M. C. Escher made his latest FIT appearance in the Fashion Design Graduating Student Exhibition, courtesy of Yves Mervin-Leroy. Yves’ collection displayed design refinement of course. But his mastery of complex leather and textile technology has dazzled the virtual crowd.
Yves presented his collection to his senior thesis Incubator class with Professor Gerard Dellova, who lauded his work for its design concepts, and its use of innovative technology and wearable, commercial appeal. In attendance was the Dean of the School of Art and Design and industry professionals.
Yves first look was an oversized bomber jacket and micro miniskirt in embossed ivory lamb leather paired with a silk chiffon and charmeuse top.
The jacket features ribbed cuffs, hem, and collar, and a covered zipper. There are slot seams for added mobility. They conceal hidden, practical inseam pockets with clean vertical lines. There are also two oversized inner pockets.
“The pockets are big enough for the biggest iPhone you can think of,” said Yves. “Hey, that’s important!”
Here’s where it gets super techie:
“The jacket is embossed with a custom geometric interlocking ‘Y’ pattern,” Yves explains. “The leather is soaked in acrylic and stretched over custom 3D printed forms with a clamping system. The backs of the motifs are individually filled with a UV-activated curing resin for added strength.”
The same pattern is reinterpreted in the charmeuse intarsia that lightly drapes across the chest, suspended in nude chiffon.
“Yves, this is a great use of technology, wonderfully designed — wearable and innovative!” said Dean Troy Richards.
The Etscher-like motif neither overwhelms nor is trite:
“I can see a relationship to Escher but the figure-ground relationship of the monochromatic pattern has its own life,” says Fine Arts Professor Sue Willis.
Yves said he was drawn to Escher’s optical illusions. “They rely on linear perspective to create impossible structures. I also drew inspiration from his tessellations, especially for the interlocking pattern the leather is embossed with.”
Yves says the geometry throughout the patterns and textiles he developed are a nod to Escher’s work:
“My goal was to create something that wasn’t an immediately recognizable reference. I wanted to avoid the collection being too trendy.”
The second look is an embossed bias-cut dress in velvet, lined with charmeuse.
“Light catches the pattern differently depending on the angle,” says Yves. “The straps are threaded through jump rings and are detachable and reconfigurable, making it a very adjustable garment. The pattern evokes the leather embossing.”
Yves embossed velvet for his third look, as well, but with a more metallic material. “It shows a different effect. It has drawstring hems and charmeuse bound seams,” he says.
“Yves, this is a great use of technology, wonderfully designed — wearable and innovative!” – Troy Richards, Dean of the School of Art and Design.
The crossbody bag, an extra to the assignment, was made with retro-reflective glass powder and acrylic stenciled on iridescent leather. It has an adjustable and detachable strap.
“The embossed leather is beautiful. The implementation of the repetitive pattern and garment construction I find to be fascinating” says Prof. Willis who co-developed the Wearable Art course with Jewelry Design Prof. Karen Bachmann.
“Yves brings a maker mentality to his brand’s DNA, with a subtle vision,” says Prof. Dellova. “He’s a hands-on creative who uses innovative techniques for modern fashion design.”
And his work has flow. All the pieces in Yves’ collection are designed to be combined in numerous ways.
Shaniya Carrington’s “Sneakerhead” collection began with a conversation with a friend about buying and collecting sneakers. Such talk, says Carrington, can be the “telltale sign” of a sneakerhead. “The wacky thought of a person with a sneaker as a head made me laugh! There was no way I wouldn’t draw this, but had no idea how far I’d take it.” All the way to her senior thesis project.
“It’s about how just one little weird idea can become a cool illustration!” says Carrington.
There’s an obsession at the heart of a true sneakerhead. Footwear and Accessories Design Prof. Vasilios Christofilakos describes what sneakerhead culture is, and how Carrington’s work “captures it beautifully.”
“You’re a sneakerhead once it becomes your life. You buy, you sell, you indulge yourself completely in the sneaker world. They’re your go-to shoe every day. A sneakerhead is going to wear sneakers to a funeral to a wedding, to a baptismal, through the park, deer hunting. If they could swim in them they would,” he says.
