Christopher Hunte whose interest in sewing began when he was seven years old in the Caribbean but who later rose to become a prominent fashion designer in New York City has died in Brooklyn.
Hunte, who grew up in Barbados, came to the U.S. in 1968 and went on to forge a highly successful career in the competitive and creative world of fashion. He passed away at his Brooklyn home and his wife, Sandra Hunte, said the cause of death was cancer.
“He died peacefully after a lengthy illness,” Ms. Hunte told the Carib News. “He had been ailing for some time but he never hid his illness and he certainly didn’t give up hope. Chris always felt that the more people knew about his health the better it would be. He felt people would understand the nature of the disease and would pray for his recovery. He was a very spiritual person. We had a happy life together and I consider our relationship a blessing from the Almighty.”
Hunte, who was sixty three years old, dressed many of New York’s leading figures. Among them were Nancy Wilson, the internationally famous jazz singer; Florence Quivar, a Metropolitan Opera singer; Debbie de Coudreaux of the Broadway show, “Grand Hotel;” Rolanda Watts, a television news personality; Carla Harris, a gospel artiste who appeared at Carnegie Hall; Dr. Marcella Maxwell, a prominent educator and human rights advocate; Hazel Dukes, President of the New York State National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, NAACP; and Faye Rodney, President of the New York Carib News.
He also dressed beauty contestants for the New York State preliminary round of the Miss America contest; Ms. New York beauty pageant; the Miss Barbados World Pageant and the Miss Jamaica U.S. A. contest.
“Sewing was fun,” was the way he once explained his passion for designing clothes. “My mother and my sisters sparked my early interest in designing clothes and I was fortunate to have been able to take it from there and make it my life’s endeavor. You can say that I was inspired by my mother and siblings. Being in New York, the world capital of fashion, was both challenging and fun.”
But he did more than just exquisitely dressed women who understood what it meant to be fashionable. Hunte was a professor of design at Pratt Institute, a leading tertiary educational institution in Brooklyn.
“Chris enjoyed working alongside his students at Pratt, teaching them the craft of designing clothes,” said his widow. “It brought him a lot of joy and satisfaction, teaching and working with young minds, the next generation of designers.”
He founded and ran his own fashion design studio in Manhattan for more than 30 years.
“He enjoyed his life as a designer, as a Barbadian, and as a professor at Pratt,” added Ms. Hunte. “We had 22 wonderful years together as a couple.”
Jessica Odle-Baril, a former Barbados Consul-General in New York, described his passing as major loss to the Caribbean and African-American communities in the state and the City.
“Chris was always ready to help organizations raise funds for charitable causes by arranging fashion shows, giving of his time and skill,” she said.
Dr. Maxwell said Hunte was a “dignified and quiet professional” with a sharp eye for design, color and style.
“His clothes made you feel beautifully comfortable and enjoyable. I always felt good wearing his designs,” added Dr. Maxwell. “Each design was a treasure that you care for despite the passage of time. His unique creations spawned dignity and style. I am a longtime admirer of such a talented, pleasant, sensitive and caring friend. I took pride in referring friends and colleagues to him. As a tribute to Chris I plan to wear one of his red dresses in the ‘Go Red American Heart Association and Abyssinia Baptist Church event’ at the Harlem Hospital on Saturday.”