Sandals Resorts lines up Stan Herman in designer uniforms – WWD
As a self-proclaimed “Former Company Sailor,” Stan Herman proves his seafaring feet are stronger than ever with new uniforms for Sandals Resorts International.
Sandals Royal Curaçao staff members were the first to wear the designer’s new creations. The 44-acre property bowed on June 1 and marks the company’s first outpost in the Dutch Caribbean. Herman and his longtime business associate, Michael Schwarz, will be heading there later this month for a beachfront fashion show and breakfast on June 25, which will feature about 35 resort employees.
In the decades since Herman’s first dive into uniforms with those of Avis Car Rental worker fleets in 1974, other major American companies have followed suit. FedEx, for example, was designed by him for 42 years. And Herman has designed JetBlue’s uniforms since the airline started, and Central Park Conservancy employees also wear his designs. He also regularly sells a signature line on QVC, a 30-year alliance. With this strong track record, brands have come looking for it to rethink the way their employees dress for work.
Herman, 93, said: “When we make uniforms, they are just clothes. When I entered the company, everyone looked like a billboard for their company. Everyone was marked. They all looked like hot dogs and hamburgers. The reason for the success of [Stan Herman] studio is we made clothes. Whether I’m making a soft lounge piece or a well-tailored pant for workers bending over in Central Park or Sandals, it’s the same thing.
While he’s dressed hotel employees in the past, this is Herman’s first time creating new looks for an all-inclusive resort. He and Schwarz made uniforms for all hotel employees, including those who greet the public in hotels, restaurants and bars, as well as those who work behind the scenes in special services. “You do a lot of design — way more than you would a big collection on Seventh Avenue,” said Herman, former president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Sandals employs 15,000 people worldwide, including more than 900 in its brand new factory. Considered the “anniversary collection”, the Curaçao collection is a nod to Sandals’ 40th anniversary. New collections are being designed for other locations and will be introduced accordingly.
Executive Chairman Adam Stewart succeeded his late father, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, who founded Sandals. Having worked with Jonathan Tisch’s Loews Hotels and the TWA Hotel at John F. Kennedy International Airport, Herman said it’s always important to get the leader’s secret formula.
To do so, the couple flew to Jamaica to meet Stewart and were won over by his next level plans for Sandals and a real clothes approach to uniforms. The mild Dutch Caribbean weather called for lightweight, yet durable and comfortable options, Herman said. As a vertical company, JWE was in the business of manufacturing the uniforms, many of which required limited runs for specialized work.
Bell staff, butlers, cocktail servers, receptionists, wedding planners and the many other staff on the team needed defined looks and different waves of color. The three-time Coty winner explained: “It’s easy to do FedEx one way because they have 100,000 shirts here and another 100,0000 shirts there. You ask a manufacturer to produce it and do it over the years. With boutique hotels, you have to do both – volume and very low numbers,” Herman said.
Their color selections, including those washed out in soft, bright tones, are meant to subtly signal the identity of specific areas of the resort. “’Washed’ is a key word because when you think of the Caribbean, it’s hot. There is sun and salt water. We wanted to make it look like the colors were already living there and weren’t going to fade with use,” Schwarz added.
The deal was done through Anchor Communications President Scott Currie, whose client was looking for a designer. The plan was to first create designs for the Curacao property and then roll out looks to other Sandals properties. Reiterating Herman’s point about the scope of the project, Schwarz emphasized how much variety in looks was needed. “With the Sandals experience, from the reception to the beach, we take care of you and offer you multiple experiences. You have several restaurants with different food themes. And they like to have environments that represent that, but also require different uniforms. We’re still in the business of making clothes, so it wasn’t about making costumes for uniforms. It was about making clothes that had that feeling,” he said.
Herman and Schwarz also made uniforms for workers in Sandals Royal Bahamian’s new Coconut Grove area. Next up is the Sandals Dunn’s River, which will slope next year in Montego Bay. The goal is to accumulate a catalog that shows how each property has an individual look with peppery design ideas from the designer duo.
Recalling his start designing uniforms with Avis in 1974, Herman said, “I took them out of an all-red Christmas uniform. Everyone looked like Santa Claus. I have gray pants under a red jacket and they thought I was a genius.
TWA was the next corporate client, and some of his uniform designs for the now-defunct airline are on display at the TWA Hotel. “Michael and I are staying there next Tuesday so I can watch myself in the museum,” he said.
McDonalds, United, Eastern Airlines, Humana, Royal Caribbean, Amtrak, MGM Grand and other hotels are among the businesses he started. As for those who think uniform design is boring, Schwarz joked, “Leave them.”
Herman continued, “Listen, when I first went there, Bill Blass, Oscar [de la Renta,] Giorgio Armani, Versace – everyone made uniforms. Europeans loved to make uniforms. Americans have learned to love it,” Herman said. “One of the reasons I’ve been in the uniform business for so long, even before Michael [Schwarz] was with me, is that we do a lot of homework in advance. We meet the people who wear the uniforms. With ready-to-wear, you sell your clothes to stores. You never know who’s wearing them except your aunt calling you. But in this case, we get to know people.
If they like the uniform, it’s a great experience, Herman said. “If they don’t, you have to live with it. Many years ago when I made United I was proud of the uniform. But in retrospect, it was a difficult uniform. It was brown. I will never forget being at O’Hare airport in Chicago and seeing a woman wearing it for the first time. I said, “Love, love your new United uniform.” She turned to me and said, “I to hate it’s Mr. Blass’,” he recalls with a laugh. “She thought I was Bill Blass.”
Guests at the Sandals resort in Curacao will be able to purchase a long white apron with embossed navy stitching of a Dutch village that Herman originally designed for employees at his patisserie cafe. As for how the Sandals business can impact his own business and that of the uniform, Herman said, “It always has an impact. Life is six degrees of separation. Michael and I get calls all the time from people who know we do FedEx, asking if we can do this or that…listen if the US military calls me, I’ll do their uniforms tomorrow.
After polishing his memoir “Uncross Your Legacy” and hiring an agent, Herman hopes to publish it next year. The title refers to the refrain that photographers shout when the lights go out at the start of a fashion show. Writing it was the easy part, deciding where it should go and figuring out how people would react to it are the hardest parts, Herman said. The two-year downturn caused by the pandemic gave him the opportunity to do just that. “I started many years ago. It was a hiccup that didn’t quite work out. People were like, ‘Well, you know everybody. We want a book with all the dirt. But I don’t have a shovel,” he said. “It’s a memoir about me.”