Passion and integrity are important qualities for a young designer to possess in the rough-and-tumble world of fashion say New York designers Stan Herman and Michael Harlan Schwarz. However, it’s most imperative that a young designer knows herself, the New Yorkers told Stephens fashion students during a recent visit.

“You have to know who you are to make a statement in what you do,” Schwarz said. “You have to love it, and you have to know who you are in it.”

“Father of Fashion Week” Herman said: “If you’re going to be in an industry that’s considered an artistic industry and not a 9-to-5 job, it really has to be a calling. If you don’t feel like it’s something that you really love, I wouldn’t even begin to attempt it.”

Herman and SchwarzThe Stephens College School of Design invited Herman and Schwarz to campus on Nov. 8 to share their insights, experiences and where they think the fashion industry is going and what opportunities await young designers. The designers also spent time with students, reviewing their work and giving feedback.

Their appearance was sponsored by The Jeannene Booher Fashion Lecture Series, which launched in November 2016 with a $1 million gift from Booher, a 1956 alumna of the Stephens College fashion program. About 150 people attended the event.

Herman, who has one of the longest (more than half a century) and most diverse careers in fashion, met Booher when she first arrived in New York City. 

“She was an extraordinary young designer at the time and is an extraordinary woman today,” he said. “She was one of those people when you saw her clothes, you knew they came from the heart. She might not have been the powerhouse that Donna Karan ended up being, but she was the heart and soul of our industry.”

Herman has been a longtime leader in uniform designs, starting with brands like Avis, TWA and McDonald’s in the 1970s. Most recently, along with Harlan, he created signature looks for FedEx and JetBlue. He also is one of America’s foremost designers of robes and loungewear, which he has been selling on QVC for 24 years.

Herman has designed evening clothes, bridal gowns and the first walking shorts that became part of corporate uniform. Herman was president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America for 15 years and oversaw the first decade of New York Fashion Week in Bryant Park.

Today, Herman works alongside Schwarz, who is a designer and project manager at Stan Herman Studio.   

Schwarz, who goes by Michael Harlan as a designer and is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, has been creating apparel and leather goods for men and women since the late 1990s. He began working Herman’s studio in 1998. Most recently, Schwarz launched a signature collection of handcrafted leather accessories and select clothing that is manufactured in New York in small batches and sold exclusively at a boutique in Nantucket.

Schwarz hopes more designers will join him in reviving the cottage industry that once was commonplace in fashion. He’d like to see the essence of the farm-to-table movement adopted by his industry. He says clothing locally designed and constructed could spark a creative renaissance in the fashion industry.

“As we continue to educate the consumer in other fields about how important it is to act locally and think globally, why can’t we do it in fashion, too?” he said.

Both designers agreed the fashion industry has morphed from mom-and-pop businesses in the ’50s to multi-million dollar corporations today. And with that growth comes more opportunities for new graduates as well as more pressure to know who they are as designers.

“Have confidence,” Herman said. “You’d never know it, but most designers are so insecure.”

Schwarz said it’s important for young designers to know the history of the industry and to seek out opportunities to work with veterans in the business like Herman.

“If I came out of school and said, ‘I am going to create a fashion line,’ where does any of that depth and experience come from?” he said. “Going into a store and shopping is one thing, looking through a fashion magazine is another thing, but learning from people who have done it is something completely different.”

Tags : School of Design, Fashion, College & Campus

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