Category: Alumni

From the desk of Edward Irizarry

By , June 5, 2014 3:09 pm

Ad man from the 60′s Edward J. Irizarry & FIT student in his 80s, GOING STRONG @ 90.

 By Edward J. Irizarry.

by Edward J. Irizarry

“He charmed the young ladies in the class with recollections of his days working on the Sears Roebuck Catalog” says Prof. Debbie Deas of a more recent class Mr. Irizarry attended, CG 111 Survey of Computer Graphics. “They were fascinated by his anecdotes. What they were learning on the computer he knew from traditional ways. There was definitely an inter-generational connection there.”

Mr. Irizarry, according to his son Thomas, created the logos for Sears Roebuck company and Nabisco.

Thanks to Thomas Irizarry, FIT’s exhibition coordinator for having such a cool Dad.


Hayley returns!

By , May 7, 2014 10:02 pm

Recent Interior design alumna Hayley Park (’13) talked to graduating students of Prof. Susan Forbes’ internship class today about the rewards of hard work.

“Focus on the learning process,” she advised. “Take it as a calling rather than a job. When you intern you get a taste of what it’s like and that leads you to a job. When you like it, it becomes your career. But it’s perfect when the career becomes your calling.”


Hayley Park (ID ’13). Photo: Shannon Leddy

Hayley is currently a junior designer at Gensler, the prestigious integrated architecture, design, planning and consulting firm at Rockefeller Center.

Her verdict was good on questions regarding salary, working hours, work environment, certification requirements and whether architects and interior designers really are able to work together.


Elizabeth Tighe, Haley Park, Prof. Susan Forbes, Alexis Tamzrian, Ayano Misawa, Laura Murray

“Do you really work 70 hours a week?” asked one student.

“You have to consider that you’re going to take more time [on projects] than experienced people,” said Hayley.  But it’s not all 70 hour work weeks, she assured them.

The concern about work load was understandable. “They’re a week away from printing their thesis pretensions–the most stressful time of the entire program,” said Hayley. “They all looked tired!” 


Read more about Hayley:

Hayley’s PAVE-winning men’s store

Joe Zee reflects on FIT’s graduating fashion design talent

By , May 4, 2014 7:20 pm

“These people…I don’t know who they are, but I know they’ve traveled from four corners of the world to come to FIT.



“They blow me away with their talent, and if that’s what they are doing at the school level…




I can’t wait to see what they do when they actually get out in the world and can do it for real. ”



Joe Zee, creative director Elle magazine, FIT fashion design alum


The sign of great jewelry

By , November 15, 2013 11:02 pm

When Cole Lopez  lifts up her sleeve, she reveals a hand-forged “cuff,” which shows the astrological positions on the day she was born. “It’s a snapshot of the cosmos at that exact moment,” says the jewelry design alumna. The effect is timeless, mysterious and evocative.

“It’s a lovely use of graphic, lore and craftsmanship,” says Jewelry Design Professor Wendy Yothers.

Cole Lopez’s astrological cuff with a labradorite crystal

Lopez’s cuffs are often made of brass, which, Lopez says, has an association with strength and protection. Her process includes heating, forging, smoothing, oxidizing and cooling, before being fitted for wear. Lopez incorporates largely recycled metals. “Earth preservation is absolutely paramount to me,” she says.

“What’s so wonderful, private and intimate is that it’s a person’s astrological information,” says Michael Coan, Chair of Jewelry Design. “That’s why it’s innately personal and permanent.”

Cole Lopez’s pyramid cuff

In the astrological cuff above, Cole embedded a corked vial of liquid into a resin pyramid. As the wearer moves, bubbles form inside the vial.

Each cuff is made “specifically for the empowerment of it’s owner,” says Lopez. It’s a reminder “of the seat you hold in the sacred rotation of the cosmos.” 

Lopez is apparently the first student to win two awards at the student jewelry show at the FIT Museum, taking second place in both costume and fine jewelry.

Cole Lopez’s astrological bangle

This astrological bangle was created by combining acrylic sheets. The magnification globe is placed over her “12th house,” which, astrologers say, governs collective consciousness and spirituality. 

“Many times a piece of paper can be lost,” says Coan. “This is permanent and may be shown to astrologers around the globe for immediate consultation. They don’t have to make a new one. All the trines and vectors are immediately displayed.”

