Don’t Blush. It’s Nicole Windram

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.

Nicole Windram. Photo: Danielle Windram

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.”

Nicole Windram wearing Auntie M’s Cornicello necklace with a Mano Fico charm

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!”

Nicole Windram in tracksuit on the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo: Namra Khan

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.”

Nicole Windram wearing a tracksuit. Photo: Ellie Vogel

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.

Nicole Windram pre-Adidas bodysuit. Photo: Jack Khan

Windram, above, in her trackpants before they became a bodysuit.

Namra Khan with Nicole Windram. Photo: Ashna Patel

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.”

Blush Magazine layout. Model: Phoebe Argente. Photo: Gabriella Spiegel

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.”

Nicole Windram at Rags-A-Gogo record store. Photo: Danielle Windram

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.”

Nicole Windram with friend at the Strand Book Store. Photo by: Jack Khan

You have a near obsession with independent bookstores. Which are your favorites“Bookstores are remarkable in that there’s something there for everyone. They are places where you’re among people having completely different experiences but all to do with books. My favorites are Rizzoli, Strand Book StoreMercer Street Books and RecordsPrinted Matter, and The Bookmark Shoppe in Brooklyn near where I grew up.”

Nicole Windram’s favorite titles

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.”

Nicole Windram’s reversible bathing suit

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.”

Tea and Honey Cabinet

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.”

Crystals & Gemstones

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 

To follow Nicole Windram on Instagram go to: @nicolewindram and @hausofwindram.

To learn more about the Fashion Design program go to: FashionDesignFIT

All images curtesy of Nicole Windram.
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New York Times Bestselling Illustrator Nina Mata Tells All!

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.

“I Promise” by LeBron James is Illustrated by Nina Mata

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.

“I Promise” illustration by Nina Mata

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.

“I Promise” illustration by Nina Mata

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.

“I Promise” illustration by Nina Mata

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.

“I Promise” is written by LeBron James and illustrated by Nina Mata

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,” by LeBron James. Illustrated by Nina Mata

“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.

Illustration by Nina Mata

“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.

Illustration by Nina Mata

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. 

“She’s Got This,” by gymnast and Olympic medalist Laurie Hernandez. Illustrated by Nina Mata

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

“She’s Got this,” by Olympic medalist Laurie Hernandez. Illustrated by Nina Mata

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.

Illustration by Nina 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.

Also key has been her membership in The Society of Childrens’ Book Writers and Illustators, and has been part of many illustrations groups like an Illustrators Happy Hour. “Share resources and celebrate successes. Connect with other illustrators. Learn from each other.

Illustration by Nina Mata

“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.”

To hear Nina Mata read “I Promise” go to: I Promise Storytime with Lebron and Nina.

To follow Nina Mata check out her website at: and on Instagram: NinaBonina.

To learn more about the Illustration major go to Illustration at FIT.

Art work courtesy of Nina Mata.

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Sydney Hawes’ plush children’s coats go to Washington with Kamala Harris’ great nieces!

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.

Embed from Getty Images

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.”

Inauguration coat made and designed by Sydney Hawes

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.”

Kamala Harris family photo with young Kamala wearing her leopard coat.

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.”

Inauguration concept sketches

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.”

Sydney Hawes and Susan Trotiner

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.

Inauguration Coat

“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!!!’”

Embed from Getty Images

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 Harris’ IG post: “Just like Auntie’s.”

“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.”

Sydney Hawes Inauguration Day coat sightings:

Says Hawes “It was such an historic moment and on top of that for fashion, especially for children’s fashion.”

To follow Sydney Hawes on Twitter go to: Sydney, on IG: pina_kit, and on her website: Sydney L. Hawes. Follow Susan Trotiner on IG: hautetootrot.

To learn more about the School of Art and Design’s Fashion Design program go to: Fashion Design at FIT.

Images courtesy of iloveplum and Sydney Hawes.

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Corky Lee the Unofficial Historian of NYC’s Chinatown and beyond

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

“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.

Corky Lee and 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 Lee with FIT students

“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:

Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA), located at 215 Centre Street. MOCA is a national home for the narratives of diverse Chinese-American communities. The Organization of Chinese Americans (OCA) is part of a national non-profit civil rights organization promoting and protecting the political, economic, and cultural rights of Asian Pacific Americans in America. The Asian-American Journalists Association works to ensure fair and accurate coverage of communities of color.

