Terron Schaefer of SAKS Fifth Avenue: The Real Fashion Star


“All of my clothes are cut on the same pattern and very easy to wear. I could get dressed in the dark and know that I’ll look appropriate.”

They say that clothes make the man, and no one knows that better than Terron Schaefer, the bitterly honest head buyer on NBC’s Fashion Star and creative genius behind Saks Fifth Avenue. As Executive Vice President and Chief Creative Officer, Schaefer is responsible for the branding and creative direction of the famous retailer, overseeing everything from the advertising campaigns to the seasonal catalogs, window displays and artful décor. “Everything that we do visually,” explains the Brazilian native, gesturing at a massive chandelier made from the branches of a weeping willow tree on the store’s designer floor. “The carpets are very special too because they are Tibetan tiger skins and they bring good luck. They were woven especially for the space.”

As Schaefer mills about the luxury labels pointing out this season’s fashion trends—motorcycle jackets, botanical prints and Asian designs— he can’t escape the gaze of a gaggle of young women, who undoubtedly recognize him from the primetime style show. “It’s the surprising power of television,” Schaefer admits, a bit embarrassed by the attention. “I walk down Fifth Avenue and people give me the thumbs up. I don’t even know what that means.”

Despite the throngs of tourists that stop Schaefer on the street to ask for his autograph, he admits that a viewer recently confronted him about his ultra-casual weekend attire. “I was wearing sweatpants while I was walking around and somebody came up to me and said that they expected more of me. I was mortified,” he reveals. “I couldn’t believe that somebody spotted me on the street and told me that I should be dressed better!”Page-2-Image-1

But today, clad in a charcoal grey bespoke suit accented with a bright yellow pocket square and an IBU Jewelry Lapel Pin, Schaefer looks like a true fashion star. “Yves Saint Laurent said it best: fashion fades, style is eternal. I had a suit on yesterday that is 20 years old and it looks almost as good as it did the day I bought it,” he says. “It’s just a beautiful fabric with good details and beautiful buttons. All of my clothes are cut on the same pattern and very easy to wear. I could get dressed in the dark and know that I’ll look appropriate.”

It’s this sort of confidence that has made Schaefer such a force to be reckoned with throughout his illustrious career. Prior to joining Saks in 2004, Schaefer served as the Senior Vice President of Marketing for Warner Bros. Worldwide, where he spearheaded the creation of the studio’s international retail corporate identity program. He’s also won awards for his branding, product positioning and advertising campaigns for clients such as Heinz, Polaroid and Chanel and world-class organizations like Bloomingdale’s, Harrods and Macy’s. But it’s his time spent at Saks, launching the careers of new and young designers, from which he derives the most pleasure. “Well, we have to,” he explains. “When you consider the age of people like Mr. Armani, Mr. Lagerfeld, Mr. Valentino and Mr. Cavalli who are all in their 60’s and beyond. Who is going to replace all of these older designers?”

“Saks has launched the careers of people like Carolina Herrera, Marc Jacobs and Haider Ackermann,” he continues, noting that the store carries the collection of the show’s first season winner, Kara Laricks, online. “I’m very protective of Kara because I was involved in the selection process. It’s a gratifying thing to help launch the careers of young designers. The future is where it’s at. You can’t live in the past.”

When Schaefer isn’t working, he likes to jet off to Brazil for rest, relaxation and plenty of surfing. “It’s such a different place that has nothing to do with fashion,” he says with a smile. “It’s all about the beach. There’s so much color and energy. And everybody seems to be happy. People that have nothing still seem to smile.”