Chalk FIT back by popular demand

FIT chalk artists will soon take to the outside walls of FIT. Illustration grad Angel Garcia (2013), initiated Chalk FIT today with a toothy character pointing the way to student chalk work that will begin appearing Monday at 9 a.m.

Chalk artist and muralist Angel Garcia ('13)
Chalk artist and muralist Angel Garcia (’13)

“FIT is bringing the studio outside! It’s wonderful,” says Joanne Arbuckle, Dean of the School of Art and Design. 

“In high school you have a homecoming football game. Here at FIT, Illustration is the homecoming team,” jokes Prof. Dan Shefelman who oversees Chalk FIT.

“I wanted to do a nice shape, one related to Chalk FIT,” said Garcia.  “It’s pointing to where the rest of the students will do their work.”

Garcia has created murals at Flushing International High School and at the bazaar at Junction Boulevard in Queens.

“Angel  went to school here, and now — to do something on the side of the school you attended — that’s inspirational!” says Illustration freshman David Powers from Buffalo.

Expect to see on Monday, 50 illustration seniors and 6 alums in addition to Garcia, using the FIT campus as their canvas.

Check out last year’s posts on Chalk FIT:

The campus gets chalked

Halloween lingers — not Christmas yet at FIT

Photo: Rachel Ellner

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A course with all the trimmings

Trimmings are not just for the holiday table. For students in Prof. Veronica Romano’s Professional Practice class, trimmings can cook up a design project par excellence. Romano’s Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design (VPED) students were ecstatic to find a great source of them at M&J Trimmings in the Garment Center.

VPED student Keri Collins with metallic bead trim, perfect for her display project.

“They were overwhelmed by vast NYC resources they never knew existed in the Garment District,” says Romano. “That’s so exciting to me.”

“The Garment District was once a center for industry. Today it’s one for specialty displays, props and materials,” says VPED Chair Craig Berger. “There’s a deep wealth of local stores and outlets of larger distributors. The garment industry left but the distribution of materials and products is still here. It’s wonderful for VPED students. There’s no place like it in the rest of the country,” says Berger, author of “Wayfinding: Designing and Implementing Graphic Navigational Systems.”

As of July, there were 134 trimming and button businesses in the Garment District, according to Ryan Daly of the Garment District Alliance.

“If you walk down 38 Street from Fifth Avenue to Eighth Avenue you’ll encounter 12 trimming stores on the ground floor,” says Daly. This doesn’t include M&J, which is also a hit with fashion tourists who kvell over the enormous inventory and lavish displays.  

Prof. Veronica Romano's Professional Practices class
Prof. Veronica Romano’s Professional Practices class outside M&J Trimmings at 10008 Sixth Ave.

“This trip meant the connection between the industry and classroom. It’s what I dreamed about for an education” said Christy Rappold who comes from North Carolina. “Going to school in New York is the most glamorous thing in the world. As we say ‘New York City, Holy City!'”

“How you design anything, that’s the fun part,” says Romano. “But it’s the sourcing, the execution, budgeting, scheduling, the install that’s equally as important. They’re designers but they’re also business and production people as well.”

For VEPD Prof. Mary Constantini, “Trimmings are the bling that make the beautiful details.”

Daysi Barahona, Anastasiya Malakhowskaya & Christy Rappold inspired by resources found in the Garment District.

“They’re learning how to take their concepts to production using the best resources New York City has to offer,” says Romano.


photos provided by Veronica Romano

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FIT Students Honored at White House

Chelsea Chen's dress on display next to First Lady wearing Natalya Koval's dress. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Chelsea Chen’s dress on display next to the First Lady, who wears a Natalya Koval dress. Photo: Alex Wong

Fashion enthusiasts know which designers First Lady Michelle Obama favors. Now add FIT’s Natalya Koval and Chelsea Chen to a list that includes Rachel Roy, Narciso Rodriguez, Jason Wu and Azzedine Alaia.

The First Lady spoke at the White House yesterday at her star-designer studded, student-centered Fashion Education Workshop. History will record what she wore: Natalya Koval’s midnight blue racer front, fit and flair dress. Beside her on a dress form was Chelsea Chen’s dark navy color-blocked dress with emerald, lavender and off-white panels.

“The dress that I am wearing today and the dress that you see here were designed by two [FIT] students,” said Mrs. Obama. “Natalya and Chelsea, thank you. Thank you for your creativity, thank you for your passion.  We’re very proud of you,” she said of the winners of the White House’s design competition.

Natalya Koval, FIT President Joyce Brown, Chelsea Chen outside the White House
Natalya Koval, FIT President Joyce Brown and Chelsea Chen outside the White House

It was an “OMG” Day for the FIT family.

“I couldn’t have fathomed myself in this position of having my design chosen by the First Lady,” said Chelsea. “Even for an established designer this would be a huge opportunity.”