“If Carrington’s work doesn’t visually define what a sneakerhead is than I don’t know what does. Art is a visual language. Sometimes it’s open to interpretation and guessing, but this is clear sneaker culture. Each illustration defines its customer as seen in fashion houses.”
Carrington began with her Nike Sneakerhead, her “gateway” piece she says. “After countless adjustments I saw it was going somewhere. The cup and straw are a little extra spice. There’s no way for a person with a sneaker for a head can possibly drink this! Once I completed it, I knew I would make more.”
Prof. Christofilakos is taken with “the bold feminine color,” of it. “She’s young pink and fabulous because she doesn’t know what’s ahead. She’s bold and she’s a temptress.”
While considering her senior thesis, illustrator Jessica Karpishin ’18, spoke to Carrington’s Mentor and Specialized Projects class taught by Prof. John Nickle. She showed work from her final thesis and suggested that students ask themselves what makes their work unique. “I got onto Procreate and began planning a Doc Martens Sneakerhead character,” says Carrington. I proposed the idea to Prof. Nickle, and he loved it. I created a gothic persona with a leather jacket and a choker. I added an animal to it.”
“These are so fun and funky. I love the surreal collision of visual elements. She combines high fashion with street fashion and I like the way that Shaniya uses flat graphics with realistic, and stylized rendering. Shaniya’s Sneakerheads idea has so many potential avenues to explore. I am interested and excited to see where she takes it. – Illustration Professor John Nickle.
“It’s like an homage to the late, great Eartha Kit, says Prof. Christofilakos. “It’s an Illustration of a well-known brand. It’s part of our lives. Doc Martens has become as iconic as Cat Woman from Batman.”
Carrington worked with another favorite brand, Converse, and incorporated it into her next thesis piece. “I wanted a more relaxed character wearing street and a tattoo. I went for a sitting pose. By going for a variety of poses and personas, not one piece is similar to another,” she says.
Vans Sneakerhead was a “no brainer” for Carrington. “Vans have so much personality. I joke that no one owns a clean pair of Vans. Within a week of wearing them they’re filthy and torn up,” she says.
Carrington’s Gucci Sneakerhead is her final thesis piece (below). “I wanted a classy persona with a classy dog that’s wearing a Gucci collar,” she says.
“The Doberman is powerful,: says Prof. Christofilakos. “Gucci sets the trend. Who is the powerhouse here, the Doberman or the wearer?”
Carrington says the piece was challenging because of the number of elements involved and the textures of the clothes. “I enjoy looking back at my first Sneakerhead to this one. It really shows growth that I take pride in.
“They’re part of my permanent style now. I’m into conceptual portraiture and playing with cool ideas that come into my head. I want to show that wacky side of me.”
As for Prof. Christofilakos, he has designs of his own — for Carrington to consider Fashion Illustration as a component to her career.
When Dahlia Ferrera, ’20, talks about her experiences as a Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design student, it’s never fully in the past tense. Delve deeper and you learn why. So much of what she learned, she draws on in her day-to-day professional life. While student VPED projects are often large-scale and awe-inspiring, it’s exciting to see how these skills transfer to the industry.
Here Ferrera talks about exhibits, brand activation projects, site scouting, and a heap of software and communication skills she learned in her VPED courses, and how her education translates to her work with clients:
“My view of design changed completely in my seventh semester Experiential Design class with Professor Barbara Salzman,” says Ferrera. The turning point came while working on a brand activation project: Spotify’s “For the Ride” campaign.
“The campaign typifies the experience of losing yourself in a favorite song,” she says. The project coincided with the heartbreak of losing her father. “The event I created stimulates emotion and vulnerability. It inspired me to create spaces that cultivate community, conversation, and emotion. It’s why I segued to interior design.”
The experience carried over for Ferrera, who is now a designer at Havenly, a company offering interior design services. “I love that different parts of our homes cultivate different emotions based on the intention of design,” she says.
Recently a client asked Ferrera to create a living room that would help bring family closer together. “It’s challenging to create a living room that resonates for each family member and their guests. I took a sentimental approach, one of human connection. I started with questions about color, decor, additional accent seating, and room dimensions to allow for the pieces I would be sourcing. We decided on family photos, shades of blue and neutrals, and sculptural abstract decor for a relaxing atmosphere,” says Ferrera.
