Goodbye Sass!

Sass Brown

“The next picture I send you I’ll be on a camel”

The associate dean (and for five months our interim dean) of the School of Art and Design has left after 17 years at FIT for a warmer… much warmer…clime, in a city with really tall buildings and great high-fashion shopping malls and 24-hour air conditioning…Dubai.

Parting shots:

Goodbye words: “No, I didn’t get fired!”

Days between arrival and work: “I fly on (Jan) the 6th, arrive on (Jan) the 7th and start work on (Jan) the 8th.”

New title:  Dean, Dubai Institute of Design and Innovation

Most important clothing she’s taking with her: “Something by Donna Karan Urban Zen. Coats will go to the back of the wardrobe.”

Most important books:  “‘African Origin of Civilization,’ by Cheikh Anta Diop, and ‘The Artist’s Way,’ by Julia Cameron.”

First experience at FIT: “I was brought in to teach American Couture. I used to laugh that they brought in a European for this.”

Favorite memory at FIT: Georgianna Appignani (director of International Programs) sent me to a conference in Rio on textiles. I’d never had any public speaking experience. It was attended by the president or VP of Brazil. It was another experience of leaping and hoping a net would be there. It opened my eyes to the opportunities in education. I’ve written two books since then, lots of papers and taught workshops and spoken all over the world.

Advice to self in re-locating to a new country: “You have to find the things that bring you joy very quickly. It’s a way of establishing your own supports. Whenever you move, especially where you don’t know anyone, you lose all the familiarities that make life comfortable. You’re going to have many lonely and stressful times.”

First one new thing of joy in Dubai: “A Lebanese restaurant I discovered.”

Other things of comfort: “My broom(stick), my crystals, things that I’ve picked up from places I’ve been, chairs from Ivory Coast, ornaments from Brazil.

Average temperature in Dubai “It hovers between 80 degrees F and 85 degrees F. ”

“I love the desert” she says.

Sass Brown

Sass with her last afternoon tea at FIT


Also check out:

Talking trash with Sass

Dean Arbuckle on Simone Cipriani & The Hand of Fashion series

Paul Dillinger of Levi Strauss kicks off Summer Sustainability Institute

Art & Design’s Sass Brown Appointed Acting Assistant Dean

photos: Rachel Ellner

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Kareen Fagan: DIY and beauty care “to the core”

When Kareen Fagan tells people that she has an AAS in Jewelry Design (2005) and that she runs a body and hair care products business, she imagines them wondering: “How does she go from creating artistic designs to making soaps and scrubs?”

Ms. Fagan, now at work on her BS in Entrepreneurship, tells us how she combines intertwining passions. She also talks about her enduring inspiration, her grandmother Enid, whose name is now synonymous with sweet smelling herbs, scented oils, and healing and beauty lotions.

Kareen Fagan working with ingredients in her Crock-Pot

“While I am an artist, my focus is on making products with nourishing ingredients from the earth to help treat or alleviate conditions such as eczema, sunburn or overly dry or oily skin,” she says.

Ms. Fagan describes herself as “DIY” to the core. “Along with making jewelry, I’ve made hair and body products based on my personal needs since I was a teen,” she says.

Soap bars in oatmeal

Having tried different moisturizers for dry skin, she researched and experimented with plant-based oils in her kitchen. She developed her Shea Body and Hair Butter, which she shared with friends and family who then requested to purchase more.

“I didn’t plan on starting a body and hair care business. My goal since I was a teenager was to have a jewelry company,” she says.

Part of the Enid B. line

In fact she was selling handmade jewelry when she was only 11 years old.  “On weekends I sold my jewelry at craft shows.  My parents allowed me to travel from our home in New Jersey to Manhattan to buy my beads and supplies at wholesale suppliers,” she says.

“A couple years ago I became passionate about helping people with my body and hair products. I  chose to use chemical- and preservative-free, plant-based oils like raw shea butter, organic olive oil, organic coconut oil and essential oils.”

The alchemist’s work station

Ms. Fagan named her company Enid B. in honor of her paternal grandmother. “She first taught me about using medicinal plants to care for our family,” she says.

