Getting Creative from the Ground Floor Up

by RONA MANN/ photos by Paul Tortora

Creativity is just one of those words. It’s overused, and yet no one really knows what it means.

Creative cooking.  Creative writing.  Creative parenting.  Words, words, words!

But should you grab a dictionary and look up “creativity,” there staring back at you from the page will, no doubt, be a picture of Annamarie Amore of West Haven, Connecticut.

Take that same dictionary and look up “spark plug,” and you’ll probably see the same face.

Like so many other great stories, the back story behind this has fueled and propelled the headline to its ultimate success. It begins simply with a flashback to 2008 and a time when the DOT informed the family business, Amore Carpet & Floor Covering, that they were going to seize the existing property to make way for a new train station in the area. The business was forced to relocate at a time which coincided with the beginning of the country’s “economic downturn”… not a propitious time at all for a business to have to move and re-establish its identity. Ultimately, however, a location was found on the Post Road in West Haven, a venue that boasted huge windows, which initially delighted Anna Amore until she realized that it was difficult for customers to see in from the road. This presented an additional problem: how to create traffic for the family’s floor covering business. So Anna shifted her brain into high gear.  Creativity collided with ingenuity and raw talent head on, and together they danced the dance that led to ultimate success. The end result from Amore’s efforts did not merely create traffic…it stopped traffic!

Anna freely admits, “I get visions in my head.  I don’t mean that in a weird or way-out sense, but that’s just how I create things.  I see them in my head first.”  And what Amore “saw” in her head was something never done before.  “We’d been in the floor covering business for 27 years, and I thought, what if I could create a dress from floor covering materials?”  And in that fertile mind Anna envisioned mannequins wearing her creations, dripping, not of diamonds and sequins, but of mosaic tile and carpet swatches!

Impulsive, but with a renewed sense of purpose, Amore ordered 4 mannequins and set to work, creating the designs that danced in her head.  There were no patterns; she didn’t labor over a drawing board, arduously sketching designs.  She just began cutting…tiny pieces of wool carpet, nylon carpet, mosaic glass tile, mosaic marble, pewter, and travertine, the latter being a limestone based building material.  Amore pieced her creations together with a variety of glues, tack adhesive, and wire sewing thread.  She awoke at two o’clock each morning to transpose what had run circles in her head all night into reality.  She sat for hours before the sun came up, carefully cutting individual tiles by hand, meticulously piecing them all together, and hand sewing until her fingers literally bled. (“It’s just too difficult to sew a zipper to carpeting on a machine”).   Day after day Amore found herself mentally exhausted and physically spent, but never, ever tapped out.  “I couldn’t stop.  I just couldn’t stop. I still can’t. I can’t help myself.  I just have it in me and have to do it.”

When “Round One,” as Amore calls it, was over, she had created five outfits and set about dressing her mannequins with her creations and jewelry.  Then she carefully positioned them in the showroom windows and waited to see what might happen.

What happened next was a near traffic jam on West Haven’s stretch of the Boston Post Road.  Cars screeched to a halt, and people poured in to the floor covering store to see who and what exactly was in the windows. They begged to buy the clothes, but at the time, they weren’t for sale.

Now Amore isn’t so sure.  “The response has been phenomenal,” bubbles Anna, who rarely sits still for very long and is never unemotional in her conversation.  “This has really taken off.  People love my designs; and yes, if someone wanted a custom-designed outfit from our flooring materials, I would make them one…anything from a swimsuit to a wedding gown!”  She laughs at the prospect, but when it comes to her creations, Amore is dead serious.

When she embarked upon Round Two, she designed nine more outfits for what she calls her “spring collection.”  “I really did it for my kids as a keepsake. I wanted them to have something to look back on, something good.”  Anna and husband, Darrin have two children, Darrin II, who is 25 and Carolina Susanne, 12, who has served as a model for her mother’s fashions in both still shots and video.  “Believe me, I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think she was gorgeous in the clothes,” Anna admits frankly.  “I wanted the best representation of my designs, so I hired professional models, but I also used Carolina, who was just perfect.”

Round II nearly delivered a knockout punch, however.  “It about took me down,” Amore confesses.  “I created and made nine outfits in a very short time…from the last week of January till the end of February.  Every day I got up at 2AM, cut, glued, and hand sewed till 6AM, then I performed my exercise routine to try and stay in shape, drove my daughter to school, worked in the store with Darrin all day, came home, made dinner, and was in bed by 8.  And I did it religiously, every day, seven days a week!”

The effort paid off.

Amore held a press conference in January premiering Anna’s Creations to regional media and vendors.  “Our suppliers absolutely LOVE me!” enthuses the designer, bouncing from one mannequin to another, pointing out the different flooring materials.

What’s next?  “Summer!” Amore pronounces firmly.  “And summer means beachwear, boating, shorts, hot pants, swimsuits.”  The designs have already begun to swarm around in her brain, keeping her awake at night and busy in the early hours of the morning.

“I next plan to work with amtico, a very durable flooring material.”  Amtico is luxury vinyl tile that looks natural but has the benefits of being synthetic in construction.  Best of all, amticio does not warp, crack, or chip and may be heated, which Amore plans to do when she molds the material into a bikini for her next model.  “Then we’ll have a photo shoot on a boat,” she smiles assuredly.

Assuredness is a hallmark of Annemarie Amore’s motivation and work ethic.  She “sees” her finished products where others only envision their goals.  She creates the end result, then figures out later how to get there.  And she does…every time.

Much of Anna’s family history is rooted in tragedy, tragedy which included a devastating train fire in Paris a few years ago that took away most of the family, followed in short order by the deaths of both her parents; yet instead of tragedy squelching her artistic bent, it has fed it.

Amore has had no formal schooling in art, design, or fashion.  She did not apprentice in New York, did not even take an art class.  Her closest link to the design world she now happily inhabits is her mother who had been a seamstress.  “I’m very spiritual.  I think when she passed away her art somehow flowed to me.  I always had an eye for color and the visual.  I just went with what I felt and got really good at it.”

An understatement.  Amore has now created gowns, bustiers, dresses, hot pants, shorts, swimwear, and mini dresses out of simple flooring materials.  She still works daily at Amore Carpet and Floor Covering in the design center, assisting customers with interior decoration of homes and offices, but those long sleepless nights when the designs play havoc with her mind, and those early mornings when she gives them life and breath are the best part of her day. That, and the time spent with Darrin and her children.  She speaks of her work with an intense passion, but when she speaks of her family, the love seems to visually overflow, and she is never for one moment embarrassed at her great outpouring of emotion, the tears that well up in her eyes, or her simple connection to them.

It is this passion, this emotion, this love that keeps Annamarie Amore thinking, creating, working, and never stopping.  When a customer first enters the showroom at Amore Carpet, it is Anna’s wide smile that is unmistakable across the vast space, lighting up the room. It is her outstretched hand that eagerly and sincerely welcomes the visitor into her world…a world of art and design, family and love, recovery and discovery.

And that’s what stops traffic.

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