Says Prof. Salzman “It’s incredible to see an already talented designer like Dahlia find her purpose through our lessons. One of the special parts of the VPED program is seeing all the unique techniques and skills we teach come together in such visually stimulating and inspiring ways that impact others.”
“The takeaway” from Graphic Strategy for Visual Presentation class with Prof. Anne Finkelstein, was the ability to get ideas across quickly, says Ferrera. “I learned to create photo montages, to curate and deliver ideas with moodboarding. This helps to quickly understand a client’s style. It’s very valuable to my process with clients.”
For the design of a patio Ferrera worked on, these skills helped better define her client’s vision early on. “It was followed by feedback, subsequent adjustments to the design, and then a design layout of the client’s space for the team to bring to life as a 3D rendering,” she says.
With Intro to Exhibition Design class with Prof. Brianne Muscente, Ferrera created an exhibition for the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. “I learned how children interact in spatial environments, the proper heights of chairs, bookshelves, tables and softer materials free of sharp edges,” says Ferrera.
Designing rooms for children is now a specialization for Ferrera. “I recently created Bohemian glam interior designs for a client with a four-year-old. This style can have a lot of glass with sharp edges. I adapted the designs to child’s needs in an aesthetically pleasing space. My client loved it. It’s safe for her daughter with storage space for toys,” she says.
Ferrera learned how to create floor plans, design showrooms, and about furniture styles in her In-Store Design class with Professor Reginald Rogers.
“I created a showroom for BoConcept, a Danish contemporary style furniture company. Using vignettes to tell the specific story of each room, I used Sketchup and Vectorworks for creating floor plans, 3D rendering, and then created a merchandising plan.”
This time Ferrera was hired to do a design project involving a contemporary bohemian outdoor patio with a luxurious outdoor dining section.
“I knew the questions to ask in order to lay out my client’s vision. I was able to show her the ways we could go with the design, the materials that could be sourced,” she says.
“Dahlia bookended her education being in my fifth- and eighth-semester class. She started with a strong interest in theatrical experience, but working with Profs. Saltzman, Kong and Rogers over the course of her education built discipline and process into her passions. In her capstone [course] she was truly well rounded, taking her skills from school into her career directly.” – Craig Berger, Chair, Communications Design Pathways
Professors Anne Kong and Craig Berger’s combined capstone course, taught Ferrera how to gather information to scope out projects at site locations. The list of considerations is exhaustive and necessary:
“What are the space dimensions? How many people will be interacting? What are their demographics?
How will the space be used? What will the flow of the space be like?
What feeling does the client want to invoke?
What duration of time will the space will be used for? What is the client’s budget?
How will the location affect store or exhibit traffic? Are they a luxury brand, or a mom and pop? What’s the culture of the brand, its color and visual identity? How can the design considerations be used to help them be more recognizable?”
Ferrera says her research and communication skills improved immeasurably in this course. “I learned to design with intention. A great designer does more than create spaces that look pretty,” she says.
Ferrera applied these skills in a consultation with the owner of Warehaus Orlando. “He wanted to grow his business for the very next quarter, while maintaining the brand’s existing stylistic approach,” she said.
“I advised him that a redesign of the storefront with a new paint job, grass hedges and a logo mural would make the space more inviting and give it new energy in ways their customer demographic would enjoy.”
Daliah Ferrera grew up in Queens, NY, in a largely Hispanic neighborhood that she says exposed her to “the beauty of small businesses and importance of community.” She is proud to be a first-generation, Cuban-American college graduate and passionate about design that serves communities. “It is an essential human right for people to live in spaces where they feel safe.” She draws inspiration from artists and musicans Andy Warhol, David Bowie, Robert Mapplethorpe, Patti Smith and Claude Monet. Fererra was recently named a NextGen Collective “Latinx to Watch.”
“They’re like photos of the crazy year of 2020 — spring, summer, fall, winter,” says Williams Perez about his four-panel illustration with scenes from his desk that depict each season. For Perez, a recent Illustration grad, getting a running start to his career took place mainly from his home studio.
