This Young Designer is a Custom Fit for Success
Through UC's cooperative education program, fashion designer Maren Hartman has already landed some rockin' co-ops...and her next one will be with Stella McCartney in London.
Date: 7/21/2003 8:00:00 AMMaren Hartman designs dreams and then fulfills them.
By: Mary Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Andrew Higley
For instance, the fashion design senior will set off September 1 to work this fall in the London studios of designer Stella McCartney, whose line is part of the Gucci Group. Upon arrival, Maren, 23, will immediately weave herself into the hectic studio pace as McCartney prepares for the October Ready-to-Wear shows in Paris, displays that will set the styles for next spring.
“Stella’s assistant told me to be ready for a driven pace. It’s nothing but 12- to 15-hour days,” says Maren.
But that will be nothing new for this College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning student who has previously spent cooperative education quarters – cooperative education refers to the practice of alternating academic quarters with paid, professional employment related to a student’s major – working with New York designer Shoshanna Loenstein; with the HBO series Sex & The City; and with the House of Field in New York, the design firm that clothes music, film and television celebrities for performances, awards events and other public appearances.
Recalls Maren, “Sometimes with these co-ops, it’s been hard to keep calm at work every day. I’d be working with great, eclectic clothes from great lines. The vibes from the people in the industry were so high energy because it’s so high paced. Of course, secretly, I’d be so excited and eager to try the clothes on, the shoes on, but you just couldn’t. You had to stay really focused.”
And Maren has done just that. It’s no happy accident that she’s earned such stellar co-ops. Since she landed the first co-op with Loenstein, Maren, a resident of Montgomery (Cincinnati), has striven to be simply the best co-op student her employers ever had, all while looking ahead. “Nothing you do will stand on its own,” explains Maren, a 1998 graduate of St. Ursula Academy in Cincinnati. “You need to have talent and to work hard, and you also need to network and look ahead to where you want to be. I always had my next co-op lined up by the time I had completed the one I was on.”
That’s how Maren has stitched together such an impressive string of work experiences and competition wins that include traveling to Paris in December 2002 as the top U.S. finalist in the International Young Designers Fashion Competition.
In landing her first co-op with Loenstein in spring 2001, Maren emphasized both her fashion and drama background at UC. “I actually entered the university as a drama major in the College-Conservatory of Music and was there a year-and-a-half. About that time, I became restless, and I happened to travel with my mom to Paris. Suddenly, the direction of my life changed. I wanted to create fashion, and the UC fashion program with it’s co-op options was the perfect fit for me…So, for these New York firms so tied to the entertainment industry, I’ve explained that I knew a lot of what acting and drama were about first-hand, and I think that must have helped,” adds Maren.
She made the connection to Sex & The City because the show used bathing suits by Shoshanna Loenstein. “So, one day, I called the show’s chief costume designer. I got through because I said, ‘This is Maren with Shoshanna.’ I didn’t just call independently. When I got through to the designer, I made my pitch to co-op with the show. They invited me to come and talk, and I began my co-op there in the spring of 2002.”
While working for the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning Sex & The City, Maren met the owner for the House of Field who invited her to work for her firm. It was a very challenging environment, combining both glamour and sweat. Singers like Brittany Spears, Puff Daddy, Blu Cantrell and Eve would request elaborate garments for nationally televised programs on very short notice. That would mean taking measurements, designing and cutting patterns at a rapid pace and then fabricating the garments very, very quickly. Maren recalls, “Where we worked to sew the garments didn’t have air conditioning, and I’d literally roll up my sleeves all the way up my arms to stay as cool as possible.”
For example, Maren says Puff Daddy and a large group of dancers needed garments for the 2002 MTV video awards program. The garments were designed and completed all within one week. She also recalls rushing across town at 5 p.m. one day with a garment for singer Blu Cantrell to wear that very night at an 8 p.m. awards ceremony. “I got it to her hotel at 6:30 p.m., and there she was wearing it on national television at 8 p.m.,” states Maren, who also once served as the stylist for a magazine shoot of rap singer, Eve. “That was unbelievable. I kept saying to myself, ‘But I’m just a college student.’ But, she didn’t know that…and actually never did,” adds Maren.
It might seem that everything has come so easily, but Maren’s quick to point out that it’s not so. In her first attempt to work in Europe, something she wants to do long term once she graduates from UC in the spring of 2004, Maren knocked on dozens of doors, all of which were slammed in her face. She traveled to Paris in December of 2000, portfolio in hand to seek out a co-op. “I got turned down over and over again, every time. It was really hard. One day, I was visiting fashion houses in Paris. I was wearing high heels, carrying my portfolio and balancing an umbrella in the rain. I’d just come out of a fashion house where they wouldn’t even talk to me. I had quarter-sized blisters on my feet, and I just sat down on a step ready to cry. I tell people that I was a wilted flower.”
Maren sat there for a while thinking that this was like her days as a theater student. Only one person can get any one role, and in theater, you have to be strong enough to hear “no” a million times and face rejection day after day after day. “So, I got up from the step and got back on the subway, back to where I was staying. I started out again the next day…only in flatter shoes.”