Creating and adapting a legacy - Jennifer Hercman

We’ve alluded to the idea of legacy before. Something that continues on long after, whether a sentiment passed down from generation to generation, a physical object, or a “my mother used to do that…” moment. But what does legacy really mean?  It’s a story not to be forgotten, or an important moment in the past that guides us to make better decisions in the future.

A legacy moment can also happen everyday - whether we recognize it or not. This is what helps to shape the future generations that we’ve each had a hand in creating one way or another. We met Jennifer Hercman back in March of this year, and soon came to realize that, as a customer and part of our legacy, she had been paving the way for future generations in another way. 

Once we learned her story, it made our brand founder, Lydia see how many ways the women in our families and lives support our ultimate trajectory for the better. And, how this deep connection with her family led her to a new frontier in design in her professional life.  Jenn is the Executive Director of Adaptive Design (ADA), an organization founded in 1998 to reform how we react to and treat people living with disabilities. 


What does Mother Oxford as a brand mean to you?

I immediately thought of my mom when I first learned about MO. She is a classic do-it-all hands on daughter, mother and grammy. A shirt that can look great at the end of long day of Grammy duty is the perfect wardrobe must have for her. 


What are some favorite activities you do together as a Mother/Daughter duo? My absolute favorite activity is watching my mom and daughter play together. When my 3-year-old was born my husband bought the three of us (my mom, me and my daughter) matching friendship bracelets with our initials. It grounds me and reminds me what came before and what awaits us. 


Do you share the same style sensibility? If so, how?

Oh yes. It started when in 7th grade I grew into my moms shoes size. That opened my eyes to the possibility of sharing everything. With two brothers, I never had the sister sharing experience so my mom and my aunt became my style gurus. I like to call what I've morphed their style sense to my own as Ath Dressy.


How do you style your MO differently from each other?

It’s magically roomy where each of us need it to be. The cut works well for mom wanting to hide her assets while I like to back-tuck mine. I've always enjoyed not covering my behind, and love a long, untucked, roomy fit in front. 

My MO is the perfect armor at home and at work. At work I feel confident moving in and out of workshop space and professional meetings without the fear of cardboard dust or paint 'decorating' my garb. At home, and on the weekends when I'm feeling spent from a long week but want to feel chic, it’s the perfect go-to shirt.

How did you get involved in Adaptive Design - what about your career led you there, or what inspired you to go into nonprofit work?
Here is a little bit about me: After graduating from NYU, I married my high school sweetheart, Itamar, moved to Providence, RI, and attended RISD’s grad program for Teaching + Learning in Art + Design. There I took acting classes, built curriculum, & explored questions about empathy, perspective, and inclusion in art. I began to recognize design in unexpected places, noticing the difference design could make. My post-grad work @ProjectOpenDoor, a program offering urban teens in RI free art & design programs, was my first official management experience and step into the mission-oriented world of nonprofits.

Abruptly, my husband’s medical training took us to a small Caribbean island for 1.5 years where employment was scarce and an active lifestyle was essential. There I completed Dominica’s @Waitukubuli.National.Trail,114 miles of rainforest-covered volcanic mountains. Returning to NYC was a challenge after the pace and culture in the Carribean but, grounded in health, wellness, and commitment to social impact, I discovered Adaptive Design Association (ADA) in NYC and joined the team. From the moment I found the place, I thought of it as an oasis of creativity, collaboration, and interdisciplinary work in the bustling garment district.


How has Adaptive Design changed your view on what type of community we can build by coming together as one?

I lead an interdisciplinary team creating adaptive devices so all kids can participate fully and meet their developmental milestones. It's a privilege to work in a place where design, access, community, altruism, and education coalesce.  I want the world to know the mission of ADA, but also its integrity in pursuit of that mission. There is healing energy at ADA, where everyone gives as much as they get and where everyone belongs.


How do you see other women gather or connect, and how is it different for you, your family and friends? Who makes up your community?

I give, share and love through hosting. It's an absolute joy of mine to provide solace to women around my table - literal or figurative. As I journey through life, I truly feel every woman has something special to offer as a role model.


Are you the type of family to gather?

Totally. Ever since I can remember weekends were dedicated to gathering as a family. Early sunday morning us kids were woken up to get a move on to a family gathering. Whether at home or at a relatives, activities usually centered around a large dining table and kitchen.


How have you had to adjust these activities given the current climate, and what has that meant for your relationships?

Not hugging has been the hardest part. We are such a snuggly family and gather so much strength from long enduring embraces. It has challenged us to think outside our traditional hangouts. With no places to run to or no food to set up we have become much more accustomed to sitting and enjoying each other in a much more raw way. Sometimes that means sitting silently and sometimes it means pushing to new limits in dialogue that our otherwise busy selves may not have taken the time to share. 


The Adaptive Design values statement mentions instigating a revolutionary shift by nurturing communities. What is your hope for future generations? My hope is that Adaptive Design can help nudge our society to leave behind the medical model of disability and in its place evolve into a culture of creative and collective problem solving for an entire inclusivity.


Adaptive Design Association creates low-cost or no-cost custom equipment for people with disabilities in a landscape of expensive commercial products. They use accessible cardboard building techniques in the workshop space and rely on help from our volunteer community. They encourage that with simple tools, affordable materials and creative ideas everyone can build user-specific adaptations.