Kareen Fagan with her grandmother Enid

“The artistry of jewelry making is incorporated in my body and hair care product making in different ways. I consciously choose plants that I infuse into oil in order to get different colors to have as my color palette, much the way I would use colored stones,” she says.

Jars of colored oil for Enid B. products

“My Thai Breeze soap is made in two batches and then combined. One batch has no added color, but takes on a cream color from the, which over time fades to a soft brown and then becomes the top layer of the soap.”

For the second batch, the bottom layer is infused with annatto seeds, a natural colorant used in foods like Spanish yellow rice. “It’s inspired by the rich colors of Thailand and the golden architecture that is part of the country’s landscape. Then there’s the blending of essential oils to create imagery I like.  I use lemongrass and ginger as the lead scents in my Thai Breeze soap.”

Enid B. soaps

Ms. Fagan began blending oils that she found to have healing properties.  “I have taken perfumery courses like Intro to Perfumery.” She takes other courses based on the needs of her business as they arise. For instance, she took Intro to Digital Photography and Still-Life Fundamentals for Fashion Stylists.

“Packaging design has become very important to me. I want the packaging to be an outward extension of the product’s purpose, which the customer will experience upon opening. My products are for the good that they will do, but also they are little luxuries that sit beautifully next to a favorite soap dish in the bathroom, or next to a collection of vintage perfume bottles in the bedroom.”

Ms. Fagan has begun using glass jars for her shea body-hair butters and face-lip scrubs like her Rosemary and Lemon Sugar Scrub.

“There’s a feeling that comes from the coolness as your hand glides over the smooth sides of the jars.  There’s also an elegance that plastic cosmetic jars don’t always have,” she says.

Blooming Rose Sea Salt Scrub alongside rose petals

With the help of friends and family, Ms. Fagan has honed what she calls her “design eye.” Early on, a roommate she had, pointed out the complimentary designs of materials she had chosen for the apartment. “There was a lace theme in my curtains and a couple of tops and a favorite skirt. The colors in my quilt were the same as my oven mitts,” she says.

Now Ms. Fagan gets feedback from her husband and friends. “They get to be my product test subjects, which they absolutely don’t mind!”

More information on Kareen Fagan’s skin care line can be found on her Etsy shop: Enid B.

All images used with permission.

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Meet Dave, Felix, Iggy, Elsa, Buster & Ginger

“First off, I am a dog lover,” says Illustration Professor John Nickle, to exactly no one’s surprise. While the award-winning illustrator’s spunky, high-minded animal characters for children’s books are 100% imagination, these hard-living pups serve as the illustrator’s live muses.  He knows their stories, predilections, where they hail from, accessories they look best in and the ones they chew through. Prof. Nickle tells of his experience with each of them here:
"Dave," by John Nickle
“Dave” by John Nickle
I was given a blurry, one-inch square Xerox copy of Dave’s ASPCA mugshot, attached to his rescue paperwork. Apparently the guys who found him, stuck a hat on him for the photo. I re-shot the photo reference for detail and lighting, and added a different hat but kept Dave’s stunned expression. 
My inspiration comes from the 18th century English painter George Stubbs, known for his animal paintings. I recently saw several of Stubbs’ horse paintings at the Met and was struck by how subtly weird they were.
Rundown & Felix
“Rundown & Felix” by John Nickle

Rundown is a big, solid Hamptons dog by way of Baltimore. Felix is my dog, a crazy Italian Greyhound. They see each other a couple of times a year when we visit our friend Stacey in Sag Harbor. When they play it’s like watching a weight lifter and a sprinter dance and trash talk.

My challenge is to push the paintings beyond straightforward animal portraiture and find a little twist to make them interesting.

"Iggy" by John Nickle
“Iggy” by John Nickle

Felix and I know Iggy and his owner Dani from Prospect Park. Dani says that Iggy’s face reminded her of a pansy. I had a hard time composing this with just one pansy, so a halo seemed to be a good and appropriate solution. Prospect Park is the background.

The series dovetails nicely with my illustration and painting classes at FIT. They are collaborative, like illustration assignments, and I use a classical approach to the making of the paintings.