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It’s More Than a Game for Clever Evolving Media Students

Entering FIT’s first full semester of remote learning last fall, Prof. Dan Shefelman says he was searching for a way to approach his Illustration BFA course, Visual Storytelling for Evolving Media II, in an engaging and relevant way. This course, true to its title, is designed to embrace the changing media landscape.

Team Reflect

“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?”

Team Red Zone

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.

Team Red Zone

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?

Team Possums vs. Racoons

Now, let the games begin!

Team Disasterville: 

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.


Team Disasterville
Team Disasterville

Team Reflect: 

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.


Team Reflect

Team Rodt: 

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 Rodt
Team Rodt

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 Red Zone
Team Red Zone

Team Possums vs. Racoons:

Instructions: Collect that trash! A battle between your average trash cats. Whichever side collects the most trash wins!

Team Racoons vs. Possums

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.”

Team Reflect: Adesewa Adekoya, Brigid Coleman, Thamara Gomez, Yumi Kamata, Claudia Reese
Team Red Zone: Aqil Balogun, Cameron Costabel, Angelica Guevara, Marielle Lamothe, Stephanie Wan
Team Rodt: Sadia Bhuiyan, Bruno Cruz, Sydney Heihs, Ziben Li
Team Racoons vs. Possums: Ashley Chavez, Fiona Fitas, Nicole Hogan, Jia Min Liu

To learn more about the Illustration major go to Illustration at FIT.

Images and video used with permission

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Tis’ the Season for GIF-Giving!

Happy Holidays!

Please accept these GIFs from the students of Prof. Anthony Capparelli’s Pictorial Problem Solving Illustration class

Bridgette Meruelo

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.

Trinity Yates

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.

Alberda Saada

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.

Chelsea Reyes

“The preparation of these images became an exploration in problem-solving strategies.

Still from Makayla Coy’s Christmas Angel GIF

“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.

Annie Shi

To learn more about the Art and Design Illustration major go to: Illustration at FIT



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Design Across the Oceans with Professor Jerry Dellova

Attending class remotely from four continents,19 students in Prof. Jerry Dellova’s CAD for Fashion Design class FD342, finished the semester a few days before Christmas, filling their screens with a riot of colors, print and pattern designs.

As is typical, the students presented their final projects to their professor and classmates. What was not typical was that they presented from as far as Brazil, Korea, Kazakhstan, Germany, Shanghai and Beijing. For some, 9 am in New York was, well, tomorrow! Excerpts from four projects are presented here:

Shiyu (“Phoebe”) Zuo’s opening page establishes her theme “Pure Land”

“The pure land” refers to a world within,” says Shiyu Zuo, who, from China, presented her collection based on Tibetan landscape and culture. She drew inspiration from traditional Tibetan clothing and elements such as temple scripture and propitious clouds.

Shiyu Zuo’s color palate

In the course, CAD for Fashion Design and Development, students use Lectra’s Kaledo CAD software to digitally create fabrics and explore textile possibilities for garments they’ve designed. They merge garment and fabrics to create collections that share an overall balance of color, pattern, texture, proportion, and function.

Saule Amangeldi’s muse market competitor page

Saule Amangeldi, who presented her collection from Kazakhstan, is impassioned about protecting coral reefs. Of particular concern is coral bleaching due to ocean acidification from climate change. Her collection is aimed at bringing awareness to the vibrant beauty of the coral reefs.

Saule Amangeldi’s color palate

For their final projects, students must come up with a defining theme for their collection, a customer profile, color palette, and a specific market they’re designing for. They also have to research competitors and retailers in that market.

Saule Amangeldi’s collection line sheet 1
Saule Amangeldi’s collection line sheet 2
Emerson Kobak’s theme page with mission statement

Emerson Kobak who presented her collection from New York City, draws inspiration from the underground feminist punk movement of the 90s. “Being a Riot Grrrl she says in her mission statement, “means supporting and uplifting every sexuality, color, race, identity. Being a Riot Grrrl means being Freee.”

Emerson Kobak’s original plaid design

Woven plaids and stripes, original and coordinated prints, knit stitches and intarsia patterns flashed across the classmates’ screens amid the lively discussion.

Emerson Kobak’s original print design
Keyjung (“KJ”) Lee’s theme or mood page

A French chic autumn and winter collection with a romantic sensibility! Edgy knitwear, jackets, coats, wool pants and skirts, which can be worn in “warm light that shines on a winter evening.” That was the theme of KJ Lee‘s collection, which she presented from Queens, NY.

