ARLINGTON, Va. — Eileen Fisher has one important piece of advice for young designers facing first fashion show jitters: Remember to breathe.

This story first appeared in the May 7, 2012 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

“A little stress isn’t bad, it makes you focus,” Fisher said in an interview before accepting an award from Marymount University. “But too much stress is debilitating and disturbing, so breathe.”

The designer, who was feted as Fashion Designer of the Year at a reception and dinner on Thursday night as part of the college’s annual student fashion show, said she still gets nervous before shows and public appearances. Above all, she said, it’s vital not to get bogged down by potential failures.

“You have to be willing to make mistakes,” she said. “I always say to my kids, the reason I’ve been successful is just because I make more mistakes than most people.”

Fisher has taken her own advice to heart in how she runs her company. Before meetings, a chime sounds to prompt employees to take a breath and observe a moment of silence, she said. Fisher has also put the concepts of mindfulness and responsibility at the core of how her company operates, through social and environmental initiatives.

Fisher said she is looking forward to expanding further into other parts of the world. The company opened its first international stores last fall.

While attending a recent global conference about women’s issues in the Middle East, Fisher said she was inspired by the textiles and clothes she saw attendees wearing.

“The textiles are interesting, the women are interesting, the head scarves,” she recalled. “Something is interesting me about what it would mean to have a store there, to produce there.”

Fisher added that since her return, she’s been spending time “wondering about the global possibility of clothing” and how to connect with women around the world through how they dress. It wouldn’t be Fisher’s first international inspiration: It was the kimonos and other Japanese garments she saw almost 30 years ago that pushed her to shift from interior and graphic design to fashion.

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