Category: Accessory Design

Farm-home inspiration for handbag finalist

By , June 7, 2014 12:56 am
It’s all gone into her handbag:  The upstairs dresser in her grandparent’s Midwest farmhouse, memories of dressing up in vintage clothes, ballet and tap dance classes. For Kathleen Friedman, finalist for the Independent Handbag Designer Award, her sources of inspiration are as suggestive of  a romance novel as they are for accessories design.
 IHDA finalist by Kathleen Friedman

IHDA finalist by Kathleen Friedman

“My bag was inspired by vintage Americana,” says Kathleen, current Accessories Design major. “I loved exploring my grandparents’ house in the Midwest. I especially loved a dresser in one of the bedrooms.” An ornately shaped bedroom mirror there was the influence for the outer flap of her handbag.The hand stitched trapunto, a decorative design on the outer flap, is a technique Kathleen learned in a leather course at FIT. “I knew I had to incorporate it into one of my designs. It’s so beautiful and sophisticated. It can be applied in several ways, and I chose to hand stitch it as a tribute to my grandmother and her beautiful quilts.”

In early May it was announced that FIT’s Kathleen Friedman, Stephanie Carnes and Palwasha Iqbal were finalists in the category of Best Student Made Bag by the IHDA. The winner is to be announced on June 18 at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan.

Handbag by Kathleen Friedman

handbag finalist by Kathleen Friedman

“I chose black and cream for this bag because of my vintage inspirations. This was the first time I knew exactly the colors I wanted from the moment I drew it. Normally I take a lot of time at the leather store searching for the right color combinations and allowing that to inspire me in the process.”As a child, Kathleen helped her mother, a seamstress, and played in her studio. “I have been sewing since the age of nine. The knowledge is extremely helpful in all of my construction classes at FIT.”Kathleen says she is thankful for the exposure the contest gives student designers. “I am hopeful that it will help in my quest for employment after graduation. It’s exciting to show my friends and family all of the press.”



We wish all of the finalists good luck!


FIT students clutch finalist spots in handbag contest

By , May 30, 2014 4:03 pm
Thanks to three FIT students, “Handbag Decision Paralysis,” may become more serious for the handbag obsessed. Coined by Wall St. Journal reporter Rachel Dodes, the term playfully refers to those with “commitment phobia in the accessories milieu.”

In early May it was announced that FIT’s Stephanie Carnes, Palwasha Iqbal and Kathleen Friedman were finalists in the category of Best Student Made Bag by the  Independent Handbag Designer Awards (IHDA).  Whatever the judges decide, we want one of each.
Handbag by Kathleen Friedman

Handbag by Kathleen Friedman

And consider this: there was a total of 1500 applicants worldwide for the IHDA industry awards.

Handbag by Stephanie Carnes

Recent Accessories Design grad Palwasha Iqbal told us about her process from conception to finalist:
“This recognition means the world to me! Being a finalist is  an amazing feeling.  Being nominated for a global award is such a honor.”
Handbag by Palwash Iqbal

Handbag by Palwasha Iqbal

“My process  begins with finding the right inspiration,” says Palwasha, which for her pop art clutch was found at the MoMA.

“I fell in love with 60s Pop Art. My next step was sketching and figuring out the perfect look for the clutch. I wanted to create something that was a nod to the Pop Art era but still modern and fresh. I countered the bright fun colored circles with a simpler gusset that takes its cues from modern architecture. The idea is Andy Warhol meets Frank Lloyd Wright.”


Applying disks on to frame

Once she finishes a concept sketch “for something I love” Palwasha refines it and adds measurements. “I then write out the supplies and steps required to make the bag.  After I bought my acrylics  and made my patterns I marked my acrylic and then used the bandsaw to cut each piece.”

J-2s- Copy

Arranging the layout of disks prior to gluing

Palwasha sanded the rough edges and made sure all the measurements were correct. “I did a tape mock-up to make sure everything fit and then marked and drilled holes for my hinge. After that I began a frosting process to give the acrylic a more matte  look. Once the polishing was finished, I carefully  glued the pieces together and  re-polished  the piece. I then inserted the lining hinges and magnets.”