KJ Lee’s original stripe design
KJ Lee’s coordinating print design
KJ Lee’s collection line sheet

“I am so impressed with the work,” says Prof. Dellova. “The creativity and their energy levels during this trying time. Working and learning remotely is very difficult and they all exceeded my expectations.“

To learn more about the School of Art & Design’s Fashion Design major go to: Fashion Design at FIT.

To follow Shiyu Zou on IG, go to @phoebetsos; Emerson Kobak at @emersonkobak & @emersonisa and her website: To see more of Saule Amangeldi’s collection go to: Saule; to follow KJ Lee on IG go to: @kjlee894

All images used with permission.

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Visual Presentation Lab Rises to Pandemic Challenges

What happens to use of a well-equipped workshop when many students can’t get to it? New instructional videos to aid students confined to home. New ways of creating those videos. Extra attention for the students who need to be there. Workshops and labs across the FIT campus have faced challenges with different approaches. And yes, some have closed during the COVID lockdown.

The Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design (VPED) Lab in ACO8, is one that has stayed open and expanded its instructional materials to include more than 40 staff videos now on the shop’s website.

VPED Lab (pre-COVID)

“This Lab is the program’s greatest resource,” says VPED Professor Anne Kong. “It enables students to realize their designs in the studio courses that teach hands-on techniques. Students see their designs go from sketches and renderings to a dimensional piece; this provides a greater understanding of production and installation, which is a critical skill for our majors.”

VPED lab (pre-COVID)

Steven Ceraso VPED/CDP Technologist has worked on-site throughout the fall semester. “We learned that the lecture part of classes can be taught remotely. This allows the lab to be more accessible when students need access to tools, machinery, and work space,” he says.

“For students who didn’t have campus access we supported them by producing their work and mailing it to them so that they could work with deliverables at home,” says Prof. Kong. “They watched some of their projects produced virtually. In the spring we plan to continue this process for our majors.”

VPED Lab (pre-COVID)

Says Ceraso, “We made adjustments like wearing masks, social distancing, and curbside pickup for some projects.  Another important aspect of this situation is making it a point to be professional and accomplish goals efficiently. Communication with students actually improved.”

The students often emailed ahead about their ideas and what they were trying to accomplish before meeting in the shop. That wasn’t always the practice previously.

The start of Himeka Murai’s design process

“I was able to work more cohesively with individual students, and that trust, respect, and understanding was apparent on all sides,” says Ceraso who is also a Continuing and Professional Studies instructor and creator of a course in furnituremaking.

Working with smaller, more focused groups was a “great experience,” he says. “With most classes scheduled remotely, we effectively expanded our open hours in the shop. Students that had to be there and could manage the logistics often found they could accomplish things with fewer restrictions and less waiting time.

VPED student Diana Rico, ’22, for instance, was an RA for the only dorm open during the fall semester, so she was able to spend more time in the studio. For an assignment for Professor Glenn Sokoli’s Three Dimensional Construction, students had to recreate a company logo made only of wood.

Diana Rico’s in-store sign in progress

“I chose Savage X Fenty, a female-empowering brand,” says Rico. “Their logo is just an “X” but I wanted to celebrate the items they sell, so I made the overall logo in the shape of a woman and used the original “X” shape to look like a lace-up corset,” says Rico.

Diana Rico’s in-store sign in progress

“I started with the Illustrator file, then moved to the foam model, then cut the pieces out with the help of Steve and the CNC machine, then painted and put it all together.”

Rico’s project “involved a lot of complex cut parts,” Ceraso said. “I helped her redesign the original artwork because it didn’t match up with the limitations of our CNC [computer numerical control] machine tools. We both learned a lot.”

Says Rico, “I loved working on this project and can’t wait to do more 3D stuff next semester.”

Diana Rico’s in-store sign for Savage X Fenty

For an assignment for her Foundation in VPED class with Professor Samiel Laury, Jasmine McCulloch built an octagonal, 15” tall model for an outdoor dining space. McCulloch mastered the mitered spline joints and calculated all the dimensions and angles. The materials are plywood and solid wood, all from scraps of leftover wood already in the shop.

Jasmine McCulloch outdoor structure

Communication Design student Himeka Murai, ’22, worked on a project for Prof. Kong’s Foundation in Visual Presentation class. It is for an in-store display, constructed from discarded pallet wood.

Himeka Mura’s indoor display in progress

The design is based on traditional architecture, but also uses complex angles and wood joints.