Perez’s other topics often have a similar light-hearted, inviting feel: Santa ordering presents online; monsters in a terrarium; a tiger relaxing in a cup of green tea. Others are weightier, like a BLM protester being embraced by the Statue of Liberty. What carries throughout, are dynamic colors with contrasting large and small elements.
“Williams is a strong visual communicator. His illustrations translate the challenges of real life into images that educate, inspire and bring joy,” says Illustration Chair Edward Soyka.
Along with freelance work, Perez teaches art to children. He tries to instill the principles of traditional drawing before transitioning to digital. It’s the training he received as a Fine Arts major, and again after transitioning to Illustration. “If you don’t know the essentials there’s no point in going digital,” he says. Prof. Soyka agrees: “He learned the skills of visual communication by drawing, painting and using technology. It’s what we offer all of our students.”
Throughout Covid, Perez has observed how individuals connect in ordinary but spirited ways. Above, a bundled-up couple enjoy a meal in an open-air, partitioned section of a restaurant. It’s cold but the heater above is scintillating. Another couple look pleased to be leaving with take-out.
Even the small elements — the heater above the plywood ceiling, a bouncy ponytail, a trail of blue flowers, the steam coming from the take-out bag — suggest small pleasures and caring touches.
“We’re outside in the cold eating, but we’re with loved ones,” says Perez. “We had a crappy year, but I wanted to show that there was joy too.”
She’s a fashion director who can repurpose clothing as if performing a magic trick. The transformation of one look into a completely different one is something Nicole Windram practices continually with her own wardrobe. She does the same for the designs that appear in the layouts of FIT’s student-run fashion and culture publication Blush Magazine. The ability comes from many classroom and studio hours, but it’s also her personal life’s practice. We caught some glimpses of how style and function, personal outlook, and a curious intellect works for this Fashion Design senior.
What’s the most lavish outfit you’ve worn under Covid? “Definitely this outfit. I made the top from an old dress and hand placed the ostrich feathers, which came from a previous project. The pants are Adidas x Danielle Cathari.”
What’s your favorite accessory that has special meaning to you? That would be my Cornicello necklace with a mano fico charm. They are Italian good luck symbols. They belonged to my Auntie M who passed away last year. I wear them every day to remind myself that she is always here with me. And the necklace is cute!”
What makes one person’s track suit chic and another’s for workouts? “Athletic wear is one of the most versatile areas of fashion. I love wearing my athletic clothes to work out, and then elevating the look for a formal event. I feel confident in my tracksuits.”
Cont: “I think we’re going to see a lot of multi-functional clothes that can be used for sport as well as dressing to the nines.”
The bodysuit, above, Windram created from her first pair of track pants.
Windram, above, in her trackpants before they became a bodysuit.
When should you coordinate outfits with a friend? “Always. I have wonderful, talented friends. When school was in person we would coordinate outfits or makeup all the time. Fashion and style creates a special bond with people. My friend Namra and I didn’t even mean to coordinate outfits with big sleeves. It just happened and that’s special.”
What’s been your favorite Blush Magazine layout? “That would be ‘Birthday Blues,’ my first time styling for Blush. It featured one of my garments, a purple alpaca wool with leftover ostrich feathers. I had wanted to create a garment with a unique silhouette and fun trims. The jacket features a raglan sleeve as well as a matching belt and skirt. I’m now really excited about our team’s new designs.”
There are some great photos of you at Rags-A-Gogo record store, and another at the Strand Book Store. How can someone acquire your type of everyday style? “That’s kind. It comes from years of trial and error. I dress to express myself. I wear what makes me happy and feel confident. If you mix and match the clothes that you own, your options are limitless.”
What books are on your night table? “I just purchased ‘Accidentally Wes Anderson‘ by Wally Koval. I’m a huge Wes Anderson fan. I’m also reading ‘Normal People’ by Sally Rooney and then “What A Time to be Alone” by Chidera Eggerue and ‘The Body Keeps Score’ by Bessel van der Kolk. They’re not all on my night table; I use the New York Public Library app for renting books.”
What class assignment has brought you the most joy lately? “Last semester in Childrenswear Niche Market class with Prof. Barbara Segio, I made a reversible bathing suit that could be worn in different ways. It was my first project using mixed media to present it. Having real life elements interact with 2D art is an exciting concept.”
