Category Archives: Student Life

Influencers at FIT – Valerie Steele

Here at FIT we have a vast resource at our fingertips: the Museum at FIT (located below the Gladys Marcus library). In addition to the numerous exhibitions held every year, students also have access to the study collection where garments, accessories and textiles can be seen up close.  Valerie Steele is the curator of the Museum, a prolific fashion academic, and the editor of the journal Fashion Theory. I sat down with Ms. Steele to discuss her impressive history as well as the museum’s past and future:

Credit: Aaron Cobbett

Credit: Aaron Cobbett

This interview has been edited and condensed for publication


Since this interview is for the Admissions Blog, I wanted to ask you a little about your own education. What did you find most helpful about your university education?

Hmm…well, I’ve never been asked that before. I guess that the most important thing I learned, both as an undergraduate at Dartmouth and a graduate student at Yale, was how to do research–learning how to use primary research. I know when I used to teach in the graduate school here at FIT, that was something I pounded into the students, the difference between primary and secondary research. That was something I thought was especially important.

You said that while getting your PhD the study of fashion was really vilified. Being here in New York, which is one of the “big four” fashion capitals, and also being here at FIT one of the best design schools, it may seem like this has passed, but do you think there has actually been change outside of this bubble?

Well, I think fashion is much more accepted as a field of serious study. There are many more people around the world working on articles, books and exhibitions about fashion. On the other hand, there are still very few places that offer a doctorate in fashion studies. It is still very much an interdisciplinary field. So, if you want to go ahead and study fashion you still have to think, “Will I be in an art history department or history or cultural studies? Where can I find someplace to study that?”

And you never studied museum-ology or museum theory, so was it difficult to transition from academic writing to more creatively focused exhibitions?

It’s interesting you should ask that. My doctorate is in Modern European Cultural and Intellectual History, but I did every single class, except one, and my dissertation in the history of fashion. When I started teaching in the graduate school at FIT, it was in what was then the Museum Studies Costume and Textiles Department, now it is called Fashion and Textiles Studies: History, Theory and Museum Practice. So I was teaching fashion history, but within the framework of a museum studies program. Obviously it was exciting and new to actually be putting on exhibitions here. That was a big thrill. It is not that different from the kind of research you do for putting together a big article or a book. In fact, all my big exhibitions here are accompanied by a book as well, so it is the same kind of research procedure.

In that same vein, who do you see as the audience of the Museum at FIT, and how do you pique their interests?

Well, our audiences are multiple. Obviously the FIT community is one of our core audiences, and then people in fashion and design-related fields are another. A third is just the museum-going public, and that is very much an international public. So, we try to do shows that represent original research, but that are also accessible to people at all levels of sophistication. A lot of the FIT community or designers who come to shows really know a lot about fashion history and design so you have to give them more, extra in-depth things. But you also want to be accessible to people who walk in off the street. They might be anyone from a six-year-old to a grandma who might not know very much about fashion, but you have to intrigue them as well. That is the idea to try and present it in a way which is visually stimulating and exciting so that whether they know anything about the topic or if they bother to read anything, they can still get something out of the show.

I actually have noticed a lot of children when I am in the museum, and I am amazed they are not only interested, but they comment on stuff!

Oh they will! Absolutely! A colleague of mine brought her two-year-old son to the corset show, and she said he just sat down on the floor and gazed up at this Vivenne Westwood corset-dress. She thought it was wonderful, she said, “oh there he is fantasizing about the eternal feminine.”

What do you think the hardest part about developing a show is? Is it picking the topic or is it finding people to work with or…?

Oh, I don’t know if there is a “hardest” part. I think one of the challenges is actually getting your hands on the things you want to put in the show. You’ll do all kinds of research, and you’ll think, “Okay I want this dress, I want this dress…” but then you have to find out who owns that? And will they lend it to me? And how much will it cost to borrow it, how can I raise the money to borrow it? Et cetera, et cetera.

