This article is part of a series of interviews conducted by LIM students with winners of the Accessories Council's 2019 Design Excellence Awards (DEA). Students are enrolled in Fashion Merchandising Professor Andrea Kennedy's Introduction to the Fashion Business class.
Started in 1923 by Edgar and Theresa Hyman, Echo is a family-run business that specializes in designing and producing scarves and fashion accessories. They are known for their intricate prints, exotic patterns, and variety of colors. Echo recently won a Design Excellence Award from the Accessories Council for their Tassel Rhapsody Scarf. We had the privilege to sit down with Echo’s Vice President of Communications, and the founders’ granddaughter, Lynn Roberts to discuss this award-winning scarf and their amazing company.
Please tell us about your background in the industry and how you came to Echo?
When I went to school in St. Louis, I owned relatively few clothes and wasn’t particularly interested in fashion. However, I landed a job in sales at Honeybee, a small women’s specialty store in the Midwest. When I interviewed for the job, they asked if I had other clothes, because I wore painter pants and a plaid shirt. I immediately called my father, and he let me go buy two outfits. I worked there for a few years throughout college and ended up liking fashion.
Immediately after college, I ended up getting a job at Harper’s Bazaar in the editorial credit department. That’s how I got into the fashion area a little bit. I had been there nine months when a buyer said to my dad, “Lynn would be so great doing this—why doesn’t she work in the business?” So I ended up leaving Harper’s Bazaar and joining the family business.
What are your duties as Vice President of Communications?
I oversee internal and external communications. I’m the one who communicates with media outlets and PR firms. We must always communicate a consistent message.
What is your favorite Echo product and why?
This is a hard one; I have so many because we have so many categories. As you look around the showroom, we have scarves, cover-ups, hats, bags, beach dresses, cold weather products, we have so many things. Every single one of our gloves has touch technology.
We read that some of your clients include Coach, Brooks Brothers, The Met, and MoMA. Can you tell us about the accessories you produce for these clients?
For Brooks, we are one of their core umbrella partners. We make beautiful umbrellas for them that use branded, printed and woven canopies and the best technologies. For Coach, we make their printed and woven scarves (including many with 30+ screens), socks, and more. Over the years, we’ve created beautiful scarves for prestigious museums that also include the Art Institute of Chicago, Fine Arts Boston, and The Smithsonian, where our custom design business actually began.
At The Met, we have done many of their shoe scarves, Fabergè egg scarves, and Toulouse-Lautrec scarves. For MoMA, we have done many Frank Lloyd Wright scarves as well as some of their artist scarves, a few of which we’re working on right now.
Echo is a very diverse company that is known for its vibrant, patterned scarves and accessories. Who would you say is your target consumer?
Our customers are not a specific age, but more a psychographic and state of mind. They’re worldly and interested in culture, theater, music, and travel. They are interested in fashion, but it’s not this all-consuming thing that they have to dress head-to-toe in one designer. They want to express themselves and their individuality.
Edgar and Theresa Hyman started this company together 96 years ago. Do you feel the family aspect of the company has been upheld throughout the years?
Definitely, I do. The family aspect is such a warm culture here. Even though people might not be “related,” it’s like one big family. I think the nature of a family business allows us to think long term.
How does the design group create an idea for a new scarf? And how is that idea executed?
The design team travels the world for inspiration. They subscribe to different trend forecasting reports and bring back ideas and create stories to tell them visually. Everything is merchandised; then the scarf is worked on, then sketched and colored. Most people think that the process is very quick, but it’s actually a long process.
Please tell us about your Design Excellence Award winning scarf—the Echo Tassel Rhapsody. What was the inspiration for the great print design and colors?
The Tassel Rhapsody scarf was inspired by travels to Tibet, roaming through its markets, breathing in and absorbing colors, patterns, and textures of the local art and craftsmanship. The tassel has always been a symbol of power and prestige.
What advice would you give to us as fashion students? How should we navigate to grow professionally in this business?Network and get as many internships as possible. If you’re interviewing for a job, do your homework and research the company you’re meeting with. If at first you don’t love what you’re doing, keep following your passion and try new things. You could end up doing something you never expected and loving it. Be a problem solver and a critical thinker. And I think what is most important today is to be creative.
Our discussion with Lynn allowed us to really get a feel for Echo’s family environment. Her mom even stopped by, who has been working with the company for nearly 70 years! Lynn gave us a tour of the showroom, and all the products were breathtaking. Each design is so unique. At the end of our interview, Lynn gifted us with scarves of our own, and we could not be more thankful.