Category Archives: Class

A FANCIFUL FLOCK OF FEATHERY FOWL AT FIT

Passersby migrating down Seventh Avenue in April may have noticed a certain avian majesty in the Pomerantz Center lobby.

Some of the birds in the Fowl Play exhibition.

Some of the birds in the Fowl Play exhibition.

Through the magic of brightly colored feathers, two sections of Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design students, overseen by faculty members Anne Kong and Mary Costantini and with help from Glenn Sokoli, transformed mannequins into their interpretations of a bald eagle, a flamingo, a snow owl, and many other birds.

The idea came about after Chloe Arauz, Fashion Merchandising Management ’10, showroom manager and trend director at the Feather Place, a shop in the Garment District, pitched the idea of teaching students about feathers.

The students visited the Feather Place’s showroom and learned how feathers are shaved, dyed, and trimmed, to be prepared for use in fashion. Hue was relieved to know that feathers are only harvested when birds are put to other uses, such as for meat or ostrich leather.

Each small group of students chose a bird and studied its shape, size, pose, and style. They selected the perfect mannequin and feathered together a fabulous coat.

This blue guinea fowl would be right at home on a runway!

This blue guinea fowl would be right at home on a runway!

They used turkey quill feathers and various kinds of rooster feathers, such as stripped coque, in which all the barbs are removed except at the tip. They avoided ostrich feathers, though: because of a recent ostrich shortage, the feathers have become pricey.

“A lot of them used four or five different birds in their mannequins,” Arauz notes. “You couldn’t look at them and say, ‘That’s a turkey feather.'”

The birds have long scattered, but they will flock once more at the Long House Reserve in East Hampton on July 19 for an event to honor Cindy Sherman and Agnes Gund.

This prancing flamingo must have left its backwater to study at FIT.

This prancing flamingo must have left its backwater to study at FIT.

 

PACKAGING DESIGN STUDENTS CELEBRATE GREEN GABLES

Who knew that the most eco-friendly container for milk and juice is almost a century old? That’s right, the humble cardboard gable-top carton, patented in 1915, delivers freshness with minimal strain on the environment. The cartons create very little waste and can be recycled.

Through January 30, Project Carton, an exhibit about this sturdy standby, including faux refrigerator cases stocked full of student-designed cartons, brightens up the Fred P. Pomerantz Art and Design Center lobby.

FIT’s “supermarket,” chock full of cartons created by Packaging Design students. Photos by Smiljana Peros.

Evergreen Packaging, producer of paperboard containers, sponsored the exhibition, along with an FIT student contest to design cartons for “Pure No Pulp Calcium Enriched Orange Juice,” “Good Grazes Skim Plus Milk,” “Frontier Farms Almond Milk,” and “All Natural Pure Granulated Sugar.” Judges from Walmart and Coca-Cola, among other companies, picked the winners, which are displayed on the contest website.

Packaging Design students created the cartons, and representatives from the Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design Department crafted an environment reminiscent of a high-end supermarket, plus an immersive interpretive pathway at the edge of the room. Hue hopes to see more environmentally friendly packaging from the Sustainable Packaging Design credit certificate, which launched last fall.

The back view of the supermarket display case.

Hue enjoyed all the entries, though the winning milk carton stood out as unique and particularly enticing. We generally prefer not to stare at the cow when drinking the milk, but Jennifer Ahern’s whimsical contour drawing makes us excited to down our calcium.

The interpretive walkway, featuring a blown-up version of the winning milk carton.

HOLIDAY “MAGRITTE-INGS” FROM FIT! (OR, THINGS JUST GOT WEIRD)

The holiday season came early this year at FIT: This week, a Surrealism-themed pop-up shop, “Holiday Bizarre,” touched down in the Pomerantz Center lobby, featuring designer fashions selected from the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Thrift Shop—“the Bergdorf of thrift stores,” according to Anne Kong, Display and Exhibit Design ’77, assistant professor of Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design. The shop is open from 12 to 8 through Saturday, November 23, and all profits go to cancer research, education, and patient outreach.

“Thrift store shopping is not just a trend,” Kong said. “With Beacon’s Closet, Housing Works, and Buffalo Exchange, it has become a new channel of retail experience.”

The storefront of “Holiday Bizarre,” created by students in the Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design Department. The Merchandising Society is staffing the shop.

The space didn’t pop up out of nowhere. Earlier this year, the MSK Thrift Shop worked with two VPED classes, led by Kong and Adjunct Assistant Professor Mary Costantini, to invent and execute a retail concept to bring secondhand fashion to FIT. One of the classes, on “point of sale,” teaches pop-up shops; the other involves building installations for visual merchandising.

There was no shortage of fun proposals: a gingerbread house, an antique circus, an homage to Bryant Park holiday shops, everything purple, and more. But the Surrealism idea won out for a few reasons. First, it reflected the artistic bent of the School of Art and Design. Second, it didn’t hew to any particular religion. Third, it coincided with an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art about René Magritte. Fourth, it had a killer name.

“Originally it didn’t have the name, and I said it needed one,” Kong remembered. “When the students came back with ‘Holiday Bizarre,’ everything changed.”

Shopping at the “Holiday Bizarre” is totally surreal.

The students had three weeks and $4,000 to build it. They crafted a storefront to look like picture frames and made eyeball ornaments out of beach balls. The details are all there, too: hand-printed hang tags, customized shopping bags, a Magritte shower curtain for the changing room, and other surprises.

They also worked with the thrift shop to curate the merchandise for the FIT community. (Net-A-Porter also donated new and slightly damaged pieces.) Considering a pair of Louboutins already went for $550, Hue thinks they got it right.

Update: The final sales tally after five days was a whopping $35,000. Bravo to all involved!

BROOKLYN WRITER DESPERATELY SEEKING AN UNMARRIED IDEA

What’s the hardest part of writing a compelling narrative history? Finding an idea, said Matthew Goodman, author of three nonfiction books, including most recently, Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World (Ballantine Books, 2013). Goodman took some time off from searching for ideas to visit FIT last week, guest-teaching classes and reading from his book.

“It’s not because there aren’t great stories,” he said. “You have to find a good story with a fascinating character. You have to find a story that reveals something larger. It has to never have been done before. And you need thousands of pages of research material to draw from.”

For Eighty Days, he was reading about Nellie Bly, an investigative journalist from the 19th century, when he came across an intriguing sentence, something to the tune of, “In 1889, she raced around the world.”

With a little more research, he discovered that her opponent was an equally compelling heroine, a writer and reporter named Elizabeth Bisland. Not only did the story have a built-in narrative arc (a race around the world to beat the “80 days” laid down in Jules Verne’s novel), but it starred two interesting characters who both wrote memoirs after they made their way back to New York. And there was a larger story about the changing roles of women in the late 19th century.

Author Matthew Goodman signs books for a first-year creative nonfiction class for Presidential Scholars.

For years, he practically lived in the bowels of the New York Public Library, reading everything he could about the era and the race so that he could write a novelistic story without inventing a single detail. “On a good day I’d get a paragraph’s worth of material,” he said. “It started to feel like trench warfare.”

But the challenge of writing it had nothing on the struggle of finding the next big idea. “It feels a little like finding a wife,” he said. “You’re looking and looking and looking. You find ideas, you go on a date with these ideas, and they don’t work out. Or you find out someone has already written it, and it’s like this woman has married someone else.”

Matthew Goodman poses with Professor Amy Lemmon, who invited him to FIT.

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.”