Cole Lopez astrological cuff fitted to the cosmos

Finally, each cuff is “blessed” with flower essences and Lopez performs a ritual “with the aid of lunar energies.” It is packaged in organic herbs as a final gesture.

“It’s celebrating the uniqueness of astrology and your life — It’s like celebrating a birthright,” says Prof. Coan, “And P.S. you can ask Cole for an appropriate customized gem stone for the center of your personal natal chart cuff.”


To learn more of Ms. Lopez’s creations go to her websiste: or go to: to read Lopez’s herbal suggestions “to use the lunar energies of each month’s new moon phase.”


Photos by Jonathan Jary


Being schooled in Kickerstarter

By , September 4, 2013 5:53 pm

Stefan Loble (entrepreneurship ’10) came up with men’s pants that can be worn for days without needing washing or ironing.

Stefan Loble’s Buffworks pants

 Amy Lombard  (photography ’12) wanted to create a book of photographs of people interacting in family rooms at IKEA

Amy Lombard’s website

Heather Huey (millinery ’04) wanted to tell a story of the “human body and fashion,” accompanied by “blatantly frank, erotic and beautiful images.”

Kickstarter funded them all.

At the “Kickstarter School: Bring Your Fashion Project To Life” seminar on August 5, Kickstarter’s fashion project specialist Nicole He  said entrepreneurs have raised $751 million since the crowd-sourcing platform was established four years ago. To date more than 47,000 creative projects have been funded.

“My idea is this…” and “We can’t do this without you” are the

two bookends of a Kickstarter campaign. 

Heather Huey website

The rules are simple: you must be trying to get funding for a product, service or project.  Funders do not get a stake in your business or project, but typically receive goodies — like the product itself, or one picture from a picture book.

Assistant Dean Sass Brown, a self-proclaimed “serial funder” of various campaigns, (one for a jacket that plays music), spoke about why investing in someone else’s campaign is worthwhile.   Brown favors the artistic autonomy the campaigns allow for, and the unique connection funders of have to project developers.

“For the cost of a couple Starbucks coffees you can have an impact on somebody’s

project in bringing it into the world,” says Assistant Dean Brown 

Keep your funders abreast of your progress, said He, even if it mean’s reporting that you’ve been banging your head against the wall.  Loble said that it’s important to get feedback even before you start asking for money.  He added a critical fourth shade, black, to his men’s pants line based on feedback.

There are some key routes to Kickstarter.

They include:
  • A great idea that excites potential donors.  
  • Using social media outlets to promote your project. 
  • Different levels of awards to give donors depending on the size of their donations.  
  • A good explanation, preferably on video of what you’re trying to do. 

The “Kickstarter School” event was  organized by Yolanda Urrabazo from Alumni Affairs.  While Kickstarter is not specifically for the fashion industry,  another platform Byco is.  Unlike Kickstarter, however, it does allow donors to have a share of the business.

Curious among some attendees: Might some of these small ventures might grow into the major fashion houses of tomorrow?


Piazza’s work bridges the gap between classroom & industry

By , July 1, 2013 1:39 pm

We exclaimed over the beautiful patterns as we stood looking at Isabel Piazza’s fabric designs at the AAS Graduating Show. And then just as soon we were lost in fantasies about all the nice things we could make for ourselves out of spectacular fabrics we imagined being made from Piazza’s designs.    

“Birds in Paradise” by Isabel Piazza

Intrigued by her folk art style with elements that are expressive and gentile, we caught up with the former Eastern religion-psychology major turned FIT fabric styling major. Piazza is having a very busy summer. She’s working at two different design studios that focus on prints for apparel and high-end home furnishings.

“Small and humorous things…whether it’s paint chipping off a wall, an interesting shadow cast on the ground, or a renown work of art,” are Piazza’s inspirations. “The screws and bolts that hold up a building,” aren’t minutia to Piazza, “they are just as important as the building itself.”

“Summerset” by Isabel Piazza

This decorative floral painting was done for Piazza’s industrial studio practices course that focuses on the business side of design. “We were instructed to work within a range of limitations. Bridging the gap between the classroom and the industry is essential” says Piazza.