What’s your caffeine intake like? “At home we have an entire cabinet of teas and honeys. I start my morning with Earl Grey. Later in the day I have a matcha latte that I make with almond milk and locally sourced honey from Andrew’s Honey.”
Is there something in your workspace that gives you inspiration? “I have gemstones and crystals around me when I “create art. They remind me how infinitely inspiring nature is. I have amethyst, rose quartz and hematite on me right now.”
The current issue of Blush Magazine, “The Vital Issue,” features Nicole Windram’s styling for “Feel Good Fashion. Blush Magazine is a student-led publication that began in 2013. It covers topics related to fashion, beauty and culture. Throughout COVID-19, it is being published in digital format only, otherwise it is available in both print and digital formats. Over 60 members contribute their writing, styling, modeling, makeup, graphic design, and print layout skills to Blush. Follow on Twitter: @blushmagfit and IG: @blushmagfit
When “I Promise,” written by LeBron James and Illustrated by Nina Mata, (Illustration, ’08), was released last August, it became an instant New York Times #1 best selling children’s book. Shortly after it was named by Amazon and Barnes & Noble as among “the best books of the year” for young readers.
It was a high profile achievement for Mata, but it was one of only many celebrated children’s books she has illustrated since graduation.
Mata paid a virtual visit this fall to Illustration Professor Anthony Capparelli’s Pictorial Problem Solving class. She spoke about the direction of her career, her current practice, and the figures both on paper and real, who play an integral part in her life and craft.
“Here in a nutshell is what led me to this amazing, thriving career,” she said. “The hardest part was to own my story and find my voice, what my purpose was for illustrating children’s books. It came through drawing my childhood and the diverse community I grew up with.”
Mata spoke about working on “I Promise,” with LeBron James. It’s a case study on how elevated a children’s book can become.
The children’s book became a calling card for basketball superstar LeBron James and Mata as well.
Time magazine, in naming LeBron James 2020 Athlete of the Year wrote: “On the way to another NBA title [he] transformed what an athlete can be.” Especially for his nonprofit “More than a Vote,” with the single-minded focus of getting people to the polls. It was, Time said, the highest profile example of a surge in activism across the world of sports in 2020.
The book’s big 10 x 10-inch pages expand the idea of LeBron’s I Promise school, in rustbelt Akron, OH, where he grew up. The school is aimed at helping kids reach their full potential. The young students promise every day to work hard, set goals, and hold themselves accountable.
In a nod to Mata, LeBron James told the New York Times:
“It was important to us that the artwork in ‘I Promise’ reflect all students, so that everyone who reads it can see themselves in the images…The inclusive and diverse illustrations are one of my favorite things about the book” said James referencing Mata’s work.
Mata, who gets full cover credit, says the “instant” success was almost two years in the making. She was asked in early 2019 to be one of numerous illustrators auditioning for the hush-hush project for an unnamed author. The list was soon down to two. She won the championship-level job about several months later.
Mata says she essentially drew her childhood. Daughter of Philippine immigrants, she grew up in a multi-ethnic Queens, New York, neighborhood. Despite her surprise at hearing James was the author, she was ready.
“I Promise” highlights young people of all backgrounds working together to help each other in classrooms and playgrounds, basketball courts and swimming pools.
By the time it arrived last August, the pandemic had changed the world, but the book’s message and its art still held true. The promises are even more important now.
“Kids and families are going through a lot,” James told the New York Times. “I hope this book can bring them some hope and positivity, and encourage them to keep pushing, because we will make it through this tough time.” When the book came out, he was not allowed to be with his own three children due to COVID dangers.
Mata has many other credits. She was nominated for the 52nd NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature and is a 2021 Theodor Seuss Geisel Honoree for her work in “Ty’s Travels, Zip Zoom by Kelly Starling Lyons.” Her book projects also include one by American gymnast Laurie Hernandez, “She’s Got This,” (also a New York Times bestseller!) and books in the Ty’s Travels I Can Read series.
