To kick off New York Fashion Week, we’re celebrating the amazing work of FIT’s Fashion Design 2013 graduates at our second annual “Emerging Designer Showcase”! The reception will take place at the Gotham Ballroom at the InterContinental New York Times Square on September 4, 2013 from 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm. RSVP is required.
RECENT GRADUATES are encouraged to take part in this exciting opportunity to present their designs in the swanky lobby of the InterContinental Hotel in front of fellow alumni and guests.
Even when he was a student at FIT, Patrick Greene (Advertising and Marketing Communications ’11) had great leadership qualities and a flare for the publishing world. He went from Editor in Chief of FIT’s student newspaper, W27, to a senior internship at ELLE, which landed him a full-time job at the magazine before graduating. He then went on to work at Details and most recently joined Playboy, where he is the Luxury Director for the magazine’s advertising. All this, by the age of 25. We talked to this young alumnus about his thriving start in the magazine industry, some goosebump-inducing ads, and a few of his favorite things.
Tell us about how you started out in the magazine industry.
The magazine publishing industry is very small and incestuous. After interning and then working full-time at ELLE for six months the magazine was purchased by Hearst. The shake up was rough for a lot of people, but I stuck around through the transition and eventually one of my bosses left ELLE for Details. About a month later, she asked if I wanted to join her at her new publication; I said yes.
How was it different working with a male audience? Details was such a huge learning curve. Selling a women’s book is nothing like selling a men’s book. If you’re a big brand like ELLE or Vogue, people want and need to run with you month after month. At Details it took a lot of re-educating the clients on what men have to offer and why speaking to them through advertising is necessary.
How did the opportunity at Playboy come about?
After about three months at Details my publisher, Kevin Martinez, pulled me aside and told me that I had much bigger things in my future. He went out of his way to help groom me for the role I’m in now. Playboy reached out to me via a recruiter back in February after seeing my success with the fashion and luxury list at Details. After many meetings with key players and a lot of back-and-forth, I finally made the jump to Playboy, an iconic American brand.
What does the job entail?
As Luxury Director, I’m responsible for all of the fashion, grooming, watch and luxury auto advertising that runs in the book, online and via social media.
You must be extremely busy! What’s a typical day like?
I know it’s cliché, but there isn’t really a typical day. For instance, my third day on the job I was on a plane to Las Vegas for a tradeshow. A lot of my time is divided between attending client events/activations, going on sales calls, and constantly emailing, emailing, emailing.
What’s the upside of the bustle and “emailing, emailing, emailing”?
There’s a giant payoff. Like the rush you get when you break an account that you’ve been working on for a long time. Nothing like it.
Any client acquisition that was particularly memorable?
My favorite win to date has to be breaking the John Varvatos fashion account for September. The head of marketing for Varvatos is known in the industry to be a no-nonsense kind of lady, so I came prepared with the heavy artillery–my publisher and editorial director. You could actually sense the moment during the meeting when she was convinced Playboy was the right fit for their brand. The excitement in the air was palpable.
Talk a bit about the kinds of ads that run in Playboy.
A lot of our advertisers have a little more freedom with their creative by running with us as opposed to other books. They can get away with more. For instance, Jaguar ran an ad last Fall with copy that read, “Have you ever had a Piloerection?” which is the scientific term for goosebumps, something you get from driving a Jaguar.
Interesting how the copy adapts to the publication…
Yes! Our readers are definitely a different demographic and genuinely uninhibited. It’s always an exciting day at the Playboy offices.
On to the more personal. What’s your favorite item on your desk?
I have a small collection of owls all around my desk, so each one reminds me of the family member or friend who gifted it to me. I’ve always had this odd fascination with them. In certain cultures the owl symbolizes wisdom, perspective and intuition. All things I try to embody.
Favorite spot in New York City?
The promenade in Brooklyn Heights and the waterfront in DUMBO. I live nearby, and I make it a point to go there instead of schlepping into the city on the weekend.
What’s the last song you downloaded?
“The Stockholm Syndrome” by CLMD vs. Kish feat. Froder. I’m a little obsessed with EDM currently.
Most treasured possession?
This little glass and metal rose that my late grandmother always kept on her nightstand.
What advice would you like to share with peers and current students?
Network. More than anything it’s all about the people you know. Yes, classes and education is important, but 90% of what you learn will be on the job. The people who get you that job matter the most, so make sure to create genuine, meaningful relationships.
