Interior Design “EZ Camp” attracts out-of-towners & stressed out NYers

Karen and Cynthia Blair from Seattle, WA
Karen and Cynthia Blair from Seattle

Spotted contemplating the “Mind Body Spirit” Interior Design senior thesis exhibition in the Pomerantz Art and Design Center were two sisters from Seattle.  A quick invite into their conversation gave us this observation:

“We’re impressed with the variety of technologies the students have to master,” said Karen Blair,” a professor of American history at Central Washington University. “Working from an inspiration, devising layers, and movement, and patterns, it’s really incredible.”

Professor Blair’s sister, Cynthia, has written more than 50 novels, most recently “Reigning Cats & Dogs,” a mystery series. The two were standing in front of the indoor urban campsite designs called “EZ Camp.” 

“EZ Camp” says Interior Design Chair Eric Daniels, “is about taking an outdoor camping experience and recreating it on the New York City West Side Pier.” 

The experience includes marshmallows.  Says Daniels “It’s for stressed out New Yorkers who can’t get out of the city,” and for visitors to marvel.

“Mind Body Spirit” will be on display in the Fred P. Pomerantz Art and Design Center until October 19. The Center is located at the corner of W. 27th and 7th Avenue. 

photo: Rachel Ellner



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Waiting in the wings for Robert Verdi

Robert Verdi and Jewelry Design Chair Michael Coan

His taste is” impeccable,” as the New York Times declared in 1998. The Times also described his job title as “elusive.” The real issue is that FIT alumnus Robert Verdi has many titles: tastemaker, celebrity stylist, brand ambassador, lifestyle leader and in his own words “fearless entrepreneur and fashion superhero.”

“Few people combine personality, talent knowledge and an inherent eye for style. One of them is Robert Verdi. He’s a person one waits to talk to,” says Jewelry Design Chair Michael Coan.

And wait they did. Students and alum lined up to speak to Verdi after his spellbinding and characteristically animated talk on Monday as part of the Faces & Places lecture series curated by Prof. Joshua Williams. 

But first Verdi ecstatically grabbed a hug from his former teacher, Coan.

“He’s a phenomenal inspiration,” says Coan. As a student he was “maddening and a divergent learner. He wasn’t mainstream, but a major person of interest. He certainly challenged my skills in teaching at that time, making me aware of the creativity involved in working with “divergent” thinkers.”

Robert Verdi, FIT grad and “fearless entrepreneur and fashion superhero”
Robert Verdi, FIT grad and “fearless entrepreneur and fashion superhero”

 Says Coan, “Verdi, could gain an amazing grasp of a topic within a short period of time. I remembered how he whipped through the auction catalogs I gave him, gathering images, styles, making notes of styles he liked and styles he disliked.

…And, he knew how to make them better.”


photos: Rachel Ellner

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Fall is here and so is Sawa Takai

The mood provides the only color in Sawa Takai fall collection black and white video. The urban setting and pensive expressions suggest uncertainty of what tomorrow brings. Yet tailoring, and exacting design indicates a bolder plot line — one that was apparent when Sawa studied at FIT.

Sawa Takai fall collection
Sawa Takai fall collection

“Sawa has fight in her. Her vision is clear. She has a passionate determination about her signature and a youthful wisdom” says Prof. Lisa Feuerherm.“She worked like a pro before she graduated.”

As resident director of FIT in Milan, Feuerherm took note of Sawa in a Collection Class of 10 students in Spring 2010.

Her work is “quirky and understated with sophistication and thoughtful detailing. It’s feminine androgyny. There’s menswear detailing that is anything but masculine.” –  Prof. Lisa Feuerherm

Sawa Takai fall collection
Sawa Takai fall collection

Sawa’s graduation design was an “enormous sculptural piece,” recalls Associate Dean Sass Brown. “It didn’t fit into a standard label. It was exquisitely crafted.”  

“Sawa has an interesting styling, relatively minimal, but interesting scale and juxtaposition of the silhouettes and use of color.” – Associate Dean Sass Brown

Such largeness was also represented by her spinning of ideas and explorations with materials and techniques.

Sawa Takai fall collection
Sawa Takai fall collection

“That’s the pleasure of college, to try things that don’t have a commercial application,” says Brown “You can pare creativity down, but you can’t add it in if it’s not there.”

