Karma’s World & FIT

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If you—or your children—haven’t yet had an opportunity to tune in to Netflix’s Karma’s
World, please do! I think this hit animated series, based on a concept by rapper, actor, producer and entrepreneur Chris “Ludicris” Bridges, will delight you—and certainly inspire any children in your world.

This coming-of-age series features 10-year-old Karma Grant, an aspiring rap artist with a big talent and even bigger heart. Every episode—infused with hip-hop music and streetwear fashion—carries a life lesson, one which it wears lightly. The series focuses on themes of identity, leadership, creativity, and the importance of family and community. Karma’s World has been nominated for three NAACP awards, and a second season is in progress.

I tell you this not only because I have so enjoyed Karma’s World myself, but also because FIT has had its own role to play in its continuing success. The series is a collaboration between Karma’s World Entertainment, Bridges’ entertainment media company, and 9 Story Media Group, an industry- leading producer, creator and distributor of material for young audiences. At this point, the series has 35 licensees, including partnerships with Mattel, Scholastic and Universal Music—and through our innovative FIT DTech Lab has forged a partnership with FIT.

The upshot is that a team of FIT fashion design students created a 50-piece fashion forward children’s collection for licensing partners, with the first products to launch later this year. Designs included jumpsuits, jackets, sweatsuits, dresses, swimsuits and footwear—fashion that our students imagined a smart, creative child like Karma might have in her closet. Our design team included both current students and 2021 graduates of our fashion design program: Juliana Bui, Brianna Castillo, Jacob Desvarieux, Desiree DiCarlo, Hawwaa Ibrahim, Carly McBride, Jake Valliere and Jada Wilkerson.

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As always, our FIT DTech Lab, a key component of the college’s Innovation Center, provided a high-impact learning environment for the designers as they have just produced in the real world a product line that speaks directly to young people devoted to the fictional Karma. I want to give credit as well to the FIT faculty who acted as guides for this project: FIT’s Footwear and Accessories Design Chair Sarah Mullins, and Fashion Design Professors Lauren Zodel and Greg Woodcock. Brandice Daniel, founder of Harlem’s Fashion Row and an FIT alum, served as the series fashion consultant.

Experiential learning and innovative partnerships are pillars of the FIT mission and nothing illustrates that better than our partnership with 9 Story Media. For our students, who always make me proud, Karma’s World was an inspiration: radiating FIT’s own values of inclusivity and community.

Read More: Students Tapped to Design Streetwear Collection Inspired by ‘Karma’s World’ Star

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The Social Justice Center at FIT

The Social Justice Center at FIT is a new and groundbreaking initiative that focuses on diversity, equity and inclusion and creates opportunity and access for members of the Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) community. It is a unique program that is designed to provide the necessary educational and professional support at all points— from their youth through the lifecycle of their careers in the creative industries.

We are proud to have, as founding partners, PVH, Capri Holdings, Inc., and the Tapestry Foundation. These companies share our commitment to issues of diversity and we are deeply grateful for their support.

I invite you to learn more about the Social Justice Center at FIT here:

Further details can be found at: [email protected]

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FIT: The MIT for the Fashion Industry?

One of FIT’s founders, Morris Ritter, famously said, “What we need is an MIT for the fashion industry.” Seventy-seven years later, we are well on our way. There is, after all, the very successful, ongoing partnership we forged with MIT three years ago to see what could be developed in workshops which bring together their engineering students with our design students. But these days, there is a good deal more. In fact, FIT faculty and student research activity has never been more robust. One example: FIT today is the recipient of four active grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF), the most in our history. In some, we are collaborating with research university giants such as Carnegie Mellon, Stony Brook University and Drexel University.

There is good reason for that: more and more, scientists and engineers are beginning to understand the value of good design, and for that, I am pleased to say, they come to FIT. They recognize, too, the strength of our own faculty scientists and all they can bring to projects, particularly those involving advanced textiles.

While our MIT/FIT workshop students and their MIT peers are creating future-focused footwear for New Balance, our NSF grantees have projects that range from programming a nutrition app for young people to creating a sustainable muslin.

I am incredibly proud of the ambition and ingenuity our faculty and students have demonstrated in these projects. They’ve been supported with great skill and creativity by our Office and Grants and Sponsored Programs.

