Jay Calderin

Reflections on the ideas behind fashion that place it at the center of my life’s work.

Everything I ever really needed to know about fashion I learned from WOMEN

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Being a man I’m certain that I have benefited from many advantages, some that I wasn’t even aware of, due to my gender. Hindsight, however, has helped me realize that my biggest advantage as both a man and a fashion professional was living in a woman’s world. At every formative stage of my life, I was surrounded and influenced by incredible women. Each woman’s unique relationship to fashion taught me how complex fashion actually is. That process is ongoing. It has helped me evolve, remain relevant and allowed my work to accurately reflect my times.

Always in the Service of Others

Even as a teenager when I was training to become a fashion designer, my mother measured my work with questions like, “Would anyone other than a model wear something that theatrical?” or “Have you thought about how comfortable that will be?” She challenged the way I looked at fashion and taught me one essential lesson about my work: If I was sincerely interested in dressing women, the work must serve a purpose to the consumer that goes beyond the designer’s personal creative expression.

Keeping Control of Quality

Mrs. Garofalo, Miss Trottman and Ms. Sweet were just a few of my instructors at the High School of Fashion Industries in New York – each a talented and seasoned industry professional. These ladies were the behind-the-scenes heroes in developing a new generation of fashion talent ever year. They encouraged us to always strive for excellence inside and out – a relationship based on respect for our work, the industry and ultimately the client. Being one of two male students in a class of thirty also helped me to appreciate fashion through the eyes of women.

Historic Heroines

History provided me with a powerful foundation of fashion visionaries. Everyone knows about Gabrielle ‘Coco’ Chanel, but it was two of her contemporaries who had greater influence on my design aesthetics. Madeleine Vionnet was a true innovator who first introduced the bias cut as a central design element, expanding the ways a garment could be draped. Elsa Schiaparelli was wit personified. Her collaborations with artists like Marcel Duchamp, Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dali and Man Ray elevated fashion to the level of art and social commentary.

Contemporary Couture

Established designers like Diane von Furstenberg, Donna Karan and Betsey Johnson continue to do exemplary work. The Mulleavy sisters are responsible for reinvigorating the Rodarte brand. Stella McCartney makes a difference and fashion with a company culture that includes organic materials and cruelty free products. Gwen Stefani infuses fashion with celebrity, music and style in her L.A.M.B collection. Anna Sui artfully combines culture, color and pattern in collages of couture. Isabel Toledo is now known for dressing First Lady Michelle Obama, but those who have followed her career appreciate her work for innovative pattern-work and singular vision.

Learn From Students

A teacher always learns from their pupils. Very few days pass that I don’t learn something from my students. I understood early on that I needed to design situations in which learning can flourish, while allowing students to express themselves. This provides an environment in which they contribute to keeping the subject alive, relevant and more often than not deliver the unexpected. With each semester comes a new group of women who bring youthful vigor, passion and curiosity to the study of fashion. Experience has proven that the subject is at its best when balanced by situations that empower them with knowledge and encourage positive self-esteem.

You Are Woman…

Everything I ever really needed to know about fashion, I learned from women. The women behind this man were instrumental in many of the important decisions throughout his career. (Sometimes they even let him think these choices were his idea.) Never doubt that there are men and other women listening, so be encouraged, as women, to find and share your unique fashion voice. Teach them a thing or two about what fashion means to you. Let your style roar.


Written by Jay Calderin for Color Magazine/March 2011


Written by jaycalderin

April 18, 2011 at 6:54 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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