Designer adds global flair to Atlanta’s Miss Universe moment

Dress designed by Aviad Arik Herman for Miss Universe Great Britain 2019. Photo: Lee Dare
Dress designed by Aviad Arik Herman for Miss Universe Great Britain 2019. Photo: Lee Dare

Designer specializes in dresses, national costumes for Miss Universe pageant.

Aviad Arik Herman is clutching a brown paper grocery bag as he makes his way through the atrium lounge of the Marriott Marquis Hotel in downtown Atlanta.

In the bag is a prop he has been working on to complement the gown he designed for Miss Great Britain, he explains. She will hold it up as she unveils her national costume during the Miss Universe 2019 competition, to be broadcast live on Fox and Telemundo from Atlanta’s Tyler Perry Studios on Sunday at 7 p.m.

Swedish dress designer Aviad Arik Herman. Rachel Herman-Gabrielli
Swedish dress designer Aviad Arik Herman. Rachel Herman-Gabrielli

Herman can barely make a step before he’s stopped and greeted by production crew, staff, family and friends of various contestants.

“Bongiorno amore,” he greeted a couple of smartly dressed Europeans with a kiss on each cheek. “Where did you get the cafe?” they ask in Italian. “It’s no caffè Italiano,” he said, with American coffee being a sore subject among the Miss Universe crew.

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Switching easily from Italian to Spanish to Swedish and German, Herman feels right at home among a pop-up global village of Miss Universe 2019 contestants’ crews, entourage, family and friends that represent some of the 90 contestants competing for the title this weekend.

“Although I’ve been designing gowns for Miss Sweden for the past eight years, and now Miss Great Britain, I’m still known as the Israeli designer,” he said.

Aviad Arik Herman designed this dress for Miss Universe Great Britain 2019. Contributed by Lee Dare
Aviad Arik Herman designed this dress for Miss Universe Great Britain 2019. Contributed by Lee Dare

The 36-year-old designer moved to Sweden from his native Israel more than 10 years ago to pursue a career in the arts as a dancer. Back then, design was only a hobby. But participating in a relatively unknown contest for young promising designers would soon change the trajectory of his career.

Dress design by Aviad Arik Herman for Miss Universe Austria 2016, Dajana Dzinic. Photo: Ines Thomsen
Dress design by Aviad Arik Herman for Miss Universe Austria 2016, Dajana Dzinic. Photo: Ines Thomsen

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His design did not win the contest but garnered the interest of the Miss Sweden Universe competition, who in turn offered Herman a role as their official design director.

“It is my mandate with Miss Sweden to come up with a concept and make it as thorough as I can on the artistic and conceptual level,” he explained.

Swedish celebrity Asa Vesterlund wore Aviad Arik Herman’s Dala Horse dress at the Swedish television awards in Stockholm. This gown was originally designed for Miss Universe Sweden. Contributed by Karin Trnblom and Olle Sporrong
Swedish celebrity Asa Vesterlund wore Aviad Arik Herman’s Dala Horse dress at the Swedish television awards in Stockholm. This gown was originally designed for Miss Universe Sweden. Contributed by Karin Trnblom and Olle Sporrong

This year’s design — an iridescent long-sleeved mini dress — pays homage to one of Sweden’s most iconic musicals and cultural legacies: ABBA.

“I wanted to design a dress that shows the cultural impact ABBA has had on the country, as we celebrate 40 years since they won the Eurovision title,” he explained.

Herman continues to travel to Israel for both personal and professional pursuits, and most recently outfitted the acclaimed production of “Mamma Mia” at the Habima Theater in Tel Aviv, creating some 300 retro costumes for all the performers.

This year, he also designed a unique national costume for the Miss Great Britain contestant, a dress that shares a political statement, he explained.

The national costume for Miss Universe Austria in 2016 had a theme from “The Sound of Music.” Contributed by Ines Thomsen
The national costume for Miss Universe Austria in 2016 had a theme from “The Sound of Music.” Contributed by Ines Thomsen

“The dress brings a very urgent political subject to the forefront,” he explained. Blue, green and white designs depicting melting glaciers, and London’s Big Ben submerged in water, represent Great Britain’s role in addressing the global climate warming issue.

Last May, following a visit to the United Kingdom’s Parliament by teenage activist Greta Thunberg, a bi-partisan UK Parliament passed an unprecedented measure declaring an environmental and climate emergency and making a commitment to reduce greenhouse carbon emission by 2050.

Miss Israel 2019 Noy Ben Artzi at the Miss Asia Pacific International competition, wearing Aviad Arik Herman s dress, celebrating tradition of Israeli folk dance. Photo: The Qrown Philippines
Miss Israel 2019 Noy Ben Artzi at the Miss Asia Pacific International competition, wearing Aviad Arik Herman s dress, celebrating tradition of Israeli folk dance. Photo: The Qrown Philippines

Herman takes out the prop from the brown paper bag, revealing a yellow plastic sphere with cut-out words “No Carbon Emissions 2050” framing a deflated plastic beach ball globe in the center. He created the earth to look very “sick” to show its vulnerable predicament in the face of rapidly changing temperatures.

Both Miss Great Britain and Miss Sweden’s dresses were created and produced in Israel, said Herman, who said he sources only the highest quality fabrics and embellishments for his designs.

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For this year’s competition, Herman said he’ll focus less on the outcome because his design and work are not about winning or losing.

“The girls will be on that stage anyway, and I want them to feel like they are the most special as contestants, that they stand out of the crowd from the more typical pageantry dresses,” he said.

ON TELEVISION

“Miss Universe 2019”

7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 8, 2019

Fox, Telemundo

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