Jenny Polanco, Fashion Designer with a Caribbean Palette, Dies at 62

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

Jenny Polanco designed women’s fashions from childhood, creating costumes for her Barbies and going on to make her own clothes for college. But she never believed that people are what they wear. She was more concerned with what was underneath.

Ms. Polanco, a breakthrough Dominican designer of clothing, jewelry and accessories, died this week in a hospital in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, Rafael Sánchez Cárdenas, the public health minister, announced on Tuesday. She was 62.

Ms. Polanco worked for more than four decades in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Paris and New York, and was well regarded by colleagues and fashion critics. On her website, she described her approach as “a fluid dialogue between classic avant-garde style and the Caribbean,” fusing “sophisticated lines, drapes and exquisite cuts with handcrafted details of the Dominican vernacular: buttons in amber, details in horn, larimar, nacre, coral, among other autochthonous elements.”

She was most gratified by the positive reception women gave to a version of her elegant line in larger sizes. To support local talent, she opened Project, an arts and crafts store in the Dominican Republic, in addition to the several fashion boutiques she owned there.

She was said to have returned from Madrid on March 4 and, after complaining of symptoms of the coronavirus five days later, was quarantined after the test results were positive for Covid-19. She was hospitalized on March 18 because she had difficulty breathing.

Jenny Altagracia Polanco de Léon was born on Jan. 18, 1958, in Santo Domingo. Throughout her life she leaned toward the creative arts, contemplating careers in choreography and painting.

She graduated from the Pedro Henriquez Ureña National University in Santo Domingo with a degree in interior design and studied pattern making, tailoring techniques and artistic draping at the Parsons School of Design in New York.

Her survivors include a son and a daughter.

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