“Rajah” by Isabel Piazza

“I transferred to FIT from a private university. I wanted to do something creative and needed to be in a smaller, close knit community,” says Piazza. “FIT is great for that. I enjoy the intimate class size and the opportunity to engage with your professors on a daily basis. It’s also great being in NYC where there are an unlimited amount of resources—going to fabric trade shows and museums has had a lot of influence on my work as a student.”

photos by Isabel Piazza

Childrenswear alum websites offerering flounced, flouted and playful

By , June 10, 2013 3:38 pm

Pretty in pink. Pretty in aqua. Pretty in trapeze shapes. Pretty in flounced and flouted prints. Pretty with broad straps or spaghetti ties.  All this sweetness is exclusively online at Galette Children’s Apparel and Nula Kids.  They are just two of many childrenswear e-shops created by FIT fashion design alums.

Scrolling instead of strolling it seems, offers benefits to designers and their customers.

“Postcard” composite from Galette Children’s Apparel

“It allows me to work in small quantities and shorten my lead times as I test the market,” says Leah Aronhime (’09), owner of Galette. “This makes it easier to fit into manufacturers’ busy schedules and get the great quality that I want to offer.”

“Producing a line in the US is very costly,” says Ashlie Kodsy (’11) co-founder of Nula Kids. “Cutting out the middle man – the traditional retailer – allows me to have a competitive price point. I can also see what is and isn’t selling immediately, without having to wait for a buyer’s feedback.”

Addie dress from Nula

Fashion Design professor Sandra Markus agrees. “It circumvents selling wholesale, so they can make a better profit. They can charge retail prices, and it’s a way to have your own life.”

Working from one’s choice of location is attractive for Aronhime, who lives in Baltimore. 

For Kodsy as well. “In L.A., I have access to a variety of manufacturers and vendors. Thanks to the (FIT’s) Childrenswear program, I can effectively communicate with these manufacturers in L.A., my business partner in New York, my screen printer in San Francisco, and so forth.”

Lucy outfit from Nula Kids

“They have the digital skills to do this,” says Markus about recent childrenswear grads.  “The whole upper division in the Childenswear major focuses on gaining digital skills that can be used for practical applications.”

None of these practical applications impinges on the primary focus of designing great childenswear.

“It’s wonderful to see such playful designs,” says Sass Brown, Assistant Dean of the School of Art & Design. “Both designers have achieved a cute and playful balance of wearablity and age appropriate practicality.” They’ve avoided, she says, an “over sophistication” of children’s designs that can be out of keeping with childhood. “They know who they’re designing for,” says Brown.

Galette Children’s Apparel

Aronhime credits FIT with helping her find her individual style as a designer. Upon graduation she knew she wanted to start her own company.  The challenge she says “is finding a market niche and getting people to notice my company among everyone else’s on the web. My goal is to build a business through my website that is recognized in the industry.”

“Mine is to reach a larger audience with my brand,” says  Kodsy. “We’ve been fortunate to have some international interest, but the challenge is getting the word out there.”


Photos used with permission. Photos for Nula Kids:  Angeline Woo.  Photos for  Galette Children’s Apparel: Anat Dubin

The Diana Rubio backpack

By , February 28, 2013 6:47 pm

The Diana Rubio Backpack is proof that practicality and style can win the pocketbook wars and a student competition that gets your name all over town. When Ms. Rubio was an FIT student in 2011, she designed the student-friendly bag to be sold at Barnes & Noble. It was to be a short-term run for a back-to-school collection. But it went viral. The original khaki nylon bag, worn as a back-pack style or on the shoulder is now in four colors and plaid. It’s the bag that never quits, nor quits selling.

Diana Rubio

  “I think it is a fantastically designed bag. When I see it on the streets of NY I’m proud of our collaboration with Barnes & Noble. Diana created this bag with the student in mind, which created a best-seller.” – Sarah Mullins, Chair of Accessories Design Department

We met up with Diana to learn more about how her design implementation propelled her bag to the top:

When I design I think what I would want function-wise that’s also stylish. I designed a backpack as opposed to a handbag. I wanted a durable, lightweight material, so my first thought was canvas.  Keeping the New Yorker and commuter in mind, I designed quick side pockets to function as easy access when juggling an on-the-go lifestyle.  When traveling I don’t want to deal with opening pockets, so that’s where drawstrings came in. I also wanted something versatile for both women and men so I made sure to design a neutral bag that anyone can wear.”

