One of fashion’s freshest stars, Henderson, 35, is a guy who spins charm and attitude into gold. Named 1990’s top new talent by the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America, his credo is simple: Make comfortable garments young people can afford. “I personally like to dress in jeans,” he says, “but whatever I wear, even a tuxedo, has to be comfortable. Being comfortable brings out the best of beauty.”
The bachelor’s own appeal owes as much to genes as to jeans. “Everyone in my family is good-looking,” says the California native. “When I was young, I always felt like the ugly duckling. My brothers were tall, and I was very short.” Now he’s 5’11” and supremely self-confident. Henderson, who quit premed because of “boredom,” attended New York City’s Parsons School of Design and then apprenticed to Calvin Klein, who taught him “to create clothes for the ideal American woman.” He launched his own line, priced in the $100-$400 range, in 1989 and the next year added the less expensive But Gordon collection (named after customers who complained, “But Gordon, I need it tomorrow!”). The reviews and revenues are anything but sew-sew. Klein praises Henderson’s “young, exciting” designs, which last year sold $6 million worth and were snapped up by clients such as Phoebe Cates and Jennifer Grey.
“There is always an element of the unexpected in beauty,” Henderson muses. “What I look for is inner confidence, a sense of style rather than the outer shell.”