Well, that leads me into my next question. The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute collection is the only one, at least in New York, that can even compare to the one at the Museum at FIT. So what is your relationship with them, do you borrow and lend a lot for shows?

We do borrow and lend with them. I wouldn’t say a lot, but every few shows they will borrow something from us or we will borrow from them. Two pieces in the dance exhibition are from the Met, and we’re lending I think four pieces to their China exhibition which will open in the Spring.

So it is only a few pieces then. I guess you both have such huge collections neither of you need to borrow anything.

Well, it is interesting, we will borrow back and forth for a few key pieces, and both of us have a pretty good idea of what is in the other collection. We also borrow and lend from the Museum of the City of New York, which also has a fantastic collection. Most of the older things, for example, if there is a 19th century thing, we will try and borrow from them. We also loaned to their Stephen Burrows show a year ago.

Oh yes, I saw that show and I have to admit I was a little surprised. I didn’t think the Museum of the City of New York had that much fashion, but I guess they do.

Oh, they do! They have a really wonderful fashion collection.

Is there one specific exhibit that sticks out in your mind as being particularly exciting or difficult or just interesting for you?

Well, a couple. I loved working on Gothic: Dark Glamour. That was the first time we did a really immersive mise-en- scène with a graveyard, a laboratory, and a ruined castle and things. That was great fun, and I think good preparation for upcoming shows like our fairy tale show, which we will do in 2016 that will similarly have dramatic mise-en-scènes. And then, of course, A Queer History of Fashion won us a lot of prizes, particularly for the work that we did both in reaching out to the LGBT community and doing media online. I think that was also good preparation for remembering to focus on diversity themes in all of our shows and also remembering to emphasize media media media! It is a great way to reach out to people. Even if they cannot come in the door of the exhibition, they can still get information and images online.

Who writes for Fashion Theory, which is your journal?

It is mostly curators and professors and graduate students.

So is it mostly people you have met? Or do people apply?

No, no it is a peer-reviewed journal which means that people send things in, and then I have to find one or two experts in their field who will peer review it and say whether or not it is good enough to go in, or absolutely not, or can it go in only if they make x, y, z changes. It is much more prestigious and important for scholars to be published in a peer-reviewed journal than just a regular magazine.

I just wanted to introduce the readers to the Couture Council, because I think a lot of people don’t even know that it exists. And to be honest, I don’ t know that much about it because there isn’t that much information available.

Yes, the Couture Council is a friends group, which many museums have. It is a membership group; members pay $1,000 a year and young members under 35 pay $350 a year. They can come to various events, and the money–their membership fees along with the awards luncheon–help fund exhibitions, public programs and acquisitions for the museum. We get some money from corporations and foundations, but the Couture Council is nice because it is reliable. No matter what our show is about, whether it is a kooky one that we can’t get any corporate sponsors to fund, or it is controversial in some way, we know the Couture Council is there to help support all our exhibitions and all our public programs.

Lastly, is there anything you would like to do professionally that you haven’t had the chance to do yet?

Well, of course, if you had your own television show, you could reach a bigger audience. I do a lot of [appearances on] TV shows, but I think there is a lot more that could be done. Now, of course, television is becoming a bit outdated, so you really have to think in terms of the world-wide web. We have a new department specifically focusing on media and new initiatives. Many of the videos shown in the lobby are on the YouTube page. On YouTube there’s a little of this and a little of that. Each of the fashion exhibitions has its own website and we’re increasingly doing videos for those.

Yes, I have used the exhibition websites for information for some class projects. They are done really beautifully. Well, thank you so much for sitting down with me. It was a pleasure talking to you!

Of course, with pleasure! Thank you, it was nice talking to you!

–Emily–

Curious About the Dorms?

Wondering what the dorms are actually like? Take a look at some FIT student’s room tours!

Nagler:

Alumni:

Coed:

Kaufman:

How to Apply for Housing:

Hope that answers some questions!

