Skip to content

Author: thehomepage

Alumni Stories: Where are they now?

Material Concerns

Lauren Birrittella in hot pink blazer
Lauren Birrittella

Shopping with Lauren Birrittella, Home Products Development ’07, is a hands-on experience. She can’t help knocking on a piece of furniture to see if it sounds like wood, or running an expensive sweater through her fingers to see whether it’s fine cashmere or some kind of blend. When she visits people’s houses, she admits, it takes every ounce of self-control not to touch everything. Fortunately, Birrittella is paid to do just that. A color, materials, and finishes (CMF) specialist at Glen Raven, Birrittella is the gatekeeper of the 10,000 different kinds of materials supplied by the North Carolina–based fabric manufacturer, best known for its Sunbrella shade textiles. She runs the Glen Raven Materials Explorer, a free online database featuring 200 representative materials—from SPF-enhanced cloths and water-resistant fibers to antimicrobial finishes and industrial metal fasteners—that architects, furniture makers, automotive designers, and more consider incorporating into their creations. “We have so many different products, and we sell into so many different industries,” she says. “Sephora, Harvard Bioscience … and I have to know about all the new materials and innovations happening.”

Glen Raven’s Concept Gallery.
Glen Raven’s Concept Gallery.

Birrittella’s obsession began at FIT, when her senior trend project had her visiting Material ConneXion, the world’s biggest materials library and consultancy. “I thought it was the coolest place in the world,” Birrittella recalls. She got an internship and eventually was hired as an archivist maintaining a library of more than 7,000 materials. While there, she collaborated with her design hero Betsey Johnson on a weather-resistant mannequin for an outdoor installation called Sidewalk Catwalk. In 2011, Glen Raven wanted to launch a similar “Materials Explorer” library—to showcase its own textiles, as well as the metals, plastics, and other materials it carries from other manufacturers—and asked Birrittella to spearhead the project. “There was no library at all before,” she says, “so I had to work with all the market managers and designers and the people who make the fabrics to pick an assortment of 200 samples that represent those 10,000 different products. “It was initially a short-term contract to make the library, but I loved Glen Raven and Burlington so much that nine years later, I’m still here.” In addition to the online archive—which she updates continuously— Birrittella keeps Glen Raven’s six brick-and-mortar Concept Galleries stocked, organizing exhibitions on topics such as 3D printing for designers and R&D teams seeking ideas and inspiration. But she says that her work isn’t just for designers. “The way we interact with our world is affected by the quality or even just the feel of different materials,” she says. “Like, everyone is addicted to their phone, but if it felt really gross like sandpaper, would you keep pulling it out of your pocket? Probably not. It really affects everything. That’s exactly what my role is about—to show the importance of materials.”

Comments closed

Class of 2019 Capstone Presentations

24 Students, 6 Groups, 8 Minutes

Class of 2019 Capstone Presentations

Welcome to the Future of Home

Thursday, May 9 2019 @ 6:30pm
FIT Katie Murphy Amphitheatre

Comments closed

London’s Brick Lane E.I.

Welcome Travelers!
by Lily Guseman, Class of 2020

Image result for brick lane london

Every year a group of Home Products Development students, from The Fashion Institute of Technology, take a trip to London and Paris over winter break for the purpose of researching trends in the home field and attending the trade show Maison et Objet. While exploring these two great cities in small groups we often make discoveries, and mine happened to be the lovely area of Brick Lane.

Brick Lane is about a 15-20 minute taxi ride from central London and it was truly the mecca for all things vintage, shopping, and street art. We began our adventure at Box Park which was a street filled with shipping containers where local entrepreneurs were selling everything from handmade jewelry to frozen yogurt.

Our trip to Brick Lane was on a Sunday so luckily we were able to walk through the flea market that takes place there every weekend. The market, best known for their fur jackets, sold for as low as 15 pounds and regular jackets for 10 pounds, a great spot for some bargains! Along with jackets, there was fresh produce, local street food, and a huge selection of accessories. If you were not able to score your dream jacket at the market, no worries because there are up to 5 vintage stores located on each street with a unique, curated selection to choose from. Brick Lane has the “Brooklyn” feel and is perfect place to go if you want a taste of New York in a new city!

Comments closed