"Elsa" by John Nickle
“Elsa” by John Nickle

Elsa is an Icelandic Sheepdog. Her “mom,” Annika and the family are avid skiers and split their time between Vermont and Brooklyn. Elsa is a fiery, focused, and vocal little dog, aka the “Bjork of Prospect Park.” I wanted to juxtapose her intense presence with the serenity of a snowy landscape. 

I encourage each client to tell me their dog’s story and encourage feedback during the photography and sketch phase. I take a lot of photos for reference and usually use about four final choices for the main reference.  One photo for expression, one for angle, one for color and one for lighting.

The final paintings are all acrylic on wood. I start with a monotone underpainting and then apply a combination of washes, opaque paint, and glazes.

"Buster" by John Nickle
“Buster” by John Nickle
Buster and Ginger are roommates in New Jersey. Rendering fur was the big challenge here, of Ginger’s flowing locks and Buster’s crazy patchwork. These are part of a three-part commission that includes the client’s son.
"Ginger" by John Nickle
“Ginger” by John Nickle

For each of the paintings, I made the background a bold, solid primary-ish color so that they could be hung close together as a triptych, spaced and hung as either a horizontal or a vertical set.

John Nickle has been teaching in the School of Art and Design for five years. In the undergraduate Illustration program he teaches drawing and painting, illustration assignment, and senior portfolio classes. In the MFA program, he split teaches the Exploring Media class.

To see more of Professor Nickle’s work go to: John Nickle Illustration

All images used with permission.


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Samantha Mayo’s Color Harmony Project

Samantha Mayo became interested in interior design in her junior year at Sayville High School on Long Island.  “I grew up going to antique shops in Pennsylvania and throughout New England. I had an interest and feel for furniture and accessories from different time periods,” says Mayo, now a first-semester Interior Design student.

“I used to wonder how the furnishings and pieces affected their previous owners’ lives. I thought about how to recreate the same feeling or perhaps a completely different one for another person’s life,” says Mayo.

“Now I think about the environment that furnishings belong in — how the colors will affect the perception and mood of the space,” she says about what she’s learned in Interior Design Studio I class with Prof. Phyllis Harbinger.

Samantha Mayo, first semester Interior Design student. Photo: Patrizia Messino
Samantha Mayo, 1st semester Interior Design student. Photo By: Patrizia Messineo

Her second project for this class was to explore moods and setting. “We were each assigned a different hue; mine was orange. I created a triadic color scheme for a therapy center. This is a hue that exudes a hopeful, happy and relaxing environment,” says Mayo.

Samantha Mayo’s Color Harmony Commercial Space

“What students learn,” says Prof. Harbinger “is not only the principals and theory of color harmony, but the practical application of appropriate materials. It’s not just about the right hue or color, but making sure your texture and patterns are all aligning with the overall scheme and provide function for that particular space.”

The commercial board (above) is a triadic color harmony.  That means three colors equidistant on the color wheel. The hues in an orange triadic scheme include purple and green. “We went to the Decoration and Design Building,  which has interior design showrooms, to find samples of materials that would be in our respective spaces. It was fun but challenging to find the right ones for a commercial space,” says Mayo.

Samantha Mayo's Color Harmony of Residential Space
Samantha Mayo’s Color Harmony of Residential Space

The project’s second board is of a residential space. “This is a master bedroom. I created a client profile of a young woman in Arizona who longed for cooler weather. Her bedroom retreat included the elements of her surroundings–the warm tones of orange, but also the cool tones of blue. Think cool ocean breezes!” says Mayo.

“Her boards were very professionally executed,” says Prof. Harbinger. “She’s coming away from this project with a better understanding of how an interior designer would work through the process of creating a color harmony.”

There’s more to come. “The interior design curriculum will help Samantha build a skill set that will enable her to understand, evaluate how to incorporate elements from various historical periods into a design that will fit the way we live today,” says Prof. Harbinger.

Mayo agrees. “Learning about color harmony and schemes will help me incorporate elements of different time periods into spaces that I’ll be designing.”


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Professors’ FIT invite wins prestigious design award

Communication Design Assistant Chair CJ Yeh and Professor Christie Shin won two of the 143 awards in the 2016 Communication Arts Typography Award competition. As is customary to say in this election year, “That’s UUUGE!” The CA Award is one of the most prestigious design competitions in the world. The professors’ winning design for the all-type design category was the invitation card for FIT’s first exhibit of student work from the department’s new Creative Technology minor.

