As the self-described “ancient mariner of the business,” Stan Herman is proving his sea legs are as strong as ever with new uniforms for Sandals Resorts International.
Staffers at Sandals Royal Curaçao were the first to sport the designer’s new creations. The 44-acre property bowed June 1 and marks the company’s first outpost in the Dutch Caribbean. Herman and his longtime design associate Michael Schwarz will be touching down there later this month for an oceanfront June 25 fashion show and breakfast that will feature about 35 of the resort’s employees.
In the decades since Herman first dove into uniforms with ones for Avis Car Rental’s fleets of workers in 1974, other major American corporations have followed suit. FedEx, for example, has been designed by him for 42 years. And Herman has designed the uniforms for JetBlue since the airline got rolling, and Central Park Conservancy workers wear his designs, too. He also regularly hawks a signature line on QVC, a 30-year alliance. With that sturdy track record, brands have come to seek him out to reenvision how their employees dress themselves for work.
The 93-year-old Herman said, “When we do uniforms, it’s just clothing. When I first went into the business, everyone looked like a sign board for their corporation. Everybody was branded. They all looked like hot dogs and hamburgers. The reason for the success of the [Stan Herman] studio is that we did clothes. Whether I’m doing a soft lounge piece, or a well-cut pair of pants for workers bending in Central Park or at Sandals, it’s all the same.”
While he has suited up hotel employees in the past, this is the first time that Herman is creating new looks for an all-inclusive resort. He and Schwarz have whipped up uniforms for all of the hotel’s workers, including the public-greeting ones in hospitality, restaurants and bars, as well as those who work behind-the-scenes in special services. “You do a lot of designing — much more than you would do for a major collection on Seventh Avenue,” said Herman, a former president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Sandals employs 15,000 people worldwide including 900-plus at its newest locale. Billed as the “anniversary collection,” the Curaçao assortment is a nod to Sandals’ 40th anniversary. New collections are being imagined for other locations and will be introduced accordingly.
Executive chairman Adam Stewart has 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 is always important to get the secret formula from the leader of the pack.
To do that, the pair 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 Dutch Caribbean’s balmy weather called for lightweight, but durable and comfortable options, Herman said. As a vertical company, JWE handled the manufacturing for the uniforms, including several that needed limited runs for specialized jobs.
Bell staff, butlers, cocktail servers, receptionists, wedding planners and the team’s many other staffers needed defined looks and different color waves. The three-time Coty winner explained, “It’s easy to do FedEx in a sense, because they have 100,000 shirts here and another 100,0000 shirts there. You get a manufacturer to produce it and do it over the years. With boutique hotels, you have to do both — volume and very small numbers,” Herman said.
Their selections of colors including washed ones in soft tones and brights are meant to subtly signal the identity of specific areas of the resort. “‘Washed’ is a key word because when you think about the Caribbean, it’s hot. There is the sun and the salt water. We wanted to make it feel like the colors were already living there and were not going to fade as they were used,” Schwarz added.
The deal came together through Anchor Communications’ president Scott Currie, whose client was looking for a designer. The plan was to create designs for the Curaçao property first and then to roll out looks to other Sandals properties. Reiterating Herman’s point about the scope of the project, Schwarz emphasized how a variety of looks were needed. “With the Sandals experience, from the front desk to the beach you are taken care of and you are given multiple experiences. You have multiple restaurants with different food themes. And they like to have environments that represent that but also requires different uniforms. We’re still about doing clothes, so this wasn’t about doing costumes for uniforms. It was about doing clothes that had that feeling,” he said.
Herman and Schwarz have also crafted some uniforms for workers in the Sandals Royal Bahamian’s new Coconut Grove area. Next up is the Sandals Dunn’s River, which will bow next year in Montego Bay. The aim is to amass a catalogue that shows how each property has an individual look with design ideas peppered in from the design duo.
Recalling his debut in uniform design with Avis in 1974, Herman said, “I took them out of an all-red Christmas uniform. Everybody looked like Santa Claus. I have them 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 that I can look at myself in the museum,” he said.
McDonalds, United, Eastern Airlines, Humana, Royal Caribbean, Amtrak, MGM Grand and other hotels are among the companies that he has created. As for those who think that uniform design is boring, Schwarz quipped, “Let them.”
Herman continued, “Listen, when I first went into it, Bill Blass, Oscar [de la Renta,] Giorgio Armani, Versace — everybody did uniforms. The Europeans loved doing uniforms. The Americans learned to love it,” Herman said. “One of the reasons that I’ve been in the uniform business for so long, even before Michael [Schwarz] was with me, is we do a lot of homework beforehand. We get to meet the people, who wear the uniforms. With ready-to-wear, you sell your clothes to stores. You never know, who wears them except your aunt, who calls you. But in this case, we get to know the people.”
Should they love the uniform, that makes for a beautiful experience, Herman said. “If they don’t, you have to live with that. Many years ago when I did United, I was proud of the uniform. But in retrospect, it was a tough uniform. It was brown. I’ll never forget being in O’Hare Airport in Chicago and seeing for the first time a woman wearing it. I said, ‘I love, love your new United uniform.’ She turned to me and said, ‘I hate it Mr. Blass’,” he recalled with a laugh. “She thought I was Bill Blass.”
Guests at Sandals’ resort in Curaçao will be able to purchase a long white apron with raised navy blue stitching of a Dutch village that Herman originally designed for staffers in its pastry café. As for how the Sandals venture may impact his own business and the uniform one, 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 that we do FedEx, asking if we can do this one or that one…listen if the United States Army called me, I would do their uniforms tomorrow.”
Having polished off his memoir “Uncross Your Legs” and hired an agent, Herman hopes to release it next year. The title refers to the refrain that photographers shout as the lights go down at the start of a fashion show. Writing it was the easiest part, deciding where it should go and wondering how people will react to it are the hardest parts, Herman said. The two-year slowdown caused by the pandemic gave him the opportunity to get it done. “I had started many years ago. It was a hiccup that didn’t quite work. People said, ‘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 all about me.”