“I’m so overwhelmed and feel so privileged to be given a lifetime opportunity to represent FIT as a student designer,” said Natalya Koval, a fifth semester fashion design student. “This is such a big life event!” Reporters from the New York Daily News to Ukrainian Vogue are lined up for interviews with Koval.

The White House was transformed — in Vogue editor Anna Wintour’s words — “into a center of creativity and collaboration for students from across the world.” Five technology-innovative workshops were led by fashion design big hitters like Phillip Lim, Zac Posen, Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig, Naeem Khan, and Thom Browne.

Meredith Koop, stylist for the First Lady with Chelsea Chen
Meredith Koop, stylist for the First Lady with Chelsea Chen

At the luncheon the First Lady’s comments reflected Chelsea’s and Natalya’s experience.

“The clothes you see in the magazine covers are really just the finished product in what is a very long, very complicated and very difficult process, as I’ve come to learn working with many designers,” said the First Lady.

“It might seem to be an easy process for one dress,” said Natalya, “but it took many people to take it to the level of perfect, of something you would want to see on our fashion icon Michelle Obama.”

Student designs were chosen in a competition hosted by the White House. They knew they were designing for a real “celebrity” but the name was not revealed until the First Lady had chosen her designs. 

Designer and mentor Phillip Lim, Natalya and Chelsea Chen at the White House
Designer and mentor Phillip Lim, Natalya and Chelsea Chen at the White House

Chelsea Chen, a seventh semester fashion design major, comes from a business and finance background, and says she barely knew how to sketch or sew before coming to FIT.

“I came from the tiniest, tiniest city in northeast China. When I was walking home from the meeting with the First Lady’s stylist Meredith Koop, who broke the news to us, I had a flashback of all that it took to be here — to then being present in the same room with the First Lady’s stylist and all these fabulous respected faculty members from FIT!”

Natalya Koval’s earliest muses were her paper cut-out dolls. By middle school she was creating clothes for herself. Yet emigrating to the U.S. was a long, arduous process.

Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine with Chelsea Chen
Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine, with Chelsea Chen

A panel discussion, with a chance to network, was held just for students. The panel included Jenna Lyons, Diane von Furstenberg, Prabal Gurung, Jason Wu, Tracy Reese, and Edward Wilkerson with Lilliana Vazquez as moderator.

Panel discussion for students at the Fashion Education Workshop at the White House

“You’ve got to hone your skills in college or at design school; you’ve got to be willing to take some risks and you also have to be prepared to fail…a lot,” the First Lady said. “All of these are essential for the journey.”

Said Wintour, “Education in [The First Lady’s] view is the key to the whole thing.” 

“It’s very true,” said Natalya. “I would have never gotten this far without FIT.”

Chelsea and Natalia at the White House



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BFA Fair 2014: An Art & Design future for everyone

Katie Reggie with her first fabric styling assignment
Katie Reggie with her first fabric styling assignment

On October 2, representatives from the School’s baccalaureate programs, Admissions, Registrar, and the School of Liberal Arts were on hand to help students learn more about Art and Design upper division majors.

Current BFA students and alum showed their work and spoke about their transitions into BFA design majors.


“I come from a business background,” said Fabric Styling major Katie Reggie standing by her project. “I learned patience and how to do research–it makes for a good project.”

Her professor, Sara Petitt agreed. “The very first assignment in Intro to Fabric Styling is childrenswear boards. They learn how to tell a well-edited, well-conceived, visually interesting and technically perfect trend forecasting story.”

Profs. Christie Shin & C.J. Yeh
” Profs. Christie Shin & C.J. Yeh

“It’s buzzing in here. There’s lots of excitement and possibilities. There’s the right course of study for each student. Something for everybody!” says Communications Chair Suzanne Anoushian.

Prof. Bergit Schwarz-Hickey, from Advertising Design
Packaging Design Chair Marianne Klimchuk

“The energy is amazing,” says Packaging Design Chair Marianne Klimchuk.

Chair of Fashion Design Eileen Karp with student proud to wear the FIT logo

“I’m learning about the requirements, portfolios and software they’re using,” says Dhondup Tsering who talked computer animation and computer graphics with Prof. Kathleen Neely.

Prof. Kathleen Neely of Computer Animation and Interactive Media with Dhondup Tsering

Ester Zar, an Advertising Design senior and representative of the Presidential Scholar Program was on hand. “Students love the thought of being in a classroom where everyone wants to be there. There are classes specifically in film or New York architecture or American lives. I took The Invention of New York City, which was incredible.”AD-s_0195

Prof. Vasilios Christofilakos and Chair Sarah Mullins of Accessories Design

“It’s one of the most visually impactful presentations from the departments of Art and Design,” said Associate Dean Sass Brown.”

general s_0162

“The students seem hungry for information says so they can make informed decisions. They’ve done their research,” Prof. Leslie Blum of Communications Design. “They’re asking questions that show they’re thinking carefully about their choices.”

Photos by Rachel Ellner


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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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