With new media platforms playing a vital role in getting creative work off the ground, we were pleased to bring together a dynamic panel for “Kickstarter School: Bring Your Project to Life” at FIT this week. The lively discussion included excellent tips from Nicole He, who’s the Art, Fashion & Photography Project Specialist at Kickstarter and insight from Sass Brown, who’s Assistant Dean of FIT’s School of Art and Design. We were also thrilled to hear from FIT alumni Amy Lombard (Photography ’12), Heather Huey (Millinery ’04), and Stefan Loble (Entrepreneurship ’10), who shared incredible success stories launching their creative projects on Kickstarter. Watch this inspiring discussion and learn how you can bring your creative project to life!
Take a closer look at the creative projects our alumni launched!
Business Class Valerie Michael-éfe Entrepreneurship ’13, Fashion Design ’11
You’re in the first graduating class of FIT’s Entrepreneurship program. What was your favorite course? In our sixth semester, we worked in groups to create a business plan—financials, marketing, everything. Everyone in my group had a design background, so we learned a lot. For example, a profitable business can be ruined by cash-flow problems. Also, how do you get customers? That’s the big hurdle.
What’s the secret? The secret is to know your art, and have the experience to prove it.
You seem pretty confident. Do you have a business background? My mother was a serial entrepreneur in Nigeria, where I’m from. Now she owns a poultry farm, but she once had a baking business, and I was her accountant. After a few years, I told her I wanted to start my own fashion business. But in Nigeria, no one in the business environment will listen to you unless you have a degree.
What got you interested in fashion? My mother was a fashion designer, too. She made women’s wear—head wraps, tops, wrappers in wax-resist fabrics. In Africa, we like a lot of colors, prints, and details. For the best things you wear there, men and women, the tops are always lace. That’s why I love lace.
So will you make evening wear? No, luxury outerwear and rainwear. I’m getting together specially made Italian fabrics that I’ve researched during my internship at Brioni, the high-end Italian company. Some are layered and treated to make them waterproof.
What have you learned at Brioni? I work with the retail planner and analyst. They plan what goes into each store and constantly analyze data to know what is happening in sales across the U.S. It’s a lot of numbers work and Excel. Before this, I didn’t know how to analyze data to learn how much profit you’re making.
Is this your best internship? I learned something important at all of them. For Michael Kors, I did technical design. At Zegna, I learned how important inventory is. I did publicity for Irina Shabayeva, the season six Project Runway winner. With Zac Posen, I did patternmaking. He was a nice guy, very quiet.
And soon you’ll have an atelier of your own. What’s your aesthetic? For the 2011 student fashion show, I made overalls with shorts and a hood, and glitter and lace, and I won a critic’s award. I want my clothes to be art. I don’t care if they’re wearable. I want people to look at them and say, “How did she do that?”
Michael-éfe wears a jacket from her collection, OSO-EFE (it means “rain” in Isoko, a language spoken in Nigeria). See the line at osoefe.com.
This Alumni Spotlight originally appeared in the summer 2013 issue of Hue magazine.
Illusions of reality photographed in IKEA showrooms, men’s pants that go from the board meeting to the hiking adventure, a high fashion milliner as muse in a photo love story–these are the kinds of projects that reflect the tremendous talent, creativity and ambition of FIT alumni.
We are so excited to hear from the creators themselves: Amy Lombard (photographer), Stefan Loble (menswear designer), and Heather Huey (milliner) will be on campus to talk about their ridiculously cool and hugely successful Kickstarter campaigns. The panel discussion will also include helpful tips from Nicole He, Kickstarter’s Art, Fashion & Photography Project Specialist and insight from Sass Brown, Assistant Dean of FIT’s School of Art and Design.
This talk is sure to inspire designers, artists, entrepreneurs, community organizers, and just about anyone passionate about an idea! Get inspired with us and register below!
Kickstarter School: Bring Your Project to Life
August 5, 2013
6:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Fashion Institute of Technology
Katie Murphy Amphitheatre
Seventh Avenue and 27th Street
New York, New York
At the age of 22, Louis Mairone (Menswear ’08) launched Dominic Louis, a label inspired by androgyny, rock ’n roll, and New York City. Mairone’s handcrafted garments blur identity lines and, with the abundance of fur and leather, have an edgy nomadic feel to them. Hear what Mairone had to say about bringing his collection to life–from lugging a suitcase with samples through the NYC subway to creating custom designs for rock legends like Trent Reznor.
