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Altos de Chavón graduate, Hernan Lander is in Project Runway season 13! After winning a scholarship to attend Parsons the New School of Design in New York City, participating in various competitions, and winning numerous awards, we now look forward to seeing this successful designer in one of the most well-known reality television series in the world of fashion. 

This determined young man from San Pedro de Macorís, always knew what his calling was: Fashion Design. Hernan won the Silver Thimble award in the menswear category in his junior year in Parsons and in his senior year won the Gold Thimble award. He has worked for Velasco Couture and Donna Karan, as well as collaborated with Ralph Lauren and others. Stephen Kaplan, dean of studies at the Altos de Chavon School of Design describes Hernan Lander as the next Oscar de la Renta.

Project Runway, season 13 premiered last Thursday July 24th, and is on every Thursday on the Lifetime channel.

Hernan Lander on the premier of Project Runway, season 13

Hernan Lander, the next Oscar de la Renta – by Stephen Kaplan

Hernan Lander was unstoppable from the moment he entered the Altos de Chavón School of Design. He knew he would be at the top of his fashion class and he knew he would go to Parsons in New York, on a scholarship, and be a standout there as well. Hernan Lander knew he’d be a fashion designer in New York. No crystal ball, he was just sure.

He was more than just a student of Chavón’s legendary fashion teacher, Natasha Serrata, he was a disciple. His design ability was producing cutting edge croquis and he worked tirelessly at learning every aspect of fashion design. His fashion illustrations were the work of a professional, his concepts were filled with contemporary images, his silhouettes… were classic references to Hollywood goddesses of cinema, updated. The sensual, the blatant sexually aggressive designs were well presented, meticulously documented, elaborated by his left hand into prototypes, and his ability to imagine the flats for these complicated garments… and do the patterns was almost uncanny.

Then there was Hernan the student, full of energy, loved by all, even those who feared he would sweep away the scholarship that they, too, had set their sights on. Hernan is the optimist’s optimist. I remember telling him that as a university in the United States there would be little or no chance for him to win a scholarship if he didn’t have mastery of the English language. How would he write papers, do readings, we all stressed that studying fashion in New York at a university level program was going to require English. His belief in magical thinking and deus ex machina had him convinced that when the recruiters from Parsons came around, in April, they would be so dumbstruck by his portfolio, a masterful piece of work, that he wouldn’t need to speak a word, at least not a word in English. In fact they reported that he chattered away, in Spanish, assuming they would magically understand. They adored his work. Unfortunately there was no possibility that he’d attend Parsons speaking no English. The only way was for him to pass the TOEFL exam, a test of English proficiency as daunting for Hernan as inter-galactic space travel.

He was destroyed when he was not given the scholarship because he couldn’t communicate in English. Yet there was a loophole, there was the chance of going to New York and studying English at Parsons, taking a few classes at night in fashion, and then applying for the full-time, matriculated program. That might work. How would he go from zero, from sub-zero English in a year, to enter the regular program the following September semester? Hernan did it. He did it in six months. He learned enough English to be admitted as a fully matriculated Parsons fashion student.

The fashion department adored him. He turned-in at least three solutions to every homework assignment, as he had done in Chavón. His work ethic borders on fanaticism. The ardor this young designer showed his peers and the instructors was unparalleled. He was also mixing with other established designers, Chavón graduate Rogelio Velasco several years Herman’s senior and Natasha Serrata his Chavón teacher were guiding him forward. But it was, and still is, the momentum of his jostling for a place in the most competitive area of design, the world of fashion that has made him the rising star he is today. And in New york, harder still.

When I wrote the letter to the visa division, to the officials who had rejected his idea of going to New York to learn English at Parsons as a preamble to studying there, (he could learn English at an institute in Santo Domingo, and reapply to Parsons at a future date, they said). We were sure it was futile to try again, it was over. Armed with my letter he was given an unprecedented second interview; in the letter I said that he was most likely the next Oscar de la Renta. The rejection was overturned and he gained the access that has carried him far.

If you would like to visit the official website of Hernan Lander click here and for his Project Runway page click here.