–Emily–

How to Get Away with Finals

Hi Everyone,

Today is first day of the rest of my life (post-college). What I’m trying to say is, I’M DONE WITH FINALS! I just realised this means, no more homework, no more all-nighters, no more finals EVER (well at least until I do my Masters lol). What am I going to do with my life? (uhm I can think of a million things honestly). For starters I already signed a lease (wow growing up real quick) and went on one job interview (please keep your toes crossed). Seems like im settling down, right? I shall keep you guys updated with this breaking story (haha).

In the meanwhile for those of you, who still have some finals to go or have just started the first round of finals in your FIT lifecycle I have some words of wisdom I’d like to share. This post is mostly about how FIT helped me survive this week and how I myself nailed it.

1. Need some stress relief? Go to PET Therapy! Yes, you heard right puppies that will play with you and help you forget about everything (I just love FIT). Little fluff balls pouncing around waiting for a treat greeted you at the library. It was seriously a very popular event (I mean the line was 45 mins long) but completely worth it. Screen Shot 2014-12-10 at 9.36.15 PM

 

2. Treat yourself after completing that ridiculously long exam. What better than retail therapy, with a purpose? This year for the second time we launched the holiday pop-up shop made by VPED 3rd semester students in collaboration with The Society of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s thrift shop. Last year we raised $35K in just five days, this year we MUST break the record.

Pop-up-10

 

 

3. Just add water, literally haha. This week marks the special care package week where we students receive love from our parents and family in the form of food. The perfect survival kit in a box, for those moments when you just need to study. If you are loved you got one of those blue boxes, if you didn’t don’t fret there is always canned tuna salad in the vending machines (yeah, NO judgments allowed here).3676733c132e1f1158b4518a74dea28b

 

4. Holiday Lights will remind you it is ALMOST Christmas. That moment when you feel your head is about to explode, just walk out and get lost in the lights. There is something about these blue twinkly lights that promises there is light at the end of the tunnel.

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5. And my personal favorite is, study hard but be real. Whatever you didn’t learn in the past 4 months will not come magically to you overnight. Do study, but don’t die in the process. Sleeping is equally as important, because if you miss the alarm because you were too tired all that studying was just time lost.

Good luck with what’s left. And remember above all, have fun:10394782_801228603267000_6866632826051398557_n

Carpe Diem,

Sadie

All My Other Bags are Prada…

Seeing as this is a fashion school, form always trumps function, right? Well, not really. I scoured the best dressed and hardest working FIT students to see what are the pros and cons of their most important school accessory: the backpack (or satchel, or messenger bag, or tote, or purse, or…you get the idea).

The Backpack:

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 7.23.43 PMPros:

  • fits everything
  • comfortable
  • weather proof
  • your hands are free to do things
  • never have to ask someone to hold it
  • very durable

Cons:

  • it’s hard to get things quickly (i.e. wallet, phone, id, etc.)
  • it is not very safe – outside pockets are good for easily locating small things but are vulnerable to pick pockets
  • you have to take it off in the subway
  • you tend to knock things over when turning around
  • backpacks are not always extremely stylish – more utilitarian

The Purse:

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 7.23.56 PM Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 7.23.32 PMPros:

  • can use it to separate your personal items from school items
  • not as heavy/painful
  • small – not bulky
  • there are a lot of choices for everyone’s style

Cons:

  • small – doesn’t hold everything you need
  • often have to carry extra bags
    **every person I talked to with a purse said they only were using it because they didn’t have a class earlier that day

The Carry-All

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 7.23.22 PMPros:

  • can carry everything you could possibly need
  • don’t need extra bags
  • durable

Cons:

  • very utilitarian – not very stylish
  • pretty much every fashion design student uses it so it is not extremely personal
  • Gets used so much that it is hard to keep it in good shape
  • Hard to keep organized

Forget which brand of laundry detergent or what color bedding you should get. This is the important stuff to consider when packing for the new school year.