“We got the design direction for the front of the card fairly quickly,” said Prof. Yeh. “But I got stuck working on the design for the back. The theme was typography in the digital age,” And then…

Winner of all-type design CA Award for their invitation to the Creative Technology exhibit “TYPE.”

“Prof. Shin started breaking the expected grid and used a diagonal layout to bring more energy to the design.

“I watched her move things around quickly on and off the art board. I said to myself  ‘Oh, the movement reminds me of a printing press.’ It actually looks like a misprint when it is left partially outside of the art board.

Communication Design professors & CA winners CJ Yeh and Christie Chin

“Misprint became our core concept. We were excited by this direction. The idea of a misprint exposes the technology behind the making of the invitation card. The textual content was rotated and purposely aligned on an angle to give a sense of movement, and the position was carefully calculated so the viewer has to complete some of the information by moving the eyes from one side to the other.”


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Cool factors of BFA majors & minors

We all live a little vicariously when we peek into a classroom where art and design creation is going on–whether it’s producing animations, illustrations, jewelry making, draping fabric, lighting a photography set or constructing a hat. All that focus and creative exploration! Every BFA Art & Design major has its allure, its cross-disciplinary components, and of course its solid course of study. Choosing one might seem monolithic. We picked out just a few of some of the cool factors overheard at this year’s BFA Fair, in hopes that it might help you clinch the deal.

Terry Blum, Director, John Goodwin, professor Computer Animation & Interactive Computer Graphics
Terry Blum, Director,  Prof. John Goodwin, Computer Animation & Interactive Computer Graphics

Computer Animation & Interactive Media Computer Graphics

“Kids come into our program with the idea of learning a quarter of what we offer, and they end up falling in love with a whole different section of it that they didn’t know about,” says Prof. John Goodwin. “There’s interactive media! Animation–both 2D and 3D! Game design!”

Extra cool factor: “Just with the prerequisites alone you can get a job in advertising. There are so many jobs out there in image presenting motion,” says Prof. Goodwin.

Camita Sanchez-Fong, Assistant Chair, Eric Daniels, Chair, Interior Design
Camita Sanchez-Fong, Assistant Chair, Eric Daniels, Chair, Interior Design

Interior Design

“People think we just decorate and don’t realize how technical we are and how close we come to architecture,” says Interior Design Assistant Chair Carmita Sanchez-Fong. “We go to the heart of construction by understanding building regulations, mechanical systems and advanced methods of construction. If you want to see your designs come to life you must understand the technical end of design.”

Extra cool factor: “To become certified designers, the BFA is a tremendous plus,” says Prof. Sanchez-Fong.

Craig Berger, Chair, Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design
Craig Berger, Chair, Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design

Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design

“We’re using digital technologies to create environments and objects in real space. It’s very multidisciplinary,” says Steve Ceraso, VPED Technician. “Students love the process of creating vectors and seeing their CAD images come to life, of seeing their digital designs formed into real materials.  It’s for people who want to use a lot of different media and mediums.”

Extra cool factor: “One of the biggest new things we’re doing involves the convergence of digital design and construction design,” says VPED Chair Craig Berger. “We’re invested a lot in the new software and hardware including a C&C router and a laser cutter while leveraging the Art and Design’s 3D printing capacity to integrate computer aided fabrication into the curriculum. The students love that stuff. It gets them jazzed!”

Toy Design students
Toy Design students

Toy Design

“We do a lot of work with kids. Story telling events, hands-on internships, working in day care centers, observing play patterns, and interactive experience as a teaching assistant,” says Toy Design Chair Judy Ellis. “Between their junior and senior years students have internships across the country. They’re full-time, paid, internships arranged through the department. Interviews are held during the Toy Fair.”

Extra cool factor: “Upcoming we have our event with Mod Haven charter school from the South Bronx,” says Prof. Ellis. “The children come for a story-telling session with a professional storyteller and drummer. They create an original story book. Students help with forming the story and illustrations.”

CJ Yeh, Assistant Chair, Communication Design
CJ Yeh, Assistant Chair, Communication Design

Communications Design

“It’s one of the unique departments at FIT because we have two different programs under the same roof–advertising design and graphic design, says Communications Design Assistant Chair CJ Yeh. “There is also a Creative Technology minor, which is a truly interesting program.”

