This story first appeared in BLack Magazine issue 26, although the shoot attached here is entirely new:
Photographer, fashion, hair and make-up : David K. Shields
Intro and interview; Zeenat Wilkinson
Jeremy Hershan first emerged in the men’s fashion scene in 2009 when he was
appointed as an assistant menswear designer at Savile Row’s Gieves & Hawkes.
Since then, the designer has become renowned for his aesthetics towards fine
Born into a family of migrant European tailors, dressmakers, and milliners,
Jeremy’s passion for clothing formalised with his training at RMIT University in
Melbourne. He then moved to Paris to complete an apprenticeship with Kris Van
Assche, Artistic Director of Dior Homme. This was followed by a four-year tenure
at Alfred Dunhill where Jeremy added a new energy and modernity to the
formalwear offer of Dunhill luxury maison. And now, he is the newly appointed
Head of Design at R.M. Williams.
Looking back at his connection with R.M.Williams, Jeremy says, “My boots have
taken me everywhere. I’ve always been a customer and admirer of the brand, but
my career to date has been focused in the UK and Europe. This role actually
brought me back.”
For Jeremy, his first collection as Head of Design was all about going back to the
heart of the brand’s DNA—heritage and craftsmanship. He looked at the
photograph of Max Dupain, who truly captured the masculine entrepreneurial
characters right from the 30s to the 70s, setting as a reference for Jeremy’s designs.
Zeenat: Which facets of fashion and design do you love the most?
Jeremy: The transformative power of clothing and the ability to build a world around
Z: How did your apprenticeships in Paris help shape you as a designer?
J: Being a young Australian apprentice in a French speaking house was
definitely character building. I was fortunate to spend a year shadowing Kris
Van Assche (Creative Director of Dior Homme) and his team, playing a part in
the creative process from concept to runway. It definitely helped shape my
identity as a designer and instilled in me a sense of rigour and a desire to always
remain true to my vision.
Zeenat: What sort of impact would you like to generate through your work?
Jeremy: To create honest, well-crafted product with timeless appeal. There is so much
that is disposable in this day and age, and it is incredibly important to me to
create high-quality, well-considered pieces that people want to hold on to and
ideally hand on to their children.
Z: What is the most important lesson you have learned about the fashion
J: Your first ideas are often the best, and there are often many distractions along
the way, so it is important that while letting ideas breathe and evolve, you stay
true to your course.
Z: What was the first thing you did when you were appointed as Head of Design
J:. The first thing I did when I joined the brand was head to the workshop in
Adelaide to spend time with our master craftsmen and women. From there, I
took a 4WD up to the Flinders Ranges to the birthplace of the brand. I camped
out, took in spiritual and geological trails, and covered a lot of lonesome
highways. I drank in the colours, the light, the smells, and the unique landscape.
I also spent time in the archive above our historic flagship store at Percy Street
in Adelaide, digging through the dust to find information and details to breathe
new life into.
Z: What aspect of designing at R.M. Williams is most important to you?
J: Ensuring there is a certain quality in everything we do. The boots have always
stood for a high level of craftsmanship, so for me, it is important we take this
approach with every other product we design and develop. A lot of attention is
paid to materials. I have looked to Australian yarn suppliers where the yarn is
traceable to the flock and introduced several heritage mills from the UK, USA,
and Italy to create timeless pieces with provenance.
Z:. How do you compare the way in which (Australian heritage brands such as)
R.M. Williams operate to the fashion houses in Europe?
J: R.M. Williams is a grassroots company, and we still have grit under our nails.
Our boots are made by hand; the same way they were more than 80 years ago.
We also have people in the business who have been part of the brand for more
than 40 years. There is a tremendous history and an incredible amount of respect
for this among the employees. In this sense, we share a similar approach to many
of the great fashion houses of the world that also have a rich history and a desire
to preserve this.
Z: Who is the most inspiring person in fashion (or business of fashion) today and
J: I am fortunate to have had some great mentors over the years, including
Veronique Branquinho, Kris Van Assche, and most recently, working under John
Ray at Alfred Dunhill, which was a great privilege.
Z: What is new at R.M. Williams for next season?
J: A story around the round toe work boot handcrafted in Adelaide from a
beautiful waxed roughout leather sourced in Italy. There is a strong focus on
outerwear with a new line of Drover-inspired oilskin coats crafted from British
dry waxed cotton. I am also pretty excited about our heritage-inspired Rider
jacket and five-pocket trousers made from 18oz moleskin, woven by a military
contractor in Victoria. It is a truly amazing cloth and supposedly snake-bite proof!
This Collection AW 17 can be purchased now in Auckland at the RM WILLIAMS pop up store in Ponsonby Central Shop 4D, 136 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby, Auckland