I chose FIT because: All I wanted in the world was to move to New York City and work in fashion. So FIT was the first step in that direction.
FIT gem: Professor Gresia. He taught Menswear Tailoring and brought such a real old world feeling to the work. It felt very authentic. He is one of those last real garmentos. Being that my family is from Italy, I saw so much charm in him, his accent and disposition. He referred to me as “Luigi”.
The story behind Dominic Louis: I had been an assistant designer for a company that ended up closing its doors. I was lost. I decided to make clothes of my own and see what happened. I filled up a rolling luggage with the samples and carted my collection up and down subway rails visiting local retailers in the heat of summer. OAK NYC signed on to carry the Dominic Louis Fall 2010 collection. It was the beginning. I was 22 with a suitcase full of dreams.
Aesthetic: Raw like the end of the world, modern like the beginning of time, where art meets fashion and fashion breeds art.
Favorite textile to work with: Skin
Clients: Trent Reznor and Lenny Kravtitz. True rock legends who embody my aesthetic.
Inspiration: This moment in time and how it influences the blueprint which is already in place.
Typical day: Insanity. We work out of a shared studio space on 36th and 8th. We’re doing design concepting and pattern making for the new collection, updating web data, fitting muslins, sourcing, and doing custom work for clients all out of the same space. It’s really kind of a one stop shop for us.
Most treasured possession: Family
Exciting plans: I am currently enrolled in the Designer Entrepreneurs program hosted by FIT and will be presenting my plan at the end of the summer. We’re planning a sales tour for the collection to spread international awareness. We’re always working on some sort of collaborative effort… something very special coming for SS14.
Last word: If you’re in this for the right reasons, it will end up working out. So many people will tell you “no”. You have to tell yourself “yes”.
At FIT’s commencement exercises for the Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology and the School of Liberal Arts, Fern Mallis, the creator of New York City’s Fashion Week, offered new grads her “Top Ten” tips for job interviewing. Check them out here and share your own!
10. Penmanship. Before they completely eliminate cursive handwriting in schools, try your hand at writing a thank you note. A handwritten one, preferably legible. On a nice card stock, with a clever stamp on the envelope. It goes a lot further than an email.
9. Google. Use it and learn something about the person you are meeting with. I can’t tell you how many times a candidate has sat across my desk and asked me, “So what is your job all about? And how did you get here?” Also, get there early. Soak up the energy — or lack of it. Sit in the reception area and watch everyone coming and going, feel the vibe. Can you imagine yourself fitting in? If you come rushed and hassled you’ll never know.
8. Dress appropriately. OK, that’s wide open to interpretation. I realize at some companies, hoodies are the official outfit. But know that you can never take back a first impression. As yes, as superficial as it sounds, we are judged on what we wear and how we look, especially in a job interview. And make sure you have a good dry cleaner, and we always notice the shoes.
7. Gum. NEVER EVER in public. I don’t want to hear “It’s for my breath.” That’s what Altoids are for. This one is so not negotiable.
6. Grooming. First, manicures. There are 7 million fabulous nail polish colors out there. Pick one, any one. But make sure it covers your entire nail, and isn’t chipped and peeling. It’s one of the first things I notice, and often it’s the only thing I see. And that goes for the guys. You too should have nice manicured clean nails, preferably without color. And second, hair. Do you have good shampoo and a blow dryer? You’d be shocked at how many people I’ve interviewed over the years, and all I could think is, I wish they’d washed their hair, or combed it or brushed it.
5. Resumes. I know this is a chance to be creative, as you all are, and you want jobs in a creative industry. But make sure people over 40 who need to read these can. Pick clean clear typefaces — this isn’t your design thesis. Make it concise and honest. No one expects several pages of past work history. But pick the things you’re most proud of. And add a smart, interesting explanation of what you’d like to do. And check the spelling 100 times.
4. Listen and think before you speak. Don’t be thinking of what you want to say next at the expense of listening and hearing what is being said to you. And make sure your phone is turned off, along with the vibrate function.
3. Smile and make eye contact. Be engaging. I know you may be nervous, but keep your head up and make eye contact. I remember when you could actually flirt with someone in an elevator. Now it’s impossible. Everyone’s head is down, checking their emails.
