When Nancy Volpe-Beringer dropped Philadelphia native and Grammy nominee Tierra Whack off at the Staples Center last Sunday night, she felt like she was in the middle of an emerging fashion designer’s dream.
But as Beringer watched Whack arrive at a nearby restaurant in full Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat splendor in the rainbow-hued, floor-length faux fur coat and matching sheath gown, she knew she was living the real deal.
“I jumped up and screamed,” Beringer told me Monday morning from as she made her way to LAX to hop a plane back to Philly. “I was sitting with Tierra’s hair and makeup people, and they jumped up and screamed. We all jumped up and screamed. It was truly amazing."
Whack was nominated for best music video for “Mumbo Jumbo.” She lost to Childish Gambino’s “This Is America.”
Beringer, a 64-year-old educator turned emerging couturier, graduated from Drexel University in 2016 with a master’s degree in fashion design and a signature that’s definitely more art of fashion than off the rack. She has made special pieces for notables like Cara Fry, wife of Drexel University president John Anderson Fry, who wore one of Beringer’s pieces to the 2018 Academy of Music Concert and Ball.
Last fall, Beringer was a featured designer in a fashion show at Libertae House in Bensalem, and she designed a dramatic, multicolor coat from a colossal piece of faux fur she found. “I thought, ‘Let me make this amazing coat,’ ” she said.
And amazing it was. A few weeks later, Center City fashion doyenne Joan Shepp featured a few of Beringer’s pieces, including the coat, worth about $2,400, in her fall window. That is where Whack spotted it and bought it. Eventually, she and Whack struck up an Instagram friendship.
When Whack learned she was nominated for a Grammy, her publicist reached out to Beringer. Whack planned to wear the coat to the Grammys. But what would she wear with it? Beringer zeroed in on a painting by local artist Liz Goldberg called Cuban Cigars. She worked with Goldberg to have 15 yards of the image imprinted on crepe, silk, and organza in the United Kingdom. The result was a 3/4-length sleeved sheath that Beringer made within a month after just two fittings.
Beringer flew to Los Angeles on Tuesday to put the finishing touches on the gown. (She ordered a new sewing machine from Amazon sent to L.A. to work with.) The biggest issue was finishing the hem. After all, Whack’s nude MM6 booties were a game-time decision.
“There is such depth to her music,” Beringer said. “And there are so many layers to this gown. This is what the gown reflects.”