In the fall of 1991, soon after earning a bachelor's degree with honors in advertising at Art Center College of Design in California, Stig Harder moved to New York City where he became the art director at New York's legendary nightclub Limelight.
The year after, Harder moved to Germany where he applied his design skills to change the look of the nightclub scene in Munich. Fascinated by the instant, global distribution of information via fax machines — a full year before he learned about the Internet in cyberpunk magazine Mondo 2000 — he proposed to one of Europe's largest publishers, Burda, the creation of a magazine distributed solely by fax transmissions.
Stig Harder moved to Paris in May 1994 and after two months of designing CD covers for the major record labels there, he bought a 9,600 baud modem at electronics retailer FNAC and decided to embrace the Internet. Very slow and not very pretty at the time, the Internet was a nascent framework within which Stig Harder could build his vision of an instant, world wide media platform.
With a lack of Internet Service Providers in Paris at the time, Harder connected to the Internet by having his modem dial up The Well in San Francisco. Looking for an opportunity to launch a publication online, he searched the world's only search engine at the time, akebono.stanford.edu (a single computer in the dormitory of the two founders of Yahoo), for various words, including "fashion," which returned no relevant results. Living in Paris and knowing the impact it would make in the media, he registered "fashion.net" at InterNIC and started designing what would soon be known worldwide as the world's very first fashion site, sparking the opinion leaders at traditional media outlets to dismiss their earlier predictions of the Internet being nothing but a fad.
FASHION NET — a search engine with nothing to search — pioneered the field by creating the official sites for fashion companies, including model agencies Wilhelmina and Elite Models, thus setting off a virtual chain effect that would bring the whole fashion world to what was then termed the World Wide Web.
Soon after FASHION NET's launch in January 1995, Harper's Bazaar informed its readers "The web address for all this fabulousness is fashion.net."
In October the same year, Stig Harder launched Lumière — the world's first online fashion magazine and also the first magazine to be officially granted permission to cover the fashion shows on the Internet by the Chambre Syndicale du Prêt-à-Porter des Couturiers et des Créateurs de Mode, the industry's regulating body.
Headed by fashion luminaries Stephen Todd, editor, and Thomas Lenthal, art director — both the founding editorial team of Numéro Magazine — Lumière inspired the fashion world to bring their own publications online. TIME Magazine wrote, "Lumière, which dresses in black, gives haughtier attitude and appears to enjoy the best access to fashion's most haute echelons."
In 1996, DoubleClick — the world's first ad network — made fashion.net a founding member. Soon, major fashion brands and publications like vogue.com, and later elle.com and style.com, had their initial traffic sourced from fashion.net.
Coinciding with FASHION NET’s 20th anniversary, the annual FASHION NET Awards were established in 2015 by Stig Harder in order to encourage, recognize and celebrate excellence and vision across the industry "as fashion and technology combine to redefine the visual landscape of our imminent future." Winners at the inaugural, exclusively online event included Tom Ford, Kendall Jenner, Saint Laurent and Vivienne Westwood.
In April 2016, Harder founded the ACADEMY OF FASHION ARTS AND SCIENCES (AOFAAS), now a Public Benefit Corporation, whose executive members, composed of prominent leaders and influencers in the fashion industry, select the nominees and winners for the ACADEMY OF FASHION AWARDS® (originally the FASHION NET Awards).
“A TREMENDOUS HONOR” — Tom Ford
“THIS MEANS A LOT TO US” — Gucci CEO Marco Bizzarri
“FANTASTIC!” — Diesel Founder Renzo Rosso
Stig Harder, a permanent resident of the US, is a vegan and a certified pilot. He's an executive member of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences along with luminaries including Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, Huffington Post co-founder Arianna Huffington and internet pioneer Vint Cerf as well as a judge for the Webby Awards.