Monthly Archives: October 2013

FIT’S REALITY STARS WERE HERE TO MAKE FRIENDS

“If you get the chance to be on TV, take it!” Cathy Hobbs, Interior Design ’06, advised a group of students and alumni in the John E. Reeves Great Hall on Tuesday. “It’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

Hobbs was one of three alumni TV stars invited to talk about their careers in the spotlight on Tuesday, in the culminating event of Alumni Day of Legacy Week. Brian Williams, Fashion Merchandising Management, vice president of alumni affairs for the FIT Student Association, moderated.

All three stars were glad they said yes to the tube.

“TV has made me an international figure,” said Sondra Celli, Menswear Design and Marketing ’78, known for her TLC shows My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding and Bling It On. (When TLC called her about the show, she was initially hesitant.) “I could never have bought this much press.”

“I never thought I’d become a gypsy designer,” Sondra Celli said. “They pulled my name out of someone’s Rolodex and started calling me.”

Hobbs, a TV reporter and finalist on Season 6 of HGTV’s Design Star, remembered the taping process as being incredibly intense. She was picked up in a van and left in a hotel without her cell phone or wallet. “It was like being incarcerated.” And she was miked constantly. Whenever her microphone was off, she was “on ice,” which meant she wasn’t allowed to speak. Oh, and her daughter was one year old at the time.

For Cathy Hobbs, Interior Design ’06, “Reality shows seemed like the shortest line between two points.”

Daniel Silverstein, Fashion Design ’10, found the auditions for Fashion Star very daunting. A casting agent emailed him, offering a VIP interview. When he got to the show, he understood that he might not be so special after all. “There were 100 VIPs and also a line of not-VIPs around the block.”

“Because of the show, I’ve sold to Saks, I’ve sold to Macy’s, I’ve sold to Express,” Daniel Silverstein said. “When I exhibit at trade shows, buyers think, ‘NBC invested in you, so I can too.'”

But all three have survived their dabblings with reality. Celli’s business has expanded by leaps and bounds. Hobbs has a line of paints, with other products coming soon. And Silverstein has already sold a million dollars worth of his product.

As soon as there’s a reality show that pits writers and editors against each other in a series of solitary, internal challenges, Hue is definitely going to audition.

Celli will rhinestone anything: glasses, shoes, even toilet paper. (Honey Boo Boo, eat your heart out.)

JOHN VARVATOS WEARS GREAT BOOTS, TALKS ROCK STAR STYLE

John Varvatos, one of the world’s best-known menswear designers, came to FIT the other day to discuss and show slides from his new book, Rock in Fashion. It’s a smashing compilation of the coolest looks from classic rock bands, and also serves as his design inspiration notebook. The book’s title is something of a misnomer though, because, as Varvatos pointed out, he’s more interested in style than fashion: “Style for me is how you carry yourself. Fashion passes, style evolves.”

Check out the boots!

Winner of three awards from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, including Best Menswear Designer, Varvatos is famous for designing sneakers without laces for Converse. He wore brown boots with side-button detailing and was demonstrating his unique way with a scarf. His conversation was all about rock stars, mostly acts he loved from the late ’60s-early ’70s, when he was growing up in Detroit—Iggy Pop and the Stooges, Jimi Hendrix, The Clash, Patti Smith, Keith Richards. Of Lou Reed, who died the day before, Varvatos said, “Lou was somebody who pushed the boundaries every day of his life, musically and stylistically.”

In general, Varvatos prefers bands with a consistent look over chameleons who change their appearance with each new album. There was one notable exception: David Bowie. Hue’s managing editor, Alex Joseph MA ’13, who introduced Varvatos and conducted the interview, asked whether he thought menswear tended to be more resistant to change than women’s wear. Varvatos seemed to think it did. With menswear, he said, “It’s all about the great details—the finesse, the little hidden treasure. Great fabrics, fit, and leathers.”

Appearances are paramount for rock stars. That conclusion seemed inarguable from the photographs Varvatos showed of performers like Sly Stone, Rod Stewart and The Faces, and The New York Dolls. Even if they play great music at a concert, the designer remarked, “If they’re only wearing shorts and T-shirts, it’s not as great.”

In a short question-and-answer session after the interview, a student asked about the future for menswear. “Menswear is evolving faster than ever before in its history,” Varvatos said. “Women’s wear is getting stale. Men’s has much more newness.”

CHINESE POET VISITS FIT, MAKES METAPHOR OUT OF OYSTERS

The Chinese poet Wang Jiaxin came to FIT yesterday to read from his work and discuss the pleasures of versifying, and of translating and reading poets from around the world. Wang has been called “one of the most important contemporary poets in China,” but Hue is happy to note that he looks almost like a regular guy.

He gave talks and readings, and described what it was like growing up during the Cultural Revolution. In the ’80s he was the editor of a prestigious literary magazine in China, but after the Tiananmen Square tragedy he was relieved of that post (the university had allowed some students to participate in the protest).

Wang said to “pay attention to details” because “poets never give you anything directly.” He described the pleasure of reading Emily Dickinson—“I like her much more than [Walt] Whitman,” he said. He described Dickinson’s poems as “the fruit of longing…very deep.” He read a poem about her, and also this one, which Hue liked a lot:

OYSTERS

Party’s over. On the seaside dining table
a few oysters left,
large, unopened.

Heading back in the car, someone says
“The ones you can’t open
Taste best.”
No one laughs,
no one considers what it means.
At night the surf sounds heaviest.
Through dark pine woods
our car weaves onward.

(Translated from the Chinese by Diana Shi and George O’Connell.)

Hue suspects there’s a metaphor there, and is going to leave it in its shell.

Watch a video of Wang reading at Berkeley with poet Robert Hass here.

Wang was invited to FIT by Jean Amato, an associate professor of English and Speech and a specialist in literature of China and the Chinese diaspora. Wang’s visit was sponsored by the department.