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Hot Talent: Judy Swartz cuts tween fashions from a new cloth

Fashion-conscious girls may rely on the mary-kateandashley apparel line to fill their closets with trendy gear, but these fashionistas should really be tipping their fedoras to the pioneer of tween fashion, Judy Swartz.
August 1, 2004

Fashion-conscious girls may rely on the mary-kateandashley apparel line to fill their closets with trendy gear, but these fashionistas should really be tipping their fedoras to the pioneer of tween fashion, Judy Swartz.

Since 1995, Swartz has worked as a stylist both on- and off-screen for teen superstars Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, gradually working her way up to a VP position in the twins’ media conglomerate Dualstar Entertainment Group. But it was in the mid-’70s – years prior to the 2000 launch of the mary-kateandashley line in U.S. Wal-Mart stores – that Swartz had her first taste of celebrity design, creating jumpsuits for an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas while studying for her degree in fashion at the University of Nevada.

By the mid-’80s, Swartz had moved to L.A. and was offering free styling advice to photographers while raiding her girlfriends’ closets to pad a client wardrobe to help build her book. Some comp work for music video directors led to a slew of film and TV projects, including the fateful call 10 years ago to style Mary-Kate and Ashley for their home video releases. The rest, as they say, is history.

Because she understood the twins’ desire for funky, sophisticated clothes, Swartz’s role quickly expanded from styling the girls’ public appearances and home videos to working as head costume designer on their two TV series, Two of a Kind and So Little Time. ‘In the beginning, I looked for kids clothes that were really cool. But I couldn’t find anything, so we started buying adult clothes and cutting them down,’ she says. When Swartz began receiving letters from fans asking where they could purchase items from the girls’ wardrobe, the light bulb went on, and the adult-inspired tween clothing line was born.

Ironically, today it’s adults who ask Swartz where they can buy mary-kateandashley clothes in their sizes. With Wal-Mart projecting U.S. sales to exceed US$500 million this year, Swartz is kept pretty busy creating, managing and developing more than 44 different product categories in the mary-kateandashley line. To keep the program fresh, she flies regularly to Europe and Japan to photograph the latest styles on the streets.

Plans are in the works for a young adult range, but for the moment, Swartz is concentrating on the spring/summer 2005 line, which will lean towards sherbet colors, girly clothes and plenty of bling.

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