“It was a joy to be visited by my former student, Nina Mata for our IL 262-15A Pictorial Problem Solving Class! Nina was a pleasure as a student, and has become an accomplished professional through a fierce commitment to professional excellence. Nina offered invaluable career advice. She exemplifies FIT’s commitment to professional excellence with an inclusive educational experience for future artists and illustrators,” says Prof. Capparelli.
Mata emphasized that the journey took time. After her first six years – a career that started with national economic collapse just two months before her May 2009 graduation.
On her husband’s advice, Mata gave herself a year to step back, have fun, and develop a true “look” and illustration style. She did just that, evolving a looser, more carefree approach.
“The hardest part (of my career) was to own my story and find my voice, what my purpose was for illustrating children’s books. It came through drawing my childhood and the diverse community I grew up with,” says Nina Mata, ’08
During that year “I played with a lot of patterns, dabbled a lot with abstract art,” says Mata. She began to incorporate the patterns and textures into her work. “I stopped over rendering and just had fun. It was my year for letting go.” She created a piece of her childhood friends in front of a bodega that she was an “homage to the carefree days of growing up in Queens….It made me realize we don’t see enough diversity on books with illustrations. It really inspired me to change that.” Mata had found her style and her purpose.
She told the students:
Step outside your comfort zone. Draw things you don’t usually do
Take a business class
Promotional postcards STILL work
Watch the trends and give it your own twist
Attend conferences. Take online classes, keep learning
Never work for free or for the “experience”
Illustration is an isolating career. Make friends
Follow Instagram and Pinterest, especially, for trends
You’re ready when you say you are. Go out and do it!
Mata credits her agent with much of her success. “It’s like the saying if you want to go fast go alone, but if you want to go far, you have to go together,” said Mata.
It took her a long time to find an agent, and then six months to get an assignment. During that time “she helped me build my portfolio to where it needed to be. She knew what art directors were looking for and editors were looking for.”
Although she does some of her own promotion, she says her agent’s advice has been key. For instance, one time her agent told her that dragons and unicorns were a coming thing. Naturally Mata practiced drawing them before she had assignment that called for them. She reads all the contracts herself after her agent does the negotiating.
“Finally, you’re ready when you say you are,” says Mata. “You have to be courageous and believe in yourself. If you keep going you’re only going to get better. Like me, I was able to work and grow as an artist at the same time.”
Lady Gaga wore Schiaparelli at the Inauguration. Kamala Harris’ two great-nieces wore iloveplum. FIT graduates designed for all three…but this is about two-year-old Leela and four-year-old Amala, and their adorable hooded faux-fur leopard-print coats.
Fashion Design alumna Sydney Hawes,’08, not only designed the coats, she cut and sewed them in three days, drawing on her FIT experience. Her former FIT roommate, Susan Trotiner, sketched them for the client, the new Vice-President’s niece Meena Harris. They work for iloveplum childrenswear, which specializes in tutus and in having fun.
Hawes, the company’s design director, lives and works out of Oakland, Kamala Harris’s home town. “That was a special connection,” says Hawes. “It’s an amazing moment for Oakland. Kamala is a positive face for the city. We pitched the idea of Inauguration outfits to Meena around Christmas. We saw that her daughters were in all the family pictures wearing white outfits and white Doc Martens. Might they be going to the Inauguration? This could be kinda cool.”
The Inauguration was a pinnacle moment for fashion. “Fashion reporters want to breakdown who’s wearing what and why. A huge part of being a fashion designer is the storytelling, which obviously was a big focus at FIT, says Hawes.
“We started brainstorming. We had a lot of ideas, given the family heritage, the suffragette movement, the colors, all the real fashion nerd stuff. We were winding down and I was getting into the CAD mood, and then I found the childhood picture of Kamala with her family.”
Hawes continues, “I said wait a minute why don’t we make this coat? Meena had kept saying it has to be cozy and warm. So when I saw that picture, and all the the other ideas just melted away.”
Susan Trotiner, ’08, who dormed with Hawes in Nagler Hall, and is iloveplum’s sourcing director, did the sketches of the coats. “We always joked (at FIT) that she helped me with drawing and I helped her doing sewing. So it was a perfect thing. She did the sketches and I did the sewing. It brings me back! It’s a great FIT story.”
