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Hub designer driven by deep passion for fashion

Allison V. Kelso
Hub designer driven by deep passion for fashion

Daniel Hernández (foreground, right) was just 23 years old when he founded DH Studios Inc. in 1997. In the 12 years since, the Colombian-born, Back Bay-based fashion designer and entrepreneur has won accolades for both his business acumen and his Details de Couture clothing collections. (JJ Miller Design jjmillerdesign.com photo)

Designer Daniel Hernández unveiled his 2009-2010 collection, titled Androgynoux, during a fashion showcase held Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2009, at his Back Bay studio as part of Boston Fashion Week. The collection contains a dozen pieces that he says merge the masculine and the feminine, and all feature a distinct fabric — black melted plastic — in some form. (JJ Miller Design jjmillerdesign.com photo)

Daniel Hernández crouched in front of a model in his Back Bay studio. In one hand he clasped a needle, which he wove in and out of the black dress before him, gathering fabric just so. After a moment, he leaned back to evaluate his progress.

“I think that works a little bit better,” he said, returning to his stitching.

Behind him stood a makeshift runway and seating for his fashion show, held during Boston Fashion Week, where the dress he labored over made its debut. Adjacent to the setup is his hair salon. Several clients waited as their highlights set, talking amongst themselves.

In the back is Hernández’s office and workspace. Scraps of fabric were strewn across the table, and a corner shelf held bottles from the designer’s line of hair and skin products.

This is DH Studios Inc. — salon, fashion studio and beauty product source, all in one.

Hernández founded his company on May 27, 1997, a date he pulled from memory without a moment’s hesitation. At the time, he was 23 years old.

“I’ll never forget that day,” said Hernández, now 35. “I just remember making a big fuss about it … I mean, it’s kind of a big deal.”

DH Studios Inc. includes all aspects of Hernández’s business, including his Details de Couture fashion line, which he has been producing since the advent of Boston Fashion Week in 1995. His current collection represents more than 10 months of work.

“For this collection, I’m not thinking sellable. I’m thinking creative,” Hernández said. “When things get worse, it’s when you need to be really creative … [to] come out of your shell.”

For Hernández, that meant creating his 2009-2010 collection, Androgynoux, which contains a dozen pieces that merge the masculine and feminine. All 12 utilize a distinct fabric: black melted plastic.

“One day I decided to try it and I fell in love with this stuff,” Hernández said.

He uses the plastic as a motif — it mostly appears in subtler forms, as an accent on each piece. He did create one item, though, which is almost entirely composed of the plastic: a corset-like top with lace and Swarovski crystals.

“Isn’t it cool?” Hernández said excitedly.

The plastic is easy to manipulate, mimics the texture of other fabrics and is machine-washable.

“I’m working with materials that I’ve never seen people use,” he said.

Hernández found inspiration for his new line while learning about feminism. The collection reflects that sense of strength.

“It’s supposed to … empower women,” he said.

The Androgynoux line also includes men’s pieces, however, marking the first time that a Hernández collection has featured clothing for both genders.

Longtime friend Erlyn Ordinario, manager of Sorbus Group, a media solutions and services company, said Hernández’s work has always sought to personalize fashion and speak to each client’s specific needs.

“I think he has this vision of how to create a wonderful image for different types of individuals … He cares about the individual,” she said. “He wants to make them look and feel good.”

Ordinario owns several pieces from Hernández’s previous collections, mostly professional clothing. She said he understands which style suits each woman’s personality and which designs flatter each body type.

“He can look at you and basically tell you what your needs are and help you [address] them,” she said.

Ordinario’s company, Sorbus Group, is one of the companies that sponsored Hernández’s most recent show.

“We were happy to do that, to support him in his endeavors,” she said.

Sorbus Group is one of many companies that have supported Hernández’s line; in fact, he was recently recognized by the organizers of Boston Fashion Week, who presented him with an Eye on Style Vision Award. He was also selected as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s 2003 Young Entrepreneur for Massachusetts and New England.

Munjeet Geyer, a model with the locally-based agency Maggie Inc., said she has participated in several of Hernández’s shows and watched him grow as a designer.

“We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve played,” she said with a chuckle. “I let him talk me into [fake] lashes that looked awful.”

Geyer appeared in Hernández’s most recent show, held last Tuesday night, once again helping him present his collection to the Boston fashion community.

But Hernández was not always so established.

He moved from Colombia to Boston at age 9. He later attended Blaine Beauty School, now called Empire Beauty School, and became, he said, the youngest stylist and makeup artist on Newbury Street at age 17.

Building a strong client base, he was able to rent space from Salon 10 on Newbury to start his own business before eventually signing a lease for his current Clarendon Street location.

At the same time, Hernández began pursuing his love of fashion.

“The very first collection … was a project my grandmother and I put together,” Hernández recalled.

It was a spontaneous decision, but one that sparked immediate interest. He entered his work in a competition judged by the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, and earned the Alfred Fiandaca Award for Design and Excellence. The honor was a turning point for Hernández.

“I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” he said.

He moved on to the Fashion Institute of Technology and studied at their Paris branch for two years, flying back and forth from Europe to Boston in order to see clients.

Hernández is now settled in the Back Bay. He has his hands full, balancing his hair salon and fashion design while also teaching seminars on makeup and hairstyling through the Boston Center for Adult Education.

“My work is my social life, my everyday life,” Hernández said.

He attributed his success to perseverance. “When you stick to something for a few years, you get stuff done,” he said.

Diane Kidwell of Tableau Communications said she began representing Hernández because she was impressed with his business acumen, determination and style.

“Once I realized his talent, I said to him, more people should know about him,” Kidwell said. “I admire him as an entrepreneur, as a businessman.”

Hernández hopes to expand his business further by opening a retail store in the Boston area.

“I think I’m finally ready,” he said. “It’s time to grow.”

Hernández said he would like to create a positive experience for customers while still offering affordable clothing.

“Everything is either really expensive or it’s HandM,” he said. He sees his collection as a balance between the extremes; his pieces are priced from $35 to $115.

“I have a passion for it,” Hernández said. “And I don’t see myself doing anything else.”