“It’s great to have a dedicated student want to build something this complicated and spend so much time working on it,” said Ceraso. “She was learning the craft of joinery while she was working on her project.”

Himeka Mura’s Muji lantern for indoor display

Murai said “it was a long journey, but I really enjoyed the ride. I am glad that I decided to push forward with what I had planned to do, even though it looked impossible at the beginning.”

Suki Wong ’22, worked on a sign project for VPED professor Glenn Sokoli’s 3D Dimensional Construction class. Nearly two feet wide and made of wood fiberboard, it was done by programming the shapes on the CNC.  “There was also much staining and finishing involved. We used leftover stains and Suki did several tests on different pieces first,” Ceraso said.

Suki Wong’s Chuya Chups product sign in progress

“Using the machines on campus helped with the majority of this project, as well getting guidance in problem solving,” says Wong. “It is a different experience than I could have imagined, between attending remote classes and getting on campus to work on big projects,” says Wong.

Detail from Suki Wong’s product sign in progress

With the help of Ceraso and her professor, Wong was able to source materials on campus. “Professor Sokoli and I were able to cleverly figure out how to use less material to create this sign,” she says.

Suki Wong’s final sign project

Like many technologists working at FIT, Ceraso is a designer himself. A sculptor with graphic design expertise, he has been working with fellow technologists N’Ketiah Brakohiapa and David Halbout on developing instructional materials. They built a video dolly for live-streaming shop demos with an old MacBook and other equipment in the studio.

“It has worked out fine for the time being. This impromptu assemblage made me think about how to make this device more capable,” Ceraso said.

Video photo dolly

They are creating content about working safely and effectively in the Design Lab and D425 Print Lab.

“The current situation makes us consider new methods of working. Providing detailed interactive materials and how-to videos will benefit our students in the future,” says Ceraso.

Steven Ceraso in front of computer-controlled shop equipment.

To learn more about the Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design major go to VPED at FIT.

To follow Himeka Murai on Instagram go to: @Himeka_Murai; Diana Rico: @Diana_Rico; Suki Wong: @s_wong94; Prof. Anne Kong: @Anne_Kong; and Steven Ceraso at:

All images used with permission.

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Artful and Profound COVID Scarves

Students in Professor Susanne Goetz’s Screen Printing Scarves (TD316) class were inspired to create pandemic-themed designs as their final project this semester. “Some are thoughtful, some humorous,” says Prof. Goetz who is internationally recognized as a textile designer and educator.

Sonja Feaster’s “The Sanity Scarf” story board

Students were asked to design a contemporary screen printed scarf accompanied by a storyboard with visual information about their concept. Designing with FIT’s print workshop in mind, students were only able to use two colors supplemented by overprinting and halftone effects.

“The Sanity Scarf” by Sonja Feaster

The theme was completely open. Lectures covered how scarves have long been used as a medium of political comment and to memorialize current events. Prof. Goetz says that students learned about artists who focused on social justice issues in their work.

Audrey Martiandy’s “Brunch After Quarantine” storyboard

Audrey Martiandy‘s storyboard suggests that she misses not being able to meet her friends for brunch. “Her design highlights in a satirical setting the unwillingness of some people to do their part by wearing a mask,” says Prof. Goetz.

Audrey Martiandy’s “Brunch After Quarantine” scarf design

While students are not screen-printing their designs in the School’s screen-printing lab this semester, they prepare the artwork ready for the print process and create digital visualizations. Fortunately, this is an advanced class, so students do have hands-on workshop experience. That helps them imagine how the designs would look once they are produced, she says.

Sonja Fester’s “Until we meet in Tokyo” storyboard

Students also watched videos of practitioners and innovative print processes to help keep them connected to the workshop.

Sonja Feaster, in one of two separate projects, wrote a short bio and created texture mappings for an Olympic commemorative silk scarf design, “Until We Meet in Tokyo.”

Sonja Feaster’s “Until We Meet in Toyko” scarf design

It honors both resilient Olympians and frontline healthcare workers. Feaster says that Thomas Bach, the president of the International Olympic Committee, told COVID workers “You are our true champions.”

In the design, Olympic athletes are “handing the torch” to healthcare workers, who will carry it until 2021. The narrative is highly symbolic. It celebrates a year of resilience, sacrifice, and unity.

