Category Archives: Tastemaker

A piece about someone with major aesthetic influence.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! (COURTESY OF MARTHA STEWART)

Hue loves a good Halloween scare. But even more than that, we love design-competition reality TV. And Martha Stewart delivered.

Shriek or Chic, a Halloween-themed web miniseries, is a competition to craft Martha’s Halloween costume this year. Miraculously, all three contestants–Joelle Samaha, Taylor Ormond, and Gabrielle Ruffino–went to, or are enrolled at, FIT!

The show is delicious–and if it’s not quite as dramatic or catty as Project Runway, it’s still impossible to stop watching. And if you’re game for the insanely work-intensive decorations Martha Stewart is famous for, then you might get some pointers on sewing your own costume. Or you could just go to FIT.

So skip the Halloween party and check it out.

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Did you know? Halloween is Martha Stewart’s favorite holiday. Photo courtesy marthastewart.com.

 

PROJECT RUNWAY STAR MICHAEL COSTELLO MAKES IT WORK FOR BEYONCE

On Season 8 of Project Runway, Michael Costello was known as the one who cried a lot. Now he’s known as the designer who created Beyonce’s show-stopping dress for the Grammys this year—along with two dozen slinky costumes for her On the Run tour with Jay-Z. Hue considers that a step up.

Project Runway alum Michael Costello gives students a glimpse of his online presence.

Project Runway alum Michael Costello gives students a glimpse of his online presence. Photo by Smiljana Peros.

Costello, who has almost 592,000 followers on Instagram as of today, and who regularly grosses six figures a month from his L.A. showroom, guest-spoke at Fashion Events Planning Confidential, a class in FIT’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies taught by Barbara Berman, on Wednesday. He gabbed about designing dresses for the Kardashians, Paris Hilton, and, of course, the Queen Bey.

The Beyonce dress came about after her stylist, Ty Hunter, scheduled a visit to his showroom. Hunter, always referring to Beyonce as “she,” said, “She wants to be naked. She wants to be sexy. She wants to effortless.”

Costello showed him all 300 dresses in the showroom, but nothing clicked. Hunter asked what he was working on. It was a collection called “Winter Wonderland,” inspired by a recent trip to New York. (Those of us who actually had to live through this past winter might have selected choicer verbiage to describe it.)

Hunter gravitated toward an unfinished white gown made of fabric pieces shaped like flowers and lined with nude mesh. “When we put it on the model, he was like ‘Yesssss,’” Costello recalls.

Beyonce wore Costello's dress for the 2014 Grammy Awards.

Beyonce wore Costello’s dress for the 2014 Grammy Awards. Credit: Getty Images.

But no one told Costello when or whether Beyonce would actually wear the dress. He prayed that she would wear it to the Grammys. She wasn’t on the red carpet, though, and when she did appear, in a smoking La Perla “Cage” vest for her opening act, his heart sank.

Less a minute later, Hunter posted a close-up of the white flower fabric on his Instagram feed and linked to Costello’s page. A few seconds after that, Costello got 5,000 followers.

Once the performance was over, Beyonce appeared in the dress. “After that, it just blew up,” he says.

Costello spent two full hours talking with the class.

Costello spent two full hours talking with the class. Photo by Smiljana Peros.

GRAPHIC MEMOIRIST EATS, WRITES, DRAWS (AND EATS SOME MORE)

“Comics gift the written word with color and line and bless the drawn image with narrative,” graphic memoirist Lucy Knisley rhapsodized, when she spoke at FIT in late March, sponsored by FIT Words, the Culinary Arts Club, and the English and Speech Department.

Lucy Knisley

Lucy Knisley, plotting something.

Knisley gave an annotated reading of her graphic-memoir-cum-cookbook, Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, which came out in 2013 but is still being translated into more languages. The story follows her foodie family (her mother is a chef), with family recipes interspersed. The drawings, Knisley noted, make the recipes much easier to follow.

“Comics are a nice balance between learning to cook from a cookbook and learning to cook from someone,” she explained.