Sawa won best design award in an FIT v Parsons Fusion Fashion Show competition. In her senior year she studied at Politecnico di Milano. Two years after graduating she started her own collection.

Sawa Takai fall collection
Sawa Takai fall collection

“It seems like she’s been designing a very long time, but with a fresh outlook. Her designs contain a historical wisdom, a sense of being around for a while, but a new take on menswear detailing.” – Prof. Lisa Feuerherm

Sawa Takai fall collection
Sawa Takai fall collection

“Sawa brings a cultural richness to her work. It’s like the edge — the detailing of a kimono — it’s right there” says Feuerherm.

To see more of Sawa’s work go to Sawa Takai

Photos and video used with permission


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Gaining some linear perspective

…can be a good thing. And it’s your outdoor classroom assignment if you’re in Prof. Dean Dalfonzo’s Drawing I class.

Amanda Hernandez, Estie Wassner, Alex Mardikos
Amanda Hernandez, Estie Wassner, Alex Mardikos

“Linear perspective is a way to approximate far and near” says Fine Arts Chair Stephanie DeManuelle. “That’s why they’re outside, to get some space. It’s a Renaissance system.”

For information about FIT’s Fine Arts major go to: Fine Arts @ FIT


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First arrival to Dean Arbuckle’s fall semester Open Hours

Freshman fashion design student Neville Boasiako came by for some fashion chat with the dean yesterday.

Freshman fashion design student Neville Boasiako with Dean Arbuckle
Freshman fashion design student Neville Boasiako with Dean Arbuckle

Neville didn’t come empty-handed. He brought designs he created at The High School of Fashion Industries. He was proud to point out that FIT was once located at his high school alma mater.

“Open Hours is one of the best parts of being dean,” said Dean Arbuckle. We can tell!

Dean’s Open Hours are held 5:00pm.-6:30pm one day a week throughout most of the semester. No appointments needed. To check the schedule go to Dean’s Open Hours, or to the School of Art & Design webpage.


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Peter Do’s black & whites are “textural & refined”


Julie Gilhart has experience with young fashion designers on the edge of greatness. The consultant, former fashion director and VP of Barneys, she has helped make breakthroughs happen.  Serving as an expert for this year’s LVMH Prize for Young Fashion Designers, Gilhart identified Peter Do as an outstanding talent. The BFA grad would win the prestigious Graduate Prize, with a one-year contract to the fashion house Céline.

Ms. Gilhart provided comments about some of the defining characteristics about Do’s work.

Q.  What was it about Peter’s work that stood out for you?

Julie: I only saw photographs but they were intriguing and bold. There was this theme of bold brushstrokes in black and white that made me stop.



Q. How many other applicants was he up against?

Julie: Over 500! What did your role as expert entail? Narrowing down from schools all over the world the three best and upcoming talents.



Q: How does Peter’s work compare to more established designers?

Julie: I have seen many of our top designers at this beginning stage and I feel Peter’s collection has a sense of unity that is important when you are first starting out. I feel he exhibited a talent for being focused and balanced. PeterDo1


Q: His prints look unique. Could you comment about them?

Julie: It wasn’t just about a “print,” but how he manipulated fabric or in some cases plastic, by quilting, painting, bonding.

Q:  Are there special challenges to work in a lot of blacks and whites?

Julie: I think what I loved about Peter’s color story is that he made the black and white theme seem very textural and refined rather than the typical bold and graphic story.




Q: In an interview, Peter was asked what he finds most beautiful. He said his family and his cats. [In another interview he said he was selling his knitting machine to pay off his cat’s medical bills.] He seems very down to earth. is that your impression?

Julie: Peter has a shyness about him when you first meet him but, for instance, if you look at his Instagram, it is very strong and bold. We were looking for a quality of excellence in a designer. Peter has this type of presence about him.  


Back story:  Peter Do graduated in May with a BFA in fashion design. He was the 2013 winner of the CFDA Scholarship and the 2014 Critic Award winner for the Senior Thesis Collection at FIT, and the 2012 Critic Award winner for the AAS exhibition. He was second in the FIT vs. Parsons competitive Fusion Fashion Show, and received honorable mention for the Geoffrey Beene Design Scholarship Award.     

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Farm-home inspiration for handbag finalist

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!


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From the desk of Edward Irizarry

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.


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FIT students clutch finalist spots in handbag contest

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!

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