Tribute For Frans Nieuwendam, Who Knew Style and Had It, Dies at 60


This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

In 2009, The New York Post profiled gatekeepers working the doors at New York City’s trendiest nightspots. One was Frans Nieuwendam, who had counterintuitive advice for women hoping to gain his approval for admission to Bijoux, in the meatpacking district: Don’t bother trying to flash your way in by showing a lot of skin.

“I look for a more sartorial approach rather than a revealing outfit,” he said. “There is a way to be sexy but still be sophisticated.”

Sartorial sophistication was something Mr. Nieuwendam (pronounced NEW-in-dahm) knew a bit about. When he wasn’t plying his part-time job as gatekeeper, he was working in the fashion business as a made-to-measure specialist, helping men’s wear customers at Barneys and other retailers and as a consultant for, and producer of, fashion shows.

For decades he was behind the scenes of New York scenes, working not only at Bijoux but also at Centro Fly, Float and other high-end clubs back in their heyday; advising about an outfit or the casting of a fashion show; holding forth authoritatively on a wide variety of subjects; or, often, just listening.

“He literally radiated out into the universe,” Rebecca Pietri, a freelance creative director who used Mr. Nieuwendam as a consultant on fashion events, said in a phone interview. “He really was everybody’s Yoda.”

Mr. Nieuwendam died of the novel coronavirus on May 3 at his East Village apartment, Ms. Pietri, a longtime friend, said. He was 60.

François Nieuwendam was born in New York on Feb. 3, 1960. His brother Andre said that their mother, Norma Joyce Swaby, was from Jamaica, and that their father, Freddy, was from Suriname. Their parents’ complicated relationship, he said, led to the boys’ living for a time with various aunts and uncles in the Netherlands, Suriname and Switzerland, and later in London and Portugal when their father’s work took him there.

Left on their own in London as adolescents while their father worked, the brothers roamed the city, with Frans gravitating toward the fashion scene there.

“His favorite day trip was Harrods,” Andre Nieuwendam said by email.

In addition to his brother, Mr. Nieuwendam is survived by his father; two other brothers, Alexandre and Felipe; a stepbrother, Ricardo Pereira; and his stepmother, Lourdes.

Frans returned to New York and earned a bachelor’s degree in English at Stony Brook University on Long Island in 1985. A friend suggested that he try a buyer training program in retail, and he was soon working as a buyer and manager for Bloomingdale’s in Chicago and then New York. In 1994 he began a four-year stint in merchandising at Armani.

But, he said in a 2010 interview with the website LookBooks, he longed for something more creative, and he began working on friends’ fashion shows.

“I started as a dresser backstage,” he said, “then coordinator, show D.J. and eventually producer-director. I was also doing some commercial and editorial styling.”

And he was making friends in the fashion and nightlife worlds. One was Henri Scars Struck, a composer and producer who arrived in New York from France in 1996. Mr. Nieuwendam let him stay in his apartment for several months until he could find his own place.

There was another resident as well. “He had a huge iguana,” Mr. Struck said in phone interview. The lizard’s name was Icarus.

Sudha Chinniah met Mr. Nieuwendam in 2003 when both worked at Bergdorf Goodman; they collaborated on several fashion projects over the years.

“Frans was absolutely the most stylish man in any room he entered,” Mr. Chinniah said, “but he dominated much more profoundly in his elegance of character and ability to connect with anyone he met.”



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