Tag Archives: Fashion Design

FIT ALUMNUS DRESSES MISS UNIVERSE; OR, GLOBAL POWER SHIFTS WEST

Each year, the Fashion Design department selects two graduating students to participate in the Supima Design Competition, an interschool challenge to make garments out of Supima cotton. Last year, Kyle Pearson, Fashion Design ’12, was selected. His inspiration for the collection was the global shift of power away from the US.

He did not win. But the stylist for Miss USA (not to be confused with Miss America) was in attendance, and she asked Pearson if the pageant winner could try on two of his gowns.

Kyle Pearson fitting Olivia Culpo, now Miss Universe. “She’s tiny,” Pearson says. “And she’s really young—she’s only 20.” (Courtesy of Supima)

Pearson was initially nervous about the safety of his garments. “Those gowns are built for runway-size models, not real women,” he said. As it turned out, Olivia Culpo, Miss USA 2012, fit into them just fine.

Pearson also offered to make a custom piece, as the gown might be featured in the internationally televised Miss Universe competition held December 19. She wore it to the opening ceremony. Long story short, she took home the crown. Hue can’t help but think the dress played a part.

A custom dress Kyle Pearson made for Miss USA, which she wore to the Miss Universe competition.

Pearson’s parents called to tell him what happened. “I didn’t actually see it, because I don’t have a TV,” he admits.

Miss USA at the 2012 Orphaned Starfish Gala, wearing a Supima dress by Kyle Pearson. (Hue wonders why anyone would want to save a starfish, those bloodsucking monsters of the sea.)

WORKING FOR DIANA VREELAND AND OTHER ADVENTURES

Elaine Grynkewich Drew, Fashion Design ’76, remembers getting her start in the costume business.

“When I was going to FIT, I would often spend hours at the Met, looking at paintings to inspire my clothing designs. It occurred to me that I could volunteer there, and I worked in garment restoration for a while. People started recommending me for restoration projects, and when it came to mount fashion exhibitions, the Costume Institute called me.

Drew also had her own limited edition label, Grynkewich New York. Some of her clothes were displayed in Henri Bendel’s window.

“Diana Vreeland was in charge of the exhibits. Everybody was scared to death of her. Once, I was putting a costume on a mannequin in a tight space when she sashayed through.  I said, ‘I hope I’m not in your way.’ She replied, ‘No one gets in our way.’ The royals always refer to themselves in the plural.

“The Centre Culturel du Marais in Paris called the Met in 1977. They were doing an exhibit about Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, and they needed someone to display the costumes. Soon I was on a plane to Paris.

“The exhibit was full of all kinds of artifacts, not just costumes—publications of the time, photographs, posters, contracts, and letters. Just about anybody you’ve ever heard of from the early 20th century participated in the Ballets Russes: Picasso painted a curtain, de Chirico made a costume, and there was a bathing suit by Chanel. My job was to run around Paris, trying to find mannequins, as well as steam equipment to get the wrinkles out of the clothes. Their idea was, ‘This is great historic stuff, so all we have to do is put the name of who did it and everyone gets excited.’ I was trained to show the costumes off.

A costume by Giorgio de Chirico for an exhibition of the Ballets Russes.

“I didn’t speak French very well, and trying to understand the curator was very difficult. I realized how much more businesslike we tended to be in New York. Maybe a shop would be open, and maybe they wouldn’t.

“The job lasted from October to November of 1977. We finished around Thanksgiving. I didn’t think too much about the holiday, since I wasn’t in America. But three British fellows I was working with were determined to celebrate with me. They found a place that served Thanksgiving dinner, and we couldn’t get a table until 9:30. I’ll never forget what I saw when we arrived: every expat in Paris was there.”

WHO WAS YOUR FAVORITE FIT PROFESSOR?

Polly Whitehorn, Fashion Design ’75, who appeared in Hue’s summer issue, was delighted to encounter a former professor last year after many years.

Whitehorn, who practices art photography when she’s not working at eCareDiary, participated in the  Long Island Center of Photography’s free family portrait day at the African American Museum of Nassau County. “Many in the underserved community had never had their portrait taken,” she says.

An elderly couple stepped up for a sitting. Whitehorn didn’t recognize them at first.

Whitehorn’s photo of Mrs. Burke and her close friend.

Whitehorn says: “When the woman opened her mouth, I realized it was Mrs. Burke, Beverly Burke, my first and favorite professor at FIT! She taught the required professional sewing course. She wanted us to leave the methods of ‘loving hands’ at home and learn to sew according to industry standards. She left such an impression on me. I took the class during the summer. It was about 98 degrees with no air conditioning, and in she walks, wearing a beautifully tailored suit, her makeup perfectly applied, not a bead of perspiration anywhere. All I wanted to do was sew like Mrs. Burke.”

Who was your favorite professor? Tell us in the comments below.

LIFE IN PLASTIC, IT’S FANTASTIC

All those who complain that there isn’t enough pink at FIT should please proceed to the lobby of the Pomerantz Art and Design Center. There, Mattel has teamed up with FIT to create “The Pink Issue,” an homage to Barbie from five Art and Design majors.

Hue was quite fond of the intricately decorated dollhouses dreamed up by Interior Design students. A dream house indeed! This bathroom, if scaled to human size, would be larger than Hue’s whole apartment.

A Barbie dollhouse

"A Timeless Barbie Powder Room" by Jessica L. Mazur, Interior Design '13

The bubble bath looks positively inviting, though Hue wonders who’s going to clean up the mess on the floor. (Sorry, Ken.)

This bedroom looks like fun for the feet… but is it pink enough? One thing’s for sure: Barbie’s friends can spill as much rosé as they like onto the rug, with no one the wiser.

Another Barbie dollhouse

"Green is the New Chic" by Katie McTammany, Interior Design '13

Hue finds this dress, seemingly made out of shopping bags, to die for. Barbie would light up the red carpet. But the fantasy would be crushed once she hopped into a cab. She’d have to walk home, unless she came in a Segway.

A life-size Barbie dress

"Shopaholic" by Maor Tapiro, Menswear '13

The Pink Issue runs through September 3.

NGO SUPPORTS WOMEN AND THEIR COWS IN BANGLADESH

The spring 2012 issue of Hue profiled three alums who update traditional crafts into designs that feel very now. Just as the issue was going to press, Hue found another.

Richa Agarwal, Fashion Design ’97, Production Management ’99, is a project manager for Aarong, the top fashion brand in Bangladesh. (See note at the end of this piece.) In 1978, the top brass at BRAC, a now-billion-dollar umbrella organization that fights poverty through empowerment, saw that Bangladeshi women needed a market for the silk garments they were sewing. They decided to sell the silk themselves and cut out the middleman. Thus Aarong was born.

Aarong is now perhaps the most recognized fashion brand in Bangladesh. It employs 65,000 craftspeople, mostly women, from 2,000 villages to create the clothes. And 80 to 100 designers work closely with the artisans to teach them how to make each new fashion. All but 5 percent of the clothing is sold domestically.

“65,000 is a decent number,” Agarwal says, “but there’s millions more who still need employment.”

Aarong does more than sell clothes. A lot of the rural women artisans were buying cows with microfinance loans from BRAC, so now–to support these women–Aarong operates the second-largest dairy in Bangladesh, and BRAC runs three feed mills, a livestock vaccination program, and an artificial insemination business (for cows, not people).

The nonprofit’s success has spawned copycat brands that also draw on hand work. But counterintuitively, Agarwal is thrilled. “This is really good for the industry. The more of these brands that emerge, the more work artisans have.”

*Note: Agarwal recently left Aarong to become director of product development at Eileen Fisher.