When they pitched it to Meena they got an immediate, enthusiastic response: “’I love the coats. Oh, I have to have the coats. This is amazing!’” says Hawes recalling Meena’s text message.
But it was a Thursday, almost three weeks before the January 20 ceremony. The two coats had to be ready the following Tuesday. “This was two weeks before the inauguration,” says Hawes.
“It’s a classic fashion story. Here I was, casually driving to look for fabric. I get the message. I think I need to drive faster!”
Hawes got onto the iloveplum messaging system with her colleagues and said, “’I think maybe I should just sew these.’ Talking to a pattern maker, talking to a sample room, rushing around getting all these people involved, would just take too much time. So I made the patterns and made the coats that weekend. I felt like I was at FIT working on a project the night before it was due.”
“When I heard that I had three days to make two children’s coats for the incoming Vice President’s great nieces, it was more than enough time. The confidence, to know that I could do that from start to finish, I learned that at FIT.
I learned how to make patterns, including grade pattern to make the two different sizes of coats. The prototype that I made first before the actual garments, of course tailoring, these were notch collars. I had under collars, over collars. I had to compensate for the faux fur, all of those technical concepts I got to apply. These are things I learned at FIT, like how to roll sleeves, getting the supplies I needed. I didn’t just blindly commit to that. I confidently committed to it. That comes from FIT.” – Fashion Design alumna Sydney Hawes
Hawes and Trotiner both studied childrenswear together and say they were most influenced by Prof. Sandra Markus, now chair of the Fashion Design department. “We had her for senior thesis and portfolio class. Most of our classmates wanted to dress celebrities. We wanted to design outfits for kids,” says Hawes.
“Childrenswear students tend to have a particularly close relationship with one another,” says Chair Sandra Markus. “Sydney and Susan were a dynamic duo—they really poured their heart and souls into their work–and formed a partnership that has lasted beyond FIT.”
When the coats were delivered, iloveplum got a note of appreciation but nothing more. “We didn’t know if they fit or if they would wear them. They just basically said thank you and that was it. So we waited,” says Hawes. “Meena did ask us for black turtlenecks to go with the coats. That was a good sign. But we had no idea or what was going to happen at the Inauguration. We were hoping for images we could post. Maybe Meena would post a picture. They can’t tag or promote any brand, so it’s up to us to get the news out there,” she said.
“We were all watching on January 20. It was 6 am for me, 9 am in New York. We all had our TVs on and waited. We saw that everyone was leaving church and heading to the Capitol” says Hawes.
“And there’s Meena in her gorgeous emerald outfit and there’s this little furry arm holding her hand. It was like OMG! I must have woken up all of the East Bay screaming! We’re all texting each other: ‘They’re wearing them…They’re wearing them!!!’”
Hawes says it was a great moment for childrenswear. “The childrenswear market has changed since I graduated. There wasn’t so much high-end then; we were taught to design for function. We expected to have fun designing childrenswear but it’s not glam. That’s what makes this event so cool. It’s really special for FIT because they taught me all of the chops for that. I learned it all there!” says Hawes.
“Children are the future. I think that’s why they became such a visual of the day. Kamala has them around because they represent our future. Little Leela was in her dad’s arms throughout the day, so the coat is in every single shot, from Lady Gaga singing to the swearing in. There was this little furry hood in the background the whole time!”
And then Meena posted a picture on social media of the girls alongside the picture of Kamala as a child. “Coats just like Auntie’s” it says.
“Meena has authored the children’s book ‘Ambitious Girl‘ and the bestseller “Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea.” She’s a lawyer who went to Stanford and Harvard law school. She’s a voice for feminism and empowerment, with a big social media following” says Hawes.
So when broadcast news picked up Meena’s post in real time fashion lightening struck. Rachel Maddow, CNN, CBS and others began talking about the coats, says Hawes.“ They had all those cameras, doing different angles, ‘How cute are these coats! Who wouldn’t be warm in these sweet outfits?’ And then the comparison with Kamala’s childhood coat.”
Corky Lee, a chronicler of Asian culture in Chinatown and nationwide, has succumbed to COVID-19. Lee put Asians back in the historical picture of American life. He was a great friend to FIT faculty and students, introducing them to chronicling Manhattan’s Chinatown.