Diana Rubio leaving Moda w/ her Diana Rubio Backpack

“I just love it when I see my bag on someone I don’t know!”
- Diana Rubio 

 “I was looking for a bag because I commute…it fits my lunch and my textbooks and folders,”  says advertising & marketing communications student Brooke Micciola, a current intern at GoGorilla Media.  “I’m reading ‘Secrets of the Grave’ – it fits that.  I love the side pockets. I do the crossword puzzle so I put it there,”

I don’t have to go digging. Even inside there’s a zipper one and two smaller ones. After I bought it I was looking at the tag and it said why she designed it. I thought it was so cool.”

Brooke Micciola with her Diana Rubio Backpack

Ms. Rubio said she never thought of competing with other designers. “I believe that skews your natural thinking process. It was a mandatory competition, for fashion and accessory design students with other schools involved.”

“I really like it. It’s rustic and urban. It’s like a rare find. It looks like it’s got some history. It’s something you might find in an antique store.”

- pocketbook maven and textile development & marketing major Ashley Ray

The instructions for the contest were loose. “We weren’t given too many specifics, we just were told to submit three to five different ideas. Barnes & Noble then came to FIT to select final entries and made a second decision for a final winner. We went over our designs as a class during our sketch class and had the opportunity to critique each others work. Professor Vasilios Christofilakos also came in to give further critique. It always helps to have others’ perspective.”

Diana reaching for her yarn. No digging required.

 Diana’s first love is jewelry design. She is at work developing an online website store to feature her jewelry designs. But not to worry, handbags will be there too. “It all comes with time and hard work!” she says.

“I am devoted to my design work. I think when you’re a natural born artist you can never truly stop creating. Creating is in my every day.”

Diana w/ her award-winning bag contemplates returning to FIT for another degree.

The Diana Rubio backpack is proof that an accessory can also be a necessity.

photos: Rachel Ellner

A gathering of eco sensualists

By , February 6, 2013 4:38 pm

A group of eco-focused artisans including FIT grads Zaida Adriana Goveo Balmaseda,  Melissa Kirgan and XZ Chung-Hilyard recently displayed their works at the Manhattan home of prominent fiber artist Abigail Doan. Known for her use of natural fibers and plant materials. Doan, who divides her time between New York, Bulgaria and Italy, describes herself as an “art-farmer.”  

“’Fete for the Senses’ allowed us to create something together while showing who we are as individuals with brands,” said Balmaseda via email. “We had three blissful days to connect, discuss, share with inspiring makers and guests from all sorts of backgrounds, industries and experience, something unforgettable!”

Diningroom table installation at Fetes for the Senses gathering. Photo: Abigail Doan

Balmaseda works with natural dyes and hand-spun yarns. Her “moss formation” dress was on display in one room of Doan’s botanical-scented, spacious apartment. “A lot of my pieces could be described as art, sustainable ‘fashion,’ versatile-reversible wearables, but also labor-intensive examples of handcrafted techniques and new fiber-textile concoctions.”

Zaida Adriana Goveo Balmaseda’s moss formation dress. photo: Jordan Cortese

“It was an event to celebrate the senses and show the work that can provoke the senses in very different, yet somehow connected ways,” said Balmaseda.

Sleeve detail from Zaida Adriana Goveo Balmaseda’s moss formation. Photo: Jordan Cortese

“All of the work included in Fete for the Senses was either handmade, artisan-produced, textile rich, or completely organic in nature”

Trend forecaster and curator Lidewij Edelkoort

 Sometimes it is hard to find platforms to showcase work that helps an audience see and understand different layers,” said Balmaseda. “Fashion events often focus on style trends and marketability. Sustainability events celebrate the ethics of production and alternative business models, the environmental and social impact of the pieces. Textile-craft events usually attract people that appreciate heritage, traditional techniques and innovation. All are wonderful, but do not always allow for a combined picture.”

Zaida Adriana Goveo Balmaseda’s moss formation dress

“New York made me strong, gave me drive and incredible career opportunities,” Balmaseda says on a blog post about a recent knitting session with fellow FIT grads. “It’s incredible how much things have changed since we’ve stopped frequenting the classrooms on 27th street.”