2. Handshake. Make sure you have a firm and connected one. Your handshake communicates for you. When I meet someone with a limp fishy slidey handshake, I’ve immediately lost interest.
1. Be nice. I don’t care how smart pretty or handsome you are, I want to work with people I like, nice people. You are all competing with lots of talented students and professionals. What can make the difference? It’s the person, the personality you want in your office every day. As Tom Ford said at the 92Y, only hire people you would want to have dinner with.
Since graduating from FIT in 1978, Professor Miriam Russo (now Miriam Enders) and I have kept in touch for what is now 35 years. We used to periodically write letters, then email, and now we’re friends on Facebook! I was thrilled to get a friend request from Professor Russo, who’s 91 (yes, 91!), and so happy to interact with her on social media. I regularly post my artwork on Facebook and even now, she continues to motivate and praise me. She recently gave my ink/watercolor “New Orleans” a whopping “A+!” in the comments section. I laughed out loud it was so delightful! Professor Russo, always supportive of my endless endeavours, is still grading me most upliftingly.
I recently visited New York City and we had the most delightful lunch. We exchanged many fun memories from our years at FIT. It’s been 35 years since I graduated from FIT, and I am incredibly grateful to have Professor Russo in my life.
Soon we will meet up again and browse through the Whitney Museum for an afternoon.
Sibylle Pfaffenbichler started out with drawing workshops at the Art Students League in New York City, received a BFA summa cum laude from the Fashion Institute of Technology/State University of New York, and took advanced art studies at the Long Island University. The famous textile designer Vera hired her out of college to design scarves in free-spirited watercolor paintings, her first artistic professional endeavour. Pfaffenbichler eventually chose the path of fine art and has worked as an independent artist ever since. She now lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and works out of a big studio in an old textile mill.
Jay Gatsby’s name evokes images of flailing limbs and spilled champagne. His creator has been (somewhat fairly) cast as a fair-haired, Princeton party boy. What endears the character and the author to our collective psyche goes beyond Bacchanalia. As cultural icons, both Gatsby and Fitzgerald represent an emerging America, where a bootlegger and a bookworm born into the “wrong” class can recast themselves. Or can they? Despite his best efforts Gatsby still didn’t pronounce Oxford in a manner that made it clear he had attended. Fitzgerald “could never forgive the rich for being rich,” and amid fortunes lost and gained, he was born and died penniless. Class. For Fitzgerald and all of his characters, clothing is about class.
As a graduate student at FIT, I wrote my master’s thesis on clothing as cultural history and character development in the early fiction of Fitzgerald. In March 2004, I fled the city with a backpack full of books to Beverly Hills, where I wrote the MA thesis over Spring Break on my best friend’s couch. Eight years and a PhD later, my FIT classmate and friend, Tae Smith, called me up and told me to get my postpartum body to New York City. She was the costume researcher for Baz Luhrmann’s production, and they wanted to talk to me. Postpartum body, baby, and books got on an airplane and went to New York. When the high priestess of costume design, Catherine Martin, calls…umm, you go.
An afternoon in May 2011, Tae and I waited for Miss Martin in an oversized closet filled with vintage 1920s clothing. The design team had collected beach pajamas, sequined shawls, and mound of accessories from all over New York to be used for inspiration. In that room, Tae and I didn’t talk. We just touched, and sighed, and flicked over the still-remaining price tags, and pointed out dates that we knew the vintage dealer had gotten wrong. No white gloves; no meddling curator, just me and the stuff.
What Catherine Martin wanted from me was not epistles on Fitzgerald’s cultural context or my thoughts on his underwhelming female characters. She wanted specifics: “Was it this silver fabric or this one?” “Well, it has to be this one because the other is a synthetic that didn’t come out until the late 1940s.” “Can we change Nick’s white flannel pants to a tweed suit?” “Hell, no. Those flannels tell everyone at that party that he is a man of the Ivy League.” Sketches hung on the wall, fabric swatches strewn across her desk, and a gorgeous Australian woman with long, shiny black hair presented Martin with the team’s latest vintage find: a black suede clutch with an ivory greyhound’s head. I still have dreams about that woman’s hair and that clutch. It’s not often I am jealous of someone’s job. The life of a professor lets me research, write, and teach. But that day, I was jealous of Catherine Martin’s job, the black-haired beauty’s, and Tae’s.