“Corky Lee was the unofficial historian of Chinatown and Asian life throughout New York City and beyond. He led the way. He documented living and working in the Chinese community: factory life, protests, police abuse, Asian-American veterans, the many cultural events. He documented the immigrant experience. I am a part of that. His work is all about people like me. He was a mentor to so many people including me,” says Prof. Kam Mak.
One of Lee’s celebrated photos recreated the Golden Spike Ceremony marking the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869. The Chinese workers who laid the tracks were excluded from the original photo. Lee’s recreation featured 400 of their direct descendants. He referred to it as “photographic justice.” Since his passing, many on social media have said: “He helped us see ourselves.”
Lee’s photos are among the few that chronicled Chinatown events and everyday life 50 years ago. He continued photographing until shortly before he died at age 73. “Don’t get hooked on photography unless you’re willing to make tremendous sacrifices,” he once said.
“Corky and I we always ran into each on the streets in Chinatown,” said Photography Professor Curtis Willocks who frequently brought students to photograph there.
“The last image I have of Corky Lee — I was with my students at a gallery on Broadway in Chinatown. Corky was there. He took them on a grand tour and engaged them. That was him, all about sharing, education and enlightening.”
To learn more about Asian-American life in NYC go to:
“It would be hard to imagine a more drastic change than we are going through now,” says Shefelman, “so how can we actively evolve our visual communication methods and engage an audience?”
Tapping into the feelings of isolation, frustration and a powerful need for students to connect from their remote locations, Shefelman called for a video game designed to respond to current events.
Students worked in five teams throughout the semester. This was their assignment:
Create a mental and emotional vaccine for the isolated, crisis-ridden, change-inspiring world we are living in. Using a game format to tell a story of some sort of journey, we explore fantasy, reality and/or inner worlds relevant to the events of the times. Think about why you want to make this game. What do you want the user to experience? Is it pure escape? Working out frustrations-aggressions? Connecting with others in a virtual way? Call to action in the actual world?
Now, let the games begin!
Instructions: The world as we know it is ending, but you’ve got a plan…to get off the damn planet! You are a dedicated doomsday conspiracy theorist who has known the end is near for ages, but now is the time to act! Gather resources, recruit a team, steal top secret government plans to build your rocket, and find a new planet to call home.
Instructions: Enter into the world of Reflect, where you reflect on the emotions of grief through a series of mirrors. The main character embarks on an emotional journey through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Instructions: A girl wakes up in the middle of the forest; she recognizes herself as the Little Red Riding Hood. She needs to get to Grandma’s house but she’s lost in the woods. The goal is to solve puzzles, find keys, open gates, collect items, and defeat shadow monsters to clear out the way in order to reach grandma’s house. The girl will receive help from fairy tale animal characters, such as the frog prince, blue bird, the little mer-witch and seven dwarfs.
Team Red Zone:
Instructions: The game begins in March, 2020 when lockdown first began in New York City. Players will have to conquer obstacles along the way that will increase in difficulty with each level. Each level will take place in the five boroughs and have a time limit.
Team Possums vs. Racoons:
Instructions: Collect that trash! A battle between your average trash cats. Whichever side collects the most trash wins!
The proposals from the student teams surprised Shefelman, “in sophistication, depth of meaningfulness,” he says. As the semester progressed “the collaborative process brought more depth to the ideas and some fantastic visual development art and storytelling.”
Please accept these GIFs from the students of Prof. Anthony Capparelli’s Pictorial Problem Solving Illustration class
Creating GIFS in Prof. Anthony Capparelli’s Motion Graphic and Holiday Card Assignment, allows students to add movement and motion to their illustrations. They choose their inspiration from assigned themes such as album art, tourism, and theater events.
Their earlier assignment was a two-page graphite value study — a historical illustration for a children’s book. “The GIF assignment was quite a change for them,” says Prof. Capparelli.
Building on the skill set from previous assignments, students employed a mix of traditional and digital techniques to produce artwork that could be digitally and visually manipulated.
“The preparation of these images became an exploration in problem-solving strategies.
“Students discover there is more than one way to accomplish their project goals, and more than one digital program to aid in their processes,” says Prof. Capparelli.