More than a few dreams came true in mid-September when an exhibit opened in our Art & Design Gallery celebrating 25 years of Disney on Broadway, of all things. It isn’t as far-fetched as it seems. In fact, Disney came to FIT last summer with a design challenge for our students to create modern interpretations of costumes that might be worn by some of Disney on Broadway’s iconic female characters. Ten fashion design students were declared winners and it was their designs that were on display in this exhibit.
The opening reception drew a lively crowd from the FIT and Disney communities including the lead actresses from six productions who arrived early for a press preview and lingered as long as they could before rushing back to their respective theaters. However, a choral ensemble made up of Broadway singers remained and gave us as vibrant a performance of “A Whole New World” from Aladdin as you can imagine—and the acoustics in the Art & Design Gallery did them proud!
And speaking of “proud,” I was so proud to see the witty and charming contemporary interpretations of costumes that our ten students produced. Nala and Rafiki from The Lion King, Elsa and Anna from Frozen, Belle from Beauty and the Beast and Mary Poppins were among the “leading ladies” who got a refreshed wardrobe. The students were all third or fourth year fashion design majors and each received $3500 in prize money and $1000 to purchase materials for their costumes. This entire experience has been a “once in a lifetime” event for them—a dream come true. Annette Stone, a fourth year student from California who designed for Jasmine in Aladdin, spoke on behalf of all of the students and described what the experience has meant to them. “We are so unbelievably grateful to both FIT and Disney for giving us this opportunity and platform to share with the world our designs,” she said. “You have given us a voice as designers…I know that for each of us, there are hundreds of people believing in us, and whether or not it was true before, it certainly is true now.”
For me, it was gratifying to hear her tribute to FIT and to the professors in the fashion design program. “Our fashion program truly is the best,” she said.” Our professors go above and beyond… coming in on weekends, staying well after class hours, answering countless emails, and being true mentors when navigating this industry.” Also speaking at the reception was Professor Gerard Dellova, one of two faculty mentors for the project, who praised the students for their hard work and the way in which they bonded as a community over the summer, despite the pressure of producing the polished, professional costumes being showcased and celebrated in this exhibition.