–Emily–

#FITCOMMUTER

Did you stop by the Dubinsky center lobby this morning? It’s Commuter week at FIT!! Today is Breakfast on the go! ( with free giveaways may I add!!.. Who doesn’t love some free stuff??)

blog1Besides the free breakfast ( bagels) They are also giving away MTA subway cards, MTA monthly cards, portable chargers, IPAD mini, and water bottles! They are also having a scavenger hunt that has been going on all week. It ends at 4pm today but you still have a chance to win one of many prizes. Visit my friends at the table and they will give you all the information you need.

Also participate in FIT student association government social media contest for Commuter Week. Post your commute to or from FIT in the most creative way, and get automatically entered to win a monthly metro card and other grand prizes. Winner will be posted on all FIT student association government social media daily.

Instagram @FITSTUDENTGOV

Twitter: @FITSTUDENTGOV

Facebook:  FIT STUDENT ASSOCIATION

blogger2My interior design studio class loves #FITCOMMUTER week

OK to Post

Screen Shot 2014-12-01 at 6.54.07 PMIf you have ever been to FIT, you have probably seen one of these boards before. Despite being very adept at technology, as our name suggests, FIT still uses good old paper posters to advertise upcoming events and clubs. I, for one, am grateful for this, because as someone who receives a mammoth amount of emails each day, passing these every time I use the escalator is much more attention-grabbing.

Posters are put up almost all over the school, but the best place to find out what is going on is on these boards that are on every level of the escalators in the Feldman Center and the Baker School of Business and Technology.

There are all sorts of events advertised here. This one includes posters offering open studio and tea time in the Student Center, “FIT in Discussion” hosted by the LGBTQ and Supporters Group, the Drag Pageant Committee, a runway show inspired by the movie “The Virgin Suicides”, the Public Relations Student Society of America at FIT, several movie screenings, extra hours for the writing studio to aid with final papers, a random “Goodbye Fall” party, Super Smash Bros for the Wii U free play, Fall flee market dates, volunteer opportunities, a talk on a history of psychiatric views on homosexuality, upcoming classes for animation, playwriting, computer graphics, digital literacy for designers, and more!

Even with finals upon us, there is plenty to do here at FIT!

–Emily–

Nothing Left to Do but Network

Hi guys,

Can’t believe this semester flew buy SO fast. I mean I’ve got only three more weeks to go before finishing forever (wow, right?) but I know it in my heart these are going to be the three longest, most intense weeks in my college career. With that in mind, I have been non-stop applying to jobs. Wherever, whenever I can I send in a resume. Technically I can’t start working until Jan.6 (because of OPT permit, F-1 student problems) so I shouldn’t start looking until one month before. Personally, I do not care at all about technically and already started the hunt. What I have encountered after a great amount of emailing is that knowing someone from the company you are applying to is your first step inside the door.

For this reason I have been secretly stalking the companies I intend to apply too and see if there are any events coming up. My friend EventBrite has really come in handy. Sometimes you just have to get out there and live to learn. At one point you just have to stop depending on books and start depending on life. To prove that this is not some gibberish (even though it might sound like it haha) here are two events I have attended lately, which have made me realize that every networking opportunity is a potential job opportunity.

  1. A Night of Empowering Conversations hosted by PureWow New York and Fidelity Investments. To say this event blew my mind is an UNDERstatement. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
  2. unnamed (1) unnamed (5) Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 11.23.09 PM unnamed (4) unnamed (3)IMG_20141112_180514 Where are the Sustainability Jobs? Panel presented at Columbia University by SUMASA. The insiders tips and the snacks were equally amazing. Remember to always carry business cards with you and add people on LinkedIn.unnamed (6) unnamed (7)

Oh and the cherry to my ice cream week was being featured in the ANN INC Facebook page. How many times shall I say it? HARD work, PAYS off.