Detail from “Until We Meet in Toyko” scarf design

Katherine Murphy calls her design “Finding Peace in 2020.” Because of the pandemic, she says, “there has been a lot of stress and negativity this year. I wanted to create something that still reminded us of the good, even in difficult times.”

Katherine Murphy’s “Finding Peace in 2020″ storyboard

“The pandemic has allowed me to spend more time with them by living at home,” says Murphy. So even in a pandemic, there is always something for which to be grateful.

The border of her scarf has inspirational quotes such as, “to keep us hopeful.” She also included the hand prints of her family.

Katherine Murphy’s “Finding Peace in 2020″ scarf design

To follow Sonja Feaster go to:; for Audrey Martiandy go to:; to follow Katherine Murphy on IG go to: @KMurphy_textiles.

Click here to learn more about the School of Art and Design’s Textile Surface Design major.

All images used with permission.


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Kam Mak’s Studio Class: Virtually Live

Illustration Professor Kam Mak revels in teaching studio painting classes with live models. It’s been part of his class syllabus for 20 years. Pre-pandemic he led a popular study abroad program in Florence where students paint in the medium of Renaissance masters. Naturally, remote teaching poses challenges. But Prof. Mak has technology on his side.

By Star Pendergrass

It’s not just a matter of turning on a camera in the studio. Challenges can range from capturing skin tones properly to adjusting to how a live model is observed on a computer screen.

Even a simple teaching gesture like demonstrating brushwork directly on a student’s canvas is no longer possible.

“Instead I provide live demos on how, for instance, to block out the figure with the brush, and how to render the form,” says Prof. Mak. “They see me doing it live.”

By Amanda Bueno Veras

Prof. Mak insists that painting live models is a key learning tool in studio classes such as his Advanced Color Rendering class. The challenge is working with a figure that’s constantly shifting. “We start by working with models and directly observing them,” he says. “It’s four straight weeks of six-hour sessions with the same pose,” he says.

“I’ve made comparisons with having a model pose remotely versus using a photograph; I still prefer models because a model is dynamic.”

By Erika Syvanen

In a live class, some students get to sit up-front. Others have to be rotated in from the back. Online, however, students can zoom in, crop and do close-ups. Or they can zoom out so that they see most of the pose on their screens.

Prof. Mak uses a digital SLR for streaming the model. He also uses a smart phone to transmit his live teaching demos. “It’s being recorded and uploaded to Blackboard so students can review them again later.”

When a model can’t work from an equipped remote studio, there is an alternative: “The quality of an image from a current smart phone produces high-quality video. They’re streaming poses live and the students are loving it because it’s so clear.”

By Mello Loperena
“There are benefits like changing our individual computer screens to have the display in black and white and really get an understanding of the values. You can zoom in on certain areas. The cameras tend to provide high-quality images that provide lots of information to create a beautiful study,” says Mello Loperena (’21) from Prof. Mak’s class. 

In a live studio class it’s only the artist’s eye that is seeing and interpreting the image they see. But remotely, explains Prof. Mak, there are several stages for that image to go through before it gets to your eye.

“I tell my students to accept the limitation and find something new. It’s a new experience in a new medium,” says Prof. Mak.

Lobna Bayoumy

How does that translate into finished work? Prof. Mak admits that it can depend on the equipment the student has. A small laptop has limitations. Some students have a large external monitor connected to their laptops so they see the image large. “They cost about $100,” Prof. Mak says.

“In school I would tell them to walk up close to the model. I would be two feet away and point out ‘you’re not looking at this.’ Now, remotely, they can request that I zoom in on the model’s nose to see the structure better. Now everyone gets to see it!”

Or, Prof. Mak might lower the intensity of the light so that the student can see the entire plane of the figure.

By Clarisse Tam

Certainly there are aspects to the the teacher-student interaction that has changed. “I sometimes see their work during the break when I can. But after every class they upload work in progress via Google Drive and I comment in the first hour of the following week. I go through each painting.”

“Nothing can replace the dynamic of a real person and how the human eye can interpret the three dimensional experience” says Prof. Mak “It’s how the artist learns, through direct observation,” he says.

Emily, Art Model

“I think in the tech world someone is working to make this experience even better. But, if we didn’t have the current technology, we could kiss this class goodbye.”

After all, the masters themselves were innovators. They developed new perspectives and poses and worked with new pigments and paints. They used optical lenses. “If they had  computers, maybe they would have used them as well,” says Prof. Mak.

Click here to learn more about the School of Art and Design’s Illustration major.

All images used with permission.

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