Dominican designer Hernan Lander was inspired by the 2010 earthquake in Haiti to create stunning designs meant for confident women. (Photo/Courtesy Hernan Lander)

New York Fashion Week: Designer Hernan Lander connects with family through fashion

Hernan Lander may not be a household name just yet, but the young Dominican designer is well on his way with a new collection that drapes a woman’s curves just so, with a craftsmanship that his abuelita would be proud of.

“My grandmother has always been my greatest inspiration,” says Lander, whose designs have been worn by celebrities including Angelina Jolie, Toni Braxton, Olivia Munn and singer Ashanti. “She taught me how to sew and make the feminine body the primary focus of any design.”

Growing up in the Dominican Republic, Lander says he always wanted to become a fashion designer and while in his teens, received a full scholarship to study at Parsons New School for Design in New York City. Armed with the sophisticated sewing skills he learned from his grandmother, Lander earned several awards for his creations before landing an internship with renowned design house Velasco Couture. It was under Velasco Couture founder Rogelio Velasco that Lander cultivated his pattern making skills – an experience, Lander credits, with igniting his desire to launch a contemporary line.

“Rogelio showed me that I had the potential to make my creative vision a business,” recalls Lander, who,  under the Mexican designer, collaborated with fashion labels Proenza Schouler, Ralph Lauren and Derek Lam. “As an artist, making your work profitable isn’t necessarily an easy thing to do.”

Lander – who was named a finalist in the Gap Design competition and was awarded won first place in the Nordstrom Competition, where his student collection was sold – worked for Donna Karan as a fashion designer until launching his self-titled line in 2008.

“I knew that I wasn’t going to move forward creatively until I was on my own,” comments Lander, who says his collection is intended for confident women with an abundance of personality. “It was incredibly scary, but I had the full support of my family – no matter what, I knew they believed in me.”

Lander’s love of family has inspired his Fall/Winter 2013 collection, which the designer is showing at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City. He says he was inspired by the devastation of the 2010 earthquake and by his beloved grandfather’s passing to create a collection that projected his belief that pain impacts all equally; it knows no discrimination.

“The earthquake really inspired me to take action; you saw how many people were hungry and suffering,” explains Lander. “Their pain was my pain and my grandfather’s death added to that. Pain affects everyone regardless of skin tone.”

With that in mind, Lander’s newest collection is designed by flesh tones – beige, rose, black, brown and honey – with pleated detailing reminiscent of muscles and the body’s construction. With silks, wool and leather, Lander hopes to inspire a sense of femininity and self-awareness in those that wear his designs.

“Passion and emotion motivated me to create my collection,” says Lander, who sewed one of his favorite designs, a leather dress, entirely by hand.

“Whether she wears my dresses on the red carpet or at work, I hope the woman who wears my clothes senses that.”

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