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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Artist – Designer – Supporter of Delray Beach

Amanda Perna is a living beathing work of art. Her background is as varied as the apparel that bears her name.

She started out as a child in musical theatre and progressed to wanting to get a degree in psychology and a PhD from Stanford.

But the best laid plans – you know the rest.

What Perna soon learned was that research at a mental hospital was not something that utilized her passion and compassion constructively. “I realized I was too empathetic and I cried all the time.”

This vital dose of reality and reasoning led Perna to her most creative of constructs – that of apparel designer. She went to New York City, studied at FIT and interned with big names in the fashion industry like Oscar de la Renta and Calvin Klein. Perna also competed in two seasons of Project Runway and designed dresses for Calvin Klein.

But, quiet saleable clothing does not define this renegade de-signer who takes color and tulle to its maximum expression. That’s why she set up shop in her NYC apartment and created the House of Perna. After a spectacular runway show at Miami Swim Week, Perna and her husband Solomon moved to Delray Beach.

Though most fashionistas would scoff at the idea of transplant-ing a fashion career to South Florida, Perna was unfazed. “Delray had so many creative people and it felt like a slice of New York City.”

It’s been six years now and Perna has established herself as a celebrity of sorts. She not only had an entire room at the Cornell Museum dedicated to her eclectic artisan clothing, but she created a 16-foot long tule gown in bright colors that capped off the reasoning that fashion is indeed art and vice versa.

But Perna is not just a pretty face creating hand embellished dresses and gowns that defy gravity. She is a host and volunteer at fashion week in Delray Beach that raises money for Achievement Centers for Children & Families, and she designs tote bags given out during fashion week.

“I love what I do, and I love being in a position to help others. The Achievement Centers is one of the most incredible non-profits that changes lives every day. It has a huge impact on children and their parents.”

To make sure that impact has fluidity and longevity, Perna has taken on a new challenge. She’s working on a project to teach teenagers how to make beaded bracelets to be sold to raise money for the ACCF. 

Raising awareness has always been Perna’s mission. Whether she is blasting out bright colored avant-garde clothing or creating tote bags for the Delray Beach library fundraisers, Perna is a one-woman caravan of creation.

“Amanda is the rare individual who – even though in the spotlight still has an amazing passion for helping others. She has no ego, just a desire to make the world a better place. Whether donating her time, talents or knowledge, she is the first to raise her hand, roll up her sleeves and step up to support others,” said Delray Chamber board member Noreen Payne.

Helping others is part of Perna’s genetic code. At the onset of the pandemic The House of Perna donated thousands of masks to frontline workers and those in need. She employed furloughed workers to make masks and received fabrics from people who read about the venture in Good Housekeeping Magazine. “We created a system that for each mask we sold we donated one to local healthcare workers and people all over the world.”

Perna is also the co-host of a weekly Facebook talk show that celebrates positivity and people in Delray Beach. Her zest for life, and helping others, is not lost on her co-host Ryan Boylston. “Amanda’s unflappable positivity and drive is contagious. Each Wednesday we host the Chamber’s local talk show, Delray Morn-ing Live, and like many of our viewers, I look forward to the energy Amanda exudes to get me through the week.”

But that’s not all. Perna is on the board at the Achievement Centers and the Delray Chamber of Commerce. She created tote bags for the Delray Beach Library fundraising drive and co- chaired their Pride & Prosecco event.

Perna also created Santa’s Fashion Workshop at the OSS Christmas Tree tent, wrote a children’s book about fashion and is the designer and creator of both The House of Perna and Neon Bohemians.

How does she do it all? No one knows.

“Amanda Perna is a gift to Delray Beach. Even though she is a busy talented entrepreneur, she never hesitates to jump in and help when asked. She freely gives of her time to the Delray Beach Chamber and supports many non-profits. She also promotes Del-ray through her large social media following. I don’t know where she finds the time!” said Stephanie Immelman, CEO of the Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce.

Melanie Johanson, Museum Director and Curator of the Cornell Art Museum is also mystified by her flurry of creative goodness. “Amanda’s designs reflect her personality – they demand respect, attention and are gorgeous. Amanda is kind, talented and always working on something. While partnering with her on a museum exhibition, I realized that she does not stop until she reaches perfection. I love her, she’s wonderful.”

Perna has designed a whimsical card collection for Hallmark Signature and is a four-time featured artist at Art Basel. She has styled celebrity clients, films, and is a frequent contributor to fashion events at Neiman Marcus.

This whirlwind designer is also mom to 4-year-old Stella (wife to Solomon) and has the fortitude and fashion prowess of Midas. Where all this energy and verve comes from is a mystery. 

But to Perna it’s just a day at the office. “I am a firm believer that you can have anything and everything you want, if you’re willing to work for it. Life is too short not to follow your dreams!”

And follow them she does!

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