Extra cool factor: “We’re currently doing a collaboration with the NFL. We have 25 students in the minor from nine different majors participating. We’re redesigning their visual system, which will be available globally on all the NFL merchandise.”

Professor Vasilios Christofilakos and Sarah Mullins, Chair, Accessories Design
Professor Vasilios Christofilakos and Sarah Mullins, Chair, Accessories Design

Accessories Design

Cool factor: “The BFA graduating student work is judged at the Next Generation Awards held in partnership with the Accessories Council,” says Accessories Design Chair Sarah Mullins. “The awards are sponsored by high-profile brands and industry leaders.  The event includes BFA collection and portfolio presentations that allow students to connect with members of the industry.

Chair Marianne Klimchuk and Prof. Sandra Krasovec Packaging Design
Chair Marianne Klimchuk & Prof. Sandra Krasovec, Packaging Design

Packaging Design

Says department Chair Marianne Klimchuk, “The intriguing thing is that this is about the first thing you touch in the morning–like toothpaste, makeup, shampoo, body wash perfume–and the last thing you touch at night–moisturizer, cold medicine, tissues. Packaging isn’t just about design, it’s about brand strategy, materials, manufacturing, production, global communication, consumer psychology. Packaging Design impacts the bottom line of a consumer product.”

Extra cool factor: “Because we’re the only packaging design BFA in the US, students are incredibly marketable,” says Prof. Klimchuk, “One hundred percent of last year’s class have industry jobs.” In a competition for Champagne last year, Packaging Design students won the first and second place out of 700 global submissions.

Prof. Michael Casey, Chair Eileen Karp, Prof. Mary Ann Ferro, Fashion Design
Prof. Michael Casey, Chair Eileen Karp, Prof. Mary Ann Ferro, Fashion Design

Fashion Design

“Our program allows students greater opportunity to design their own ‘journey’ that fits their interests,” says Fashion Chair Eileen Karp. “For instance, a sportswear student can take major area selectives and related area selectives in knitwear. Or a knitwear student can take some intimate apparel selectives. Or a special occasion student can take intimate apparel selectives.”

Extra cool factor: “We have a lot of study abroad opportunities around the world with our own program in Italy,” says Karp.

Textile Surface Design

“If you love fashion and art you’ll love textiles,” says Nomi Kleinman, Assistant Chair of Textile Surface Design. “People don’t realize they might actually be more interested in the fabric itself than the finished product.”

Sarah Pettit, Coordinator, Fabric Styling
Sarah Pettit, Coordinator, Fabric Styling

Cool factor:  “In Textile Surface Design you get to indulge in yarn, color, and design using wovens, screen prints, and mixed media. Students draw on historical and contemporary inspirations as well as develop their own personal aesthetic.”

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A circular course into the “Ephemeral” deep woods

“Going to FIT took me deep into the woods. I’d wake up early to see the sunrise before catching the train.  I started dragging in logs to play with in sculpture class. My professor, Suikang Zhao, never questioned it.” -BFA Fine Arts graduate Carly Fitzsimons from Commack, Long Island.


Carly Fitzsimons’ senior thesis “Ephemeral,” was constructed to be a meditative environment of logs and marble. As artist, she acted as “the shaman who turns ordinary life into a ritual process,” as stated by mythologist Joseph Campbell.  Shamans, or “the first artists,” transform reality, in the sense that “daily life becomes a mystical ritual,” according to Fine Arts Professor Suikang Zhao. “Carly’s installation has that kind of humanity in it,” says Zhao.


Carly’s generation thinks differently,” says Prof. Zhao. “They aren’t limited to one location. Their ideas jump around. It’s a fragmentation. They’re piecing things together.  It’s not about country or urban; it’s about transforming their environment. They can walk down the street and think about nature. It’s not about the immediate reality.”


Of her technique Carly says, “It’s about revealing the continuity of energy. I chose to burn the wood to alter the color and to carve the wood to alter the form. I didn’t use any glue or  paint. Everything is balanced by gravity.”