The cover of Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

The cover of Relish: My Life in the Kitchen.

The Culinary Arts Club whipped up a few recipes from the book—including chocolate chip cookies and a delicious spaghetti carbonara—and served them to guests. At this moment, for some reason, Hue began to like Knisley very much.

Hue asked her if it was tricky, writing about and drawing real people in her work. She responded that she follows a few basic rules. “I never use comics as a weapon. I usually ask permission. And I always draw them as attractive as possible.”

Knisley's illustrated recipe for Huevos Rancheros, from her book, Relish.

Knisley’s illustrated recipe for Huevos Rancheros, from her book, Relish.

THE GREATEST LESSON TIM GUNN EVER LEARNED

Tim Gunn—educator, author, and co-host and mentor for the smash fashion design reality show Project Runway since its debut in 2004—spoke to a packed house of students at the Haft Auditorium on April 2. With his characteristic warmth and charm, he walked the audience through his career, beginning with his realization that he “didn’t like sweating and didn’t like getting dirty…I loved learning and I loved education.”

It wasn’t until he started studying art, he said, that he discovered who he was. Then a mentor asked him to help teach a design course—and almost three decades later, he hasn’t looked back.

Project Runway star Tim Gunn spoke at a Dean's Forum for the Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology. Photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio.

Project Runway star Tim Gunn spoke at a Dean’s Forum for the Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology. Photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio.

The greatest lesson he ever learned is that “the world owes you nothing. You have to make your own place in it. You have to do everything at 150 percent or greater.”

Asked by a student what it’s like to influence so many people through shows like Project Runway and his books on personal style, Gunn said, “I hope I’m giving people the confidence to make their own decisions [in what to wear]. If fashion were easy, everyone would look fabulous.”

Tim Gunn greets students before the event. Photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio.

Tim Gunn greets students before the event. Photo by Lorenzo Ciniglio.

SPIKE LEE VISITS FIT TO DISCUSS DO THE RIGHT THING

Director Spike Lee visited FIT recently for an interview following a screening of his 1989 film Do the Right Thing. A frigid February night proved the perfect time to watch a movie that takes place on a scorching-hot summer day in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Lee said he was inspired to write the script in part because “I noticed that in New York, when it gets above 95 degrees, people lose their minds.”

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One student said she was impressed with Lee’s stylish UGGs. (He wore them to stay warm in the stadium during the Super Bowl). David Hamilton, president of FIT’s student association, holds the microphone.

The college’s Black Student Union organized the event as part of Black History Month (“the shortest month of the year,” Lee wryly noted). David Hamilton, president of FIT’s student association, greeted a packed house in the Haft Auditorium with the observation, “Black history is everybody’s history in America.”

From a show of hands, a sizable portion of the packed house in the Haft Auditorium had never seen the movie, which has held up beautifully over 25 years. The characters’ artfully crafted hairstyles, eyewear, and Day-Glo-colored outfits (for which Lee credited his costume designer, Ruth Carter) were redolent of the 80s. Still, some current students came similarly attired—and looked pretty chic.

At the climax of the film, a riot erupts. After the screening, one audience member asked whether Lee intended to stir up trouble. Lee answered, unequivocally, no. “That was a criticism of the film—that it was going to incite riots. There was a fear that you’d see the movie and run out and start smashing things. I don’t think Chuck D [of the band Public Enemy] who wrote the song ‘Fight the Power’ for me [it opens the film] was talking about taking up arms. It was more like mental stuff.”

Toward the end of the night, Lee invited students in the audience to talk about the obstacles they faced as they trained for creative careers. Many described their parents’ objections. “My father went to Harvard and my mother went to Columbia, and there’s no way they’ll pay my tuition to study fashion,” a student said. Lee counseled everyone to stick with it. “Parents,” he said, “kill more dreams than anybody.”

Lee revealed that the “Love and hate” speech given by the character Radio Raheem (above) was inspired by a scene in Charles Laughton’s 1955 suspense classic “Night of the Hunter”:

The manager of films for FIT’s student association also helped organize the event.