Screen Shot 2014-11-23 at 11.29.35 PMCarpe Diem,

Sadie

Welcome to the Jungle: AMC Career Expo 2014

FIT has always had a wonderful reputation of providing its students with one-of-a-kind learning experiences outside of 27th street. Every week on campus, there is another opportunity offered to students. Everyone at FIT, from professors to students, are so connected within their respected industries. Through those connections, internships and even entry level jobs are often easier to find than you may think! However, it does take a nice resume and a good head on your shoulders to nail it down ;)

To make it even better, FIT’s Special Events class puts on an annual Advertising & Marketing Career Expo, which is a fancier way of saying Job Fair. About 60 New York based companies gathered in the John E. Reeves Great Hall Wednesday evening from 6-8 pm in hopes to gain some new interns and even employees! Ranging from corporate fashion designers like Ralph Lauren and Donna Karan to smaller boutique agencies like 24/7 Laundry Service, there is bound to be a company that interests you.

This years AMC Career Expo flyer!

This years AMC Career Expo flyer!

Students are able to walk around to different company tables and introduce themselves and start a conversation with these representatives. This was my first year to take advantage of this amazing opportunity that is offered to all AMC students.  Dressed to impress, I entered the Great Hall with a stomach full of butterflies. I didn’t know what to expect, or what companies I was hoping to talk to. It can be overwhelming walking into the hustle and bustle of a job fair and immediately begin networking yourself. But I must admit, this was such good practice for me. I am a good conversationalist…once a conversation has begun. Sometimes I get nervous to be the one initiating the conversation, especially with professionals. However, this experience definitely pushed me outside of my comfort zone in the best ways possible. I walked up to the table, introduced myself – and it only got easier and better from there!

I brought a few copies of my resume, ready to pass them out! All in all, I gave all of my resumes to different companies and had some great conversations with potential employers. They were all very curious about my past interning experiences, which I was happy to tell them about. In return, I asked a lot of questions about their companies and positions within their companies. Asking questions is important. It doesn’t make you look “dumb,” actually the exact opposite. It shows that you’re interested and want to learn more!

I walked away with 5 business cards, and potential internships for Spring 2015! The first thing I did when I got home was to type a follow-up email to the company contacts I was interested in pursuing. Within the email, I thanked them for their time and how I enjoyed chatting with them. I reiterated how I was interested in a possible internship and attached another copy of resume, just to be safe! The next morning, I had 2 emails from the top 2 companies I wanted to intern for! In both, they mentioned how it was so nice to receive a follow up email promptly. ALWAYS, send a follow up. The best follow up is a Thank You note, however email was the appropriate option for this situation.

I am so happy and grateful that I went to the Career Expo. It’s a great networking event for students who may not have much experience in the industry already, or who are looking to gain more experience. This is something that is so special and unique to FIT. If you didn’t take advantage of this event this year, be sure to keep your eyes out for next years flyer! You don’t want to miss this!!

xx,

Brendan

The Style Shop

    Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 10.43.13 PM

Have you been to the Style Shop yet? Definitely a necessary stop for any open house or admitted students day. Sure other colleges have bookstores or maybe even fancy boutiques, but I have never seen another university with a store run by students, for students with products made by students.

The Style Shop, located in the Dubinsky Student Center (turn left as you walk in), is run by the Merchandising Society. The Style Shop opened in 1996, and since then has been giving  students real-life retail experience right on 27th street. I sat down with co-manager Cathleen Cataldo to talk about the successful enterprise.

Co-managers of the Style Shop Cathleen Cataldo and Nicole Gabriel with Olivia Kim, the Director of Creative Projects at Nordstrom

Co-managers of the Style Shop Cathleen Cataldo and Nicole Gabriel with Olivia Kim, the Director of Creative Projects at Nordstrom

It seems like every FMM (Fashion Merchandising Management) student works or wants to work for the Style Shop. Why do you think there is such a huge interest?

I think a lot of people want to do it because it gives you real life experience on how to run your own business, especially for freshman coming in who may have never had retail experience before, and it’s something they can talk to interviewers about and put on their resumes. For management positions it is also really great experience because we are completely running the whole business on our own.

So how does the Style Shop work? What are the basics everyone needs to know?