Carly F
Carly Fitzsimons with “Ephemeral”

She “bypasses the present,” says Prof. Zhao. “It’s not just about ‘I love nature,’ but transforming the local immediacy to a bigger concept of where are we going.”

The installation will eventually go outdoors where it will eventually decompose.

For now “It reflects what I see when I look at a log. It’s a home of a bug, the foundation for a new flower. It’s not merely a dead log,” says Carly “In a culture that’s so throw-away, we forget that nothing disappears.”

“I see her work as going back to a very long past, to things that look like Stonehenge and prehistoric art. Those artists worked to personify an object,” says Prof. Zhao.

“A ceremonial forest,” says Carly.

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Goodbye Snapshots to Dean Arbuckle

Dean Arbuckle is leaving us. Her title will be longer, but she’ll always be known simply and elegantly as the “dean” to us. By August 2016 she’ll be working with FIT’s President Joyce Brown. We know her heart will always be with the School of Art and Design and ours with her. Here is a sampling of parting words and snapshots of our love and adoration.







“Joanne was a dean with integrity who worked tirelessly to raise the level of education for our Art and Design students. She was a great listener, efficient, decisive, and always looking to improve and grow and advocate for all 17 departments. She will be missed and I’m personally grateful for her leadership.” Joel Werring, Chair, Fine Arts



“Dean Arbuckle has always been generous with her time and advice. She guided me through many projects over the years and helped me become a better teacher. I really appreciate what she has done for me and the School of Art and Design!”

Prof. CJ Yeh, Communication Design



 “Her vision has been crystal clear. She’s always had an understanding of where the School of Art and Design should be headed and been relentless and tireless in achieving those goals.  She’s been an absolute pleasure to work with in aligning the School with the college’s greater strategic goals.”

Eric Odin, Director of Human Resource Services


“Joanne has been so supportive in enabling us to grow as a department. She’s always been a colleagial and pleasant colleague.”  Prof. Cynthia Gallagher, Fine Arts


“Joanne’s support of the Interior Design faculty and department is second to none! She’s been extremely enthusiastic of our initiatives, events and our commitment to service learning. We will miss her! Eric Daniels, Chair, Interior Design


IMG_7835-Joanne_REllner“Having had Joanne, as a professor when I attended FIT, and as a dean over the past years, there are qualities that always hold true. She is dedicated to her work and more importantly to this school. She’s gone above and beyond to ensure that each program is the highest educationally for our students, and leads the education standards of each major. In the classroom, she encouraged every student to surpass his or her expectations. She’s been such an advocate for the arts and will be missed. Prof. Lauren Zodel, Fashion Design


“I’m glad you’re not going very far away so we may have ‘Joanne’ sightings! Have fun upstairs. Thanks for talking me down when I got crazy! You are wonderful!” Prof. John Goodwin, Computer Animation

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Prince Powderpouffe gains his epaulettes in the classroom

So you ask “Who is Prince Powderpouffe and who is his seamstress?” The Prince, whose signature look includes high hair, costume couture and generous applications of mascara, comes from the imagination and sewing skills of Eric Strauss.

“I enjoy the 17th century man. It was a time when men were coiffed and dressed to the nines,” says Strauss.   His creation has been a glorious undertaking. His sewing and design skills come from the FIT classroom, but his sourcing of fabric and trim (with emphasis on lace and feathers) is his own.

 Eric Strauss
Prince Powderpouffe, the muse of Eric Strauss

Strauss had long adored “Halloween-ing”–the parading of his creations of fanciful couture, character costumes. But the magical nights were too infrequent. “I had to figure out a way to dress up more often.” Enter Prince Powderpouffe.

Such a penchant for couture flamboyance isn’t without technique, and it starts with the basics: “In FD131 Sewing Techniques with Professor Joan Endres I learned that different fabrics react differently in the sewing machine, so it’s important to test the fabric first. If it puckers or jams, you adjust the tension. It’s important to fit the fabric in grain, especially when the pattern is so prominent with a definitive pattern repeat.  It ensures the pattern is flowing in the same direction,” says Strauss.

 Eric Strauss
The fine detailing of the Prince’s tailoring and epaulets

Special care was taken with interfacing, and acquiring trimming and fabric.  “I used interfacing in the collar and cuffs for a strong hard line.  The eight yards of fabric came from They have great pricing, whereas purchasing in New York City the price jumps.  The trims came from a variety of stores in the Garment District. My personal favorites are M&J Trimming and Joyce Button and Trim.”