To learn more about the four exciting projects funded by the National Science Foundation-—and the faculty and students involved—here is a link to FIT Newsroom, which devoted a full edition to the topic.

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Alber Elbaz, 1961-2021

Has there ever been a more original spirit in the world of fashion than Alber Elbaz? This ebullient designer, whose triumphant collections rejuvenated the moribund House of Lanvin with elegance, grace, and an inimitable wit, loved women and fashion in equal measure—all of which was evident throughout his extraordinary career. His recent death from COVID-19 is a profound loss to us all.

Alber Elbaz with l-r: Dr. Valerie Steele, Dr. Joyce Brown, and Glenda Bailey
Alber Elbaz with l-r: Dr. Valerie Steele, Dr. Joyce Brown, and Glenda Bailey.
FIT Couture Council Luncheon, September 5, 2007. © Patrick McMullan

In 2007, the Museum at FIT honored Alber with its Artistry in Fashion award and at that time I called him an honorary FIT alumnus. That is because he studied fashion at Shenkar College in Israel, which FIT helped to establish ten years before he graduated. So the programs he learned from were programs that we were instrumental in developing. “With your Shankar pedigree,” I told him, “we take great parental pride in your achievements.” And his achievements were bountiful.

orange silk gown, viewed from behind
Silk gown designed by Alber Elbaz for Lanvin, spring 2008

Always fashion-forward, he blended craftsmanship with modernity, both before his 14-year tenure at Lanvin and after, and at each turn, he asked himself that famous Freudian question: “What do women want?” Unlike Freud, he always found an answer and applied it with elan to everything he created, whether it was sneakers or accessories or cocktail gowns.

For his most recent venture, the AZ Factory website, he once again raised the question and the answer was, he said, “Something that is first comfortable. Something fun. Something that lets me eat a big piece of cake.” Eat a big piece of cake? I cannot imagine a designer, any designer, even conceiving of a garment that would permit a woman so much as a crumb! But this was Alber Elbaz: empathetic, kind, joyful, and brilliant. Women felt confident and beautiful—and comfortable—in his clothes. The AZ Factory was created to make accessible fashion for women of all sizes: “smart fashion that cares,” he called it. No wonder he was beloved throughout the industry. No wonder his influence was so widespread. He will be sorely missed.

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Bambuser and DTech Live

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From top left: Margarita and Cristina Ng Ng (Ng2 Studios), Justin Chi, Anabella Bergero, Youngjun Lim, Qiuyi Luo, Bingjin Zhu, Brit Shaked

Our D-Tech Lab, an extension of the FIT Center for Innovation, continues to deliver a holistic vision of business in the creative industries, and with student interns, faculty and academic and industry partners, it is developing new local, national and international markets in branding and in technology-driven sustainable production. It is also gaining a glowing global reputation. Indeed, the lab recently was selected to become the first higher education partner of Bambuser—an international leader and pioneer in interactive live video shopping based in Sweden. Bambuser, which started in 2007, is today the platform of choice for some of the world’s leading luxury fashion and beauty brands. And so, in early April, we launched DTech Live, powered by Bambuser, and used it to launch the collections of the MFA fashion design class of 2020. The presentation is called 7 Collections because it features the seven alumni of that class—each of whom comes from a different country.

During the presentation, you get to meet the designers, see their collections, and watch them in interview with the director of the Museum at FIT, Dr. Valerie Steele. More important, you have the opportunity to purchase items from the collections which will be custom-made for you. I was very proud of this group of alumni. Proceeds go to the designers themselves who will have full oversight of the production and fulfillment of the orders.

While I am dazzled by the technology that brings us the collections, I am just as dazzled by these graduates. They created their collections during the pandemic and demonstrated determination, resiliency and agility—and they stayed focused and true to their vision. The collections are stunning and you can see them through June, 2021:

» DTech Live: 7 Collections

This is an important moment for the college. DTech Live is a first in higher education. With it we have advanced our investment in experiential learning, advanced possibilities for students in many different programs, and raised our profile all the more as an innovator in higher education. I am thrilled that we are one of the drivers in this new development in retail. Our partnership with Bambuser enables great experimentation for our students who are, after all, the next generation of talent for the creative industries.

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