Two years later, I am one of the many Fitzgerald fans and fashion lovers who await the arrival of The Great Gatsby. My website, Fitzgerald & Fashion, is a manifestation of the thesis I wrote nearly ten years ago on that couch in LA. Maybe the website is not the most traditional form of academic publishing, but arguably the next phase of it. A blog under “Gatsby News” offers the latest happenings with the film and my own analysis written from the perspective that this film is an interpretation of a novel.
When the film is understood as an interpretation, what matters is not that the hemlines match our picture books or that the spectator shoes are brown. If you’re looking for historical accuracy, hit up a couple episodes of Downton Abbey. What matters with this film is that Luhrmann uses costume in the same way Fitzgerald used fashion—as a means of distinguishing between old money, new money, parvenus, self-made women, and working girls. The meaning of the clothes mattered to Fitzgerald and as my time in that oversized closet confirmed, it matters to Luhrmann and Catherine Martin, too. We’ll be talking about the costumes not because they are beautiful (which they will be), but because they are the social context of the film. In fiction, film, and real life, clothing is social context.
Deirdre Clemente served as a historical consultant for the costume on the forthcoming The Great Gatsby. She is a historian and curator of 20th century American culture, specializing in fashion and clothing. She is an assistant professor of history at University of Nevada Las Vegas. Dr. Clemente earned her MA in Museum Studies from FIT in 2004 and remains an active and proud alum. Read more about Dr. Clemente at www.deirdreclemente.com.
FIT is renowned for its sustainability initiatives, from implementing green projects throughout campus, to bringing sustainable design issues to curriculums, to raising awareness at its annual conference. No doubt, Sustainability at FIT inspires graduates to incorporate green practices in their personal and professional lives. Melissa Mendez (Production Management: Fashion and Related Industries ’10) is one alumna who is committed to producing an environmentally-friendly product with her soy candle artisanal business, The Bronx Naturals. Learn more about her work and how FIT has helped her in her endeavors.
Tell us about the ways The Bronx Naturals candles help the environment.
I love this question! My soy candles help the environment in many ways. The material that I use is 100% natural soy wax. Soy wax is a natural material and non-toxic, and the fragrances I use are also non-toxic and Phthalate Free, therefore soot and other harmful elements are not released because they are not there! This makes my candle family-friendly as well as a great alternative to anyone who may have asthma or other respiratory conditions. Soy burns cooler and longer, which makes the value better as well. The glass that I use can be reused as a drinking glass or pencil/pen holder after the candle is finished and there is minimal packaging–the possibilities are infinite. Soy is very green!
What inspires your fragrance concoctions?
Diversity! All of my candles are very different. I like to think that each type of candle could represent different personalities, and moods. I also create special fragrances for events such as bridal showers, weddings or any other special occasions, Scented or unscented are available. I really enjoy when a client sends an email and asks, “Can you blend Lavender and Pear? That scent has a sentimental meaning to me!” I enjoy the challenge of creativity!
Can you tell us about your choice to study at FIT and how it’s helped you in your business venture?
I chose to study at FIT because it was my dream college. FIT is a college that has a very focused curriculum and is very directional. I believe those characteristics fit my personality and work ethic. There are so many resources to take complete advantage of at FIT. The one that I especially loved is having professors who actually worked in the industry. I got the chance to ask very specific questions related to production, fashion, wages, work-life balance and was better able to understand if I could work in that industry and if it fell into place with my personal values and aspirations in life.
Is there a particular class that prepared you for your work?
Professor Mario Federici’s class, one of my favorites, has had a lasting impact on me. It allowed me to see that anything is possible and it helped me devise a business plan and marketing strategy for The Bronx Naturals. In this class, we had to create a company and source the supplies, create spreadsheets, production plans the works. The project was for apparel, but I have used many of the same principles to file my companies’ incorporation papers and to reach out to potential clients and businesses to carry my candles! Knowledge increased my courage.
What do you hope customers feel from the scents of your candles?
I hope that customers feel relaxed, energized, sensual and peaceful. Ultimately each candle is very different and will provide a different experience to each individual. My main goal is to Brighten up people’s day! I want my customers to feel great!
What advice would you like to share with peers and current students?
Work hard and have patience, ask the right questions. Don’t worry, you will be smarter if you do. No is not a ‘no’ forever. Ask again, try a different approach and every lesson is one to learn from. Never throw them away!