 Eric Strauss
The back seams and darting give the garment a dramatic silhouette

 “The epaulets are my signature specialty. They’re made from wooden discs covered in fabric, adorned with tassel trim then screwed into the shoulders. It’s my favorite part of the look. It gives the garment a grand, royal, elegant feel.”

Eric purchased an industrial machine, a Juki, which he says spoiled him. “After class, I would go home to my regular machine and felt as if I was sewing on a child’s toy–a flimsy piece of plastic. It constantly tripped, jammed and broke down. With my new one I can sew through the layers of fabric and never worry about it getting caught up.”

Prince Powderpouffe at the Easter Day parade with friends, Elena Kanagu-Loux, Kindra Meyer, Kitten LaRue, Lou Henry Hoover Photo: Deborah Spencer
 Eric likes to say that Prince Powderpouffe “is a Royal Visionary whose look would command the Queen’s attention,” but the Prince appears to have many other admirers.
 Eric Strauss
A typical day in the park. Matching knickers were made with a front closure and invisible zipper, finished with lace trim and gold buttons.

Prince Powderpouffe finally emerged after an enchanted evening. “On June 5, 2014, I was invited to a show called ‘Queen of the Night.'” Attendees were instructed to dress to impress the queen, yet tuxedos and cocktail dresses were the common attire. “I wore a look that resembled a Royal Prince,” says Strauss.

Yet he was “still simply a boy in wig and lashes,” he says.  Nonetheless, the night out was magical. “People were running up to me, taking pictures, asking about my costume. They wanted to know all about me.”

A few weeks later Strauss was invited to a costumed masquerade ball, and put together another look. He stepped out as Prince Powderpouffe.

“I always say that drag happened to me by accident.  It was on that night out to impress the Queen that Prince Powderpouffe was born.”


Photos provided by Eric Strauss


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The accessory that grabs you by the waist

Accessories Design instructor Iris Feldman is known for saying that belts are the “ugly step child of the accessories world.”

But for Mara Holmgren, it’s the all-important detail that has you by the waist.

“What brought me to Accessories Design was this idea of pulling together an outfit with an accessory, with an interesting detail, and making a focus or statement with that accessory instead of the outfit itself,” says Holmgren who is completing her AAS in Accessories Design.

Mara Holmgren’s project for Belt Design class with Instructor Iris Feldman

“We tend to think of handbags and shoes as the dominate accessories,” says Holmgren. “Or as being what’s instantly thought of as accessories.”

Accessories Design Prof. Vasilios agrees with Feldman. “The students don’t realize the significance of belts in accessories design until they take Belt Design or the Accessories Sketching class where belts are introduced. Then they have a brainstorm: ‘Oh, I have them in my closet! They must be part of the accessories industry!'”

Homgren got a head start by taking Vasilios’ evening Accessories Sketching class and seeing the connection of belts to the rest of the accessories family.

“It’s line drawing, proportion, marker rendering techniques, the same as shoes and bags and all accessories, says Vasilios who is the creative director of RobertoVasi, a contemporary men’s shoe business.

Belts were never an afterthought for Holmgren, but neither is their construction since making her first jean belt in Feldman’s class.

“The creative aspect of product design accessories began to really appeal to me,” says Holmgren who has worked for eight years as an executive in product development for Perry Ellis and Ralph Lauren.

And she has ideas to express: “I found the market to be generic and safe in terms of design aesthetic. There’s a lot of room for creativity and more intricate designs for what’s offered.


The challenges to crafting her stunning but subdued looking belt (“My style is Parisian chic”) were many:

“The number one hardest thing in making a belt is cutting a straight long pattern,” she says.

Then come the crown jewels:

“Second is placement of your design details such as rivets, connectors, or applique on the belt itself.”

And then…

“It’s about getting the right consistency and feel and stuffiness. It needs to hug the contours of the body,” she says.

Correct says Vasilios “It requires a lot of fit testing. Compared to the shoe to the foot, a belt is to the waist.”


Photos provided by Mara Holmgren

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