There are four different buying teams. First there is the industry buying team that goes out to different wholesalers throughout New York City and buys mostly costume jewelry. Then we have our vintage buying team that goes out to different thrift stores and buys cool and unique clothing for the most part. There is the designer buying team that buys from FIT faculty, students and alumni. They are buying one-of-a-kind, handmade pieces made by the FIT community. Lastly, there is Product Development that actually works with vendors to create FIT slash Style Shop branded merchandise like printed t-shirts, laptop bags, in the past they have done iPhone cases, stuff like that. What was a huge huge seller for us this year was the “spirit jerseys”  that say “Fashion Institute New York” on the back. Yeah, that was definitely our biggest seller and we’re actually waiting for a new shipment to get in today hopefully. They sold out on the first day.

The popular spirit jerseys

The popular spirit jerseys

So what sells the best? Industry, Designer Vintage or Product Development?

A lot of people come into the store looking for merchandise made by FIT students –  the designer stuff. However, industry makes the most sales penetration wise, just because their merchandise is very inexpensive. So those are the top two departments overall for sales. Okay, if you want me to go through all of them: for product development, the spirit jerseys are the top seller. For designer, I mean it’s a combination of things. Everyone likes the jewelry, but right now designer has some great velvet chokers that have been selling really well. For industry, just the statement necklaces always do really well, and for vintage it’s their cool, unique clothing. It’s not necessarily “vintage” but it is all bought at thrift stores. Just cool pieces that can’t be found at your average store.

Who are the main players within the Style Shop team?

I’ll explain the entire management process. So, myself and Nicole Gabriel are the two co-managers and we oversee twelve different departments. The four buying teams which I mentioned earlier, plus the visual merchandising team that does all the visuals for the store. We also have a marketing team, a PR team, we have store operations, human resources, and the finance, planning and digital teams.

So how long have you been in the Merchandising Society?

I’ve been in since by first semester at FIT…

And you’re graduating in May so –

Yeah, so all four years. I started out in the Style Shop with a small management position my first semester. So I’ve been very involved for all four years and that’s how I got to where I am today.

Cuffs designed by FIT student Libby Merritt

Cuffs designed by FIT student Libby Merritt

So what’s your favorite piece in the store right now?

Favorite piece right now? Oh man, that’s really tough. I’d have to say, umm…there’s a lot of vintage pieces, like our vintage buyer brings in a lot of really cool, unique vintage clothing and those are always some of my favorites. And those velvet chokers, those are really cool.

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Stay in touch with the Style Shop with:

Instagram

Twitter

Facebook

Tumblr

and any questions about the Style Shop can be sent to styleshopfit@gmail.com

If you’re interested in the Merchandising Society you can visit their website here.

–Emily–

Student Life at FIT

Recently, I saw a comment asking us to talk more about what student life is like at FIT. And I had to stop and think about it before I could come to a clear realization about life here. We are not like any other school in the country. Many larger, more traditional colleges will proclaim their student life “highlights” in brochures or on Admitted Students day, but we aren’t a traditional school. We don’t have a football team that everyone goes and watches on the weekends, or huge theatrical events that involve hundreds of people.

At FIT student life is what you make it. There are many amazing events on campus, which I think a lot of my fellow bloggers have talked about extensively (see Brendon’s post Girl Code @ FIT or Kailee’s post about No Impact Week at FIT), but really all of New York City is an extension of our campus. While there are a lot of posts about what is going on at the school, there are also plenty about things we have done outside of school, for instance Aya’s post about NYFOL or Ashley’s Guide to NYC Talk Show Tickets. Being part of the crossroads of the world is a huge opportunity and advantage of going to school here.

Honestly, no matter what you apply it to, life is what you make of it. So if you are someone who loves getting involved with your peers there are a multitude of ways to be involved in school events. However, if you are someone who likes to do stuff more on your own, or with friends outside of school, there is obviously more than enough to experience in the city. My only advice would be not to get too caught up in school work. Yes, it is important and the reason you are here, but being a successful and well rounded person requires getting out there and meeting people, whether that be through a club or at a concert.

That being said, I think we all will be conscious of trying to show more of what student life at FIT is like if that is what people are interested in. And if you have any other questions or topics you would like to hear more about leave them in the comments!

–Emily–