Crystal necklace made by Melissa Kirgan and XZ of Eko-Lab.  Photo: Abigail Doan

“There’s no connection between people and their clothing anymore. It’s very sensual to ingest to bring the design into you.” – Melissa Kirgan

Melissa Kirgan and XZ Chung-Hilyard of Eko-Lab displayed their crystal necklace made of stones wrapped in organic cloth from Goods of Conscience, which is woven with reflective fiber from Guatemala.

“Abigail and I were talking before the Christmas holiday about multi-sensory designs” says Kirgan. “We were inspired to imagine what our designs would taste like. We thought of rock candy. XZ made rock candy for months in her kitchen to get a visual of the crystal. ”

“Rock candy is a little exotic and the coloring is beautiful. We wanted to bring that into the design. I know it’s weird and funny. But it worked out really nicely.”

Detail of Eko-Labs black sesame rock candy. Photo: Abigail Doan

The rope for the necklace was found at the Brooklyn Navy Yard near their studio. “It was a night-before piece! The eucalyptus leaves come from the farmers’ market that we got for the Fete for the Senses journey.”

“It was an intimate setting,” says Assistant Dean Sass Brown who attended fete along with other appreciators of art and craft. “It was a sensitive presentation and a sharing,” said Brown, who is author of “Eco Fashion,” and a leading expert on sustainable fashion design.

“We finished the three day feast sitting on the floor with our last guests while XZ gave a hands on crochet demonstration,” said Balmaseda. “Oh so sweet!”


Both Kirgan and Balmaseda studied in FIT fashion design programs in Italy. XZ Chung-Hilyard is a graphic design grad.

Yecca Zeng champions the Chancellor’s Award

By , November 9, 2012 7:20 pm

It requires some poking around and some leading questions to find out the extent of the awards, scholarships, internships and leadership recognitions Yecca Zeng (’12) received on the way toward her BFA in fashion design.  The short list: presidential scholar,  outstanding draping design, BFA runway show apparel designs, student ambassador, VP of the Intimate Apparel Club, peer tutor. Most notably, she’s a recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence 2012.

Yecca strongly urges students to apply for is the Chancellor’s Award 2013.  She graciously answered questions about the application process, and where her suitcase full of accomplishments led her.

DEADLINE ALERT:  Applications for SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence 2013 due November 30.

Yecca Zeng

Photo:  FIT photography student Erin Glover

A&D: What made you decide to apply for the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence?

Yecca: I have always been a bit of an overachiever, and felt this award was created to recognize over achievement!  The application was not at all difficult. It only asks for a detailed list of accomplishments, both small and large. I figured, why not?

A&D:  What type of student is best suited to win?

Yecca: Anyone who pursued many different goals and succeeded. I just barely made the cut at 3.7 (GPA), and I think it is very fair.

Yecca’s latest wedding dress

Photo: JJ Mendoza

A&D: What was your mindset as an FIT student?

Yecca: From my first semester term garment to my final senior thesis, I took risks and finished complicated projects in the nick of time. I also pushed myself to overload on extra classes (both liberal and artistic) and participate in a barrage of activities. I was constantly exhausted because of my crazy schedule. There were definitely some bad test results. That never stopped me from trying to learn more, and discover new skills and ideas. I met some amazing people that I never would have if I had just stayed in the required fashion design course path.

This award is not about getting the highest grade in the class. It’s about getting the most out of everything college has to offer.

Yecca’s Femmy Gala award-winning design in Best of Intima magazine. 

Photo: Andrei Jackamets

A&D:   Do you think employers take notice of this award?

Yecca: I think it certainly doesn’t hurt. It’s given to just a handful of students and it’s a way to differentiate yourself from other job hunters.

A&D:  Tell us a bit about your work at American Eagle.

Yecca: Currently I work full time as an assistant bra designer for aerie. It’s quite interesting how much my duties change as a designer in the real world. I spend over half the day communicating between all the different hands involved in the creation of a product.  But the best part is I have evenings and weekends to enrich my life however I wish.

Yecca Zeng’s intimate apparel design chosen for the BFA runway show 2012

Yecca cont:  Back in college with all those sleep-deprived nights, when I was taking 15-minute naps every other day and drowsily riding the subway home 2 a.m. every night, I’d wonder to myself: Is it really worth it? Will I even find a job? And it is so incredibly rewarding, knowing that everything I work on now, is being produced and sold to millions.

Click here to download application for the Chancelor’s Award for Student Excellence 2013

Visit Yecca Zeng’s website


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