/archive/article/0,,20080064,00.html (accessed July 2013).