Fashion designer Uli Herzner joined us for a chat about her latest womenswear line, what she learned from her time on Bravo's Project Runway, and what she thinks of your Crocs.
Your premiere womenswear line recently debuted in New York City, what should people expect from it? ULI HERZNER: I think most people know that I was living in Miami, so the inspiration was always very tropical and was something that you could wear on an island or at the beach. I moved to New York and the new line, which is a resortwear line, has a lot of flower print and can still be worn in the city and styled to be worn all year round. Most pieces are made out of silk and are all very flowy, effortless, and free spirited, but have a little bohemian touch. People travel all year round and there is always summer somewhere. The seasons are not so important anymore. I'm really going to stick with printed easy dresses, which is what I'm known for.
I’ve heard many designers talk about their ideal client when they put together a line, and they think of the woman or man they want wearing their clothes. Is that an essential part of your process? UH: Totally. I think I am one of my biggest clients. My clients are kind of the person who likes to travel and explore, and certainly has a worldly girl-on-the-go lifestyle. A lot of my customers who come to our studios are definitely girls who live in New York City, and as soon as they have time off, they go away to an island, or they’re off to Los Angeles, or they travel to Europe.
All of the dresses are easy travel dresses that can go anywhere. You could wear them with sneakers, high heels, or even a boot.
You’re a veteran in the fashion industry, but I wondered whether all of that fades away when you get on a show such as Project Runway. UH: A little bit... I was a stylist for almost 20 years, and I always had to pull something out of nowhere when it needed to be shot the next day. And often times I would make things that needed to be on set. I love a challenge, and I work very well under pressure. I might not be the funniest, or most outgoing personality on TV, but I do love trying to get something done last minute and having to make it work. I can pull things together very quickly. It probably helped for me to have been a stylist, where the client just wants something the next day and you have to make sure you get it somewhere or make it. Over the years, working with different characters and people from different places, similar to what you do on a photo shoot, it's the same kind of people you meet on the show. We get thrown together. It was not too difficult. I enjoyed it.
As someone who likes to play with all the colors in the crayon box, do you find that there are less risks being taken in fashion? UH: I think there are some designers such as Gucci for instance, where you go to the store and you’re surprised and happy to see all these fun colors. Maybe four or five years ago, everything was quite the same because there were lots of overwhelming trends. But I think there are a few designers that really go for it, are really loud, and are getting recognized for it again. They go for what they think is great. It’s so hard today to get noticed with the Internet, Instagram, and all the fashion bloggers, there’s so much out there, which makes standing out more important. I think I do that with the prints, and I throw it in people’s faces.
Tim Gunn once told me that he wouldn’t be caught dead in a tank top or Crocs. My hard and fast rule includes no flip-flops and no sweatpants. Am I crazy? What’s on your no-wear list? UH: [Laughs] No. My fiance says the same thing. You’ll never see him in sweatpants. The kids are not allowed to wear sweatpants. I think there are sweatpants now that are fashionable, and you can get away with them sometimes. And flip-flops, I own so many pairs because I used to like having them, but sometimes you get lazy. Leggings, flip-flops, and an oversized sweater, but I still prefer those to outfits that try too hard, are too sexy, or show too much. Sometimes you see people and say, ‘What was she thinking? Does she have a mirror at home?’ And they wonder why everyone looks at them. But that’s me, and I’m sure there are some men who enjoy that, and there are some women who say I have it and I want to show it off.
I love the Crocs thing. I would never wear those either! And another one I just thought of... the Snuggie! Maybe if we owned one we wouldn’t talk like this.