Finished result


Palwasha says this particular clutch chosen as an IHDA finalist is “very dear to my heart.” She says it combines skills she’s learned in both the Jewelry and Accessories design programs. (She received her AAS degree in Jewelry Design.)

“It represents how my education has  shaped my passion. I could not be more grateful to get such wonderful  recognition for  my passion.”

Palwasha says it’s a great note on which to end her time at FIT. “It’s an even better one to start my career”


This is the eighth year that the IHDA has presented awards.

The Best Student Made Handbag category is for students who have started their lines while in school. Other categories include handbags made from sustainable or recycled materials, another for hand or machine made with proceeds given back to the country of manufacturing, and one for the “most trend-driven” use of denim.

Winners will be announced on June 18 at the SVA Theatre in Manhattan. All will be featured in the September issue of InStyle. We wish all of the finalists good luck!

We’re telling on Roberto Vasi

By , May 20, 2013 4:42 pm

There’s a new men’s shoe line being advertised as the “Don’t ask– Don’t tell” of military style shoes.  But tell we must!  

Roberto Vasi collection

The Roberto Vasi line began as  a business partnership formed in a class taught by Accessories Design Professor Vasilios Christofilakos 20+ years ago.

“My God we had fun!” Vasilios recalls of the sketching accessories class (LD261) that Robert Mingione attended. “He had left Bally’s footwear and was seeking more know-how. He was putting together a portfolio for a position at Kenneth Cole. I asked him to develop a men’s line. It was fun and passionate. He got the job. He comes from the business end of the spectrum. He was business-MBA with a creative edge.”


The Vasilios–Mingione partnership  has yielded the “military-meets-luxury” line of 75 styles. “We’re honing in, replicating some of the sharp tailoring military uniforms offer,” says Vasilios. Styles include casual, dress, athletic and fusion, and a “fabulous boot collection.”  

The line’s rugged masculinity is enhanced by daring combinations of materials and design techniques. “There are leathers with suede and nylons, hardware and decorative stitching, embossed patterns, men’s suiting fabrics, herring bone and hounds-tooth patterns, as well as stripes and plaids for the linings.”

The line debuted at the FN Platform shoe show in Las Vegas in February and will be on shelves at DSW and at this fall.


After studying with Vasilios, Mingione often took on FIT students as interns. “Many  became successful footwear designers,” said Mingione. “I love the creativity and passion that comes from FIT students. Young designers benefit by getting to see their work come to life. “

Roberto-Vasi collection

Now Vasilios and Mingione have to contend with the “other side of the business.” says Vasilios. “The logistists, all the little things you deal with regarding the business of shoes. Shipping — What happens when it lands in port? How do you get it to the corporate office or warehouse and how do they get it to the retailers? There’s the independent retailers. You’ve got 90 days to pay the bills. You make cold calls to buyers and hope they show up: ‘We just made it to Vegas. Hope to see you soon.’ Then you hope they meet with you once you’re back in New York.” 


Says Vasilios “It’s all about the relationships you make and nurture.”


Ugly shoes or “out of the stratosphere?”

By , November 20, 2012 4:52 pm

“There are far more ugly pairs [of shoes] in the world than pretty ones,” according to New York magazine’s fashion blog “The Cut,” which recently featured a slideshow, “The 50 Ugliest Shoes in History.”  Tossed from the closet are the ungainly Uggs, smelly-looking Birkenstocks, dependable Doc Martins and other anatomically correct species.

It’s those of the uber-fashion variety that raised eyebrows in our accessories design department.  The abundantly crystal-strewn Pradas,  the pair of femme fatale Viktor and Rolf’s, and flipper-laden Jean Paul Gaultier’s were deemed fashion failures.


Less likely to condemn shoes right and left is FIT’s own VASILIOS, chair of accessories design. He had this to say about several of the pairs on the “50 ugliest” hit list.

“This speaks volumes to the footwear industry and where its potential can go — by throwing it out of the stratosphere,” says VASILIOS about Balenciaga’s multicolored plastic-techno sandals. “This usage of nontraditional materials and the inspiration coming from athletic sportsmanship like hockey, it’s a signal to the mass market about developing  fusion footwear — where athletics meet ‘fashion’ footwear. We see it in today’s market.


“Now, let’s talk about the crystals,” says VASILIOS about the Prada acrylic and crystal sandals. “Mother-goddess Prada breaks every rule and rightfully so because she forces all of us to embrace the ugly as beautiful. And in the end what do we do but follow her? Tell the mother her kid is ugly? Really?”

Kobi Levi

“Someone’s going to call these ugly? Really?” asks VASILIOS incredulously. “They’re comparing them to the mass product they have in their closets,” he says about Kobi Levi’s double boots. “This clearly is screaming to Lady Gaga. The same haters have bought every one of her songs on iTunes and have danced to them in all sorts of places including their closets.”

“If this isn’t theatricality at its best I don’t know what is. And by the way, the boot is functional.”

Jean Paul Gaultier

“Ugly unless you’re dressing for the stage, Priscilla Quest of the Desert,” says VASILIOS, about Jean Paul Gaultier’s Les Plongeuses fin-heels. Again my point is it’s theatrical, so what are you judging exactly?”

“Jean Paul Gaultier is a fashion icon. Again, are we just looking at the trees and not the entire forest? What was happening on the runway? What was the theme? Obviously, we wouldn’t see this sold at Macy’s. In the end we’re talking about it anyway – Isn’t that the whole point of marketing? And I’m sure somewhere along the way, strolling along a department store you’ve spritzed yourself with JPG!”

Nicholas Kirkwood

There was even some tenderness for some garish-colored Nicholas Kirkwood’s with furry pom-poms, which The Cut said were “the equivalent of pinata or My Little Pony birthday cake.” Said VASILIOS sighing “Well everyone has a bad dream sometimes.”

A tip o’ the hat to the Millinery Certificate Program

By , August 23, 2012 4:03 pm

This spring representatives of Milliners Guild Inc. came to FIT to pay homage and help promote the Millinery Certificate program. It’s the very program, according to Vasilios Christofilakos, chair of Accessories Design, that helped launch the careers of many of today’s top milliner designers such the Guild’s current president Linda Ashton

Vasilios Christofilakos, Accessories Design Chair & Linda Ashton, Milliners Guild president

“I was incredibly lucky when I became Chair of Accessories Design Department because of the stir of Kate Middleton and Prince William,” says Vasilios. “The royal wedding stirred an intense interest in hats again. It brought a new energy and crop of milliners seeking technical and design expertise. We had a flood of applicants and established milliners wanting to guest lecture and teach.”

The program has been going strong ever since.

Vasilios wears a hat designed and constructed by Sandra Gonzales, a Millinery Certificate holder. “My jockey-inspired felt cap with Swarovski crystals strategically placed, forms the letter “V”.

Ms. Ashton wears one of her own designs.


Read Vasilios’ recent comments about the increased interest in millinery in New York Times article: “All the Trimmings Are the Main Course.”


Accessory design students turn to everyday objects for their last sculpture

By , June 8, 2012 4:27 pm

“I tell the students I love it when they have to stand on a chair to reach their project,” says Fine Arts Prof. Barry Sigel about the Accessory Design students who take his 3-D Design course.  For their final assignment, students had to make geometrical figures out of everyday objects.

Suyun Chng

“This is a really inventive project because Sue cut up two identical cups making them into one bigger cup,” says Sigel.

Caitlin Connelly

But wide works too. “Caitlin’s looks like something out of nature,” says Sigel about a construction made from barbecue skewers. “She brought it in on the bus leery that she might stick someone. She had a big coat over it.”

Brianne Desch

Brie –”as in the cheese” she likes to say–got into every project.

Hyeyoon "Sally" Jung

This wall of translucent cups had a wonderful optical illusion to it.

Natali Sznajderman

Natali’s caffeinated project was made out of coffee filters.

Sonam Sheth

The change to a different blue gives Sonam’s tower of cups a unique feeling.

Mary Kimberly Gayatinea

Kim started out using straws, but came up with this interesting construction using insulation sleeves.

Nayeun "Nell" Kim

“This project appears both flat and 3-dimensional at the same time. The photo also shows how useful it could be as a head rest,” says Sigel

Photos by: Barry Sigel

Panorama Theme by Themocracy

%d bloggers like this: