The Magazine of the Fashion Institute of Technology
volume 8 | number 1 | fall 2014
ON THE COVER
The Magazine of the Fashion Institute of Technology Hue is for alumni and friends of FIT, a college of art and design, business and technology. It is published three times a year by the Division of Communications and External Relations, 227 West 27 Street, Room B905, New York, NY 10001-5992, 212 217.4700.
Vice President for Communications and External Relations Loretta Lawrence Keane Assistant Vice President for Communications Carol Leven Editor Linda Angrilli
Chris Rini, Fine Arts ’97, whose work is featured on our cover, makes pyrographic art using a wood-burning stylus and wood-stain markers. Most of his pieces depict pivotal scenes in the history of mixed martial arts, the fastest-growing sport in the world (see page 14). But he also burns cityscapes, portraits, and abstract art, including this remarkable cityscape, based on a photo taken from the World Trade Center.
David DePasquale, Illustration ’10 (“Selling Points,” page 9), is a character designer and visual development artist who is currently relocating to the Los Angeles area after growing up in New York. He is generally described as a short guy with tall ideas.
Managing Editor Alex Joseph, MA ’13 Staff Writer
NOW PLAYING AT HUE.FITNYC.EDU
Max S. Gerber (“Her Aim Is True,” page 16) is an editorial portrait photographer in Los Angeles. He could probably use a haircut.
Editorial Assistant Laura Hatmaker Art Direction and Design Empire Design Studio Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Get involved with FIT and your fellow alumni. Like the FIT Alumni page on Facebook and follow @FITAlumni on Twitter. Email the Office of Alumni Relations at email@example.com and let us know what you’ve been up to.
An animated GIF of a mixed-martial-
The recipe for the magnificent pleats
arts fight, created by Chris Rini ’97
of Babette Pinsky ’62.
with his wood-burning technique.
Printed by A. J. Bart on Mohawk Inxwell Super Smooth Eco White FSC-certified, 100% post consumer waste reclaimed/recycled fiber, made with 100% renewable energy; manufactured chlorine free; certified ISO 14001:2004 Environmental Management System. Please recycle or share this magazine.
Wendy Yothers, assistant professor
A sample of Stephen Colbert’s
of Jewelry Design, talks about the art
co-produced by Michele McGonigle ’99.
Raquel Laneri (“On Point,” page 10) is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. Her fashion and culture writing has appeared in Newsweek, and on The Daily Beast, The New Inquiry, and ELLE.com, among other publications.
“We need clothes for more reasons than just fashion. We need them because we’re happy, we’re sad, we’re scared, we’re…whatever.” —Fashion designer Babette Wiener Pinsky, Apparel Design ’62, photographed at her San Francisco home. Story on page 16.
Features 7 AMERICAN DREAMS FIT student designs a dress for Michelle Obama
9 SELLING POINTS Bricks meet clicks at FIT’s innovative new omni-retail symposium
10 ON POINT How have dance and fashion influenced each other? This museum show investigates
MAX S. GERBER
14 BURNING MAN
4 HUE’S NEWS
This alum finds the art in mixed martial arts
8 I CONTACT: STUDENT 23 I CONTACT: FACULTY
16 HER AIM IS TRUE Babette Wiener Pinsky ’62 has succeeded in fashion for nearly half a century
24 ALUMNI NOTES 27 WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
20 SOUND JUDGMENT Listen up! Grammy-winning grad turns good reads into great listens
CONFERENCE EXPLORES TEXTILE TRENDS
Joe Schildhorn/BFA NYC
Valerie Steele, Elizabeth Musmanno, Herrera, Patty Baker, and Julie Macklowe. Musmanno and Macklowe chaired the event.
Dennis Basso ’73 and Dr. Brown.
They came from Eileen Fisher and Harley-Davidson, from the University of Kentucky, Purdue, and India’s National Institute of Fashion Technology. All told, more than 30 academics and industry professionals from four continents studied at FIT for a week in June, participating in the first annual Summer Institute on Sustainability in Fashion and Textiles. They learned about cutting-edge topics and techniques—zero waste, sustainable fibers, upcycling, 3D printing— crucial for shrinking the industry’s footprint. “Sustainability is not a trend,” said Sass Brown, acting assistant dean for the School of Art and Design. “It’s a necessity.” Brown co-organized the seminar with Jeffrey Silberman, chair of FIT’s Textile Development and Marketing Department, and Nomi Kleinman and Susanne Goetz, both assistant professors of Textile/ Surface Design. The interdisciplinary seminar included a panel about sustainable fibers, moderated by Silberman; an upcycling workshop led by designer Karina Kallio; and a variety of other sessions taught by FIT faculty. Also, Timo Rissanen, a designer and Parsons professor whose new book, Zero Waste Fashion, comes out in the spring, led a workshop on zero-waste design, a practice that leaves no excess fabric after a pattern is cut. It requires that patternmaking be part of the design process, and that designers start working on a garment before knowing exactly what it will look like. At first he found zero-waste design limiting, but soon he shifted his perspective from “I have to use this scrap” to “What can this become?” He said, “All of a sudden it didn’t seem limiting at all.”
Joe Schildhorn/BFA NYC
FIT’s first Summer Institute digs deep into sustainable fashion
Above: A zero-waste design in crepe tartan by Timo Rissanen, created for the 2012 Fashion Art Biennale in Seoul. Below: The pattern for the garment uses a rectangle of fabric with nothing left over.
COUTURE COUNCIL HONORS
Global Goes Local
Carolina Herrera, a designer “whose name is synonymous with elegance and grace,” in the words of President Joyce F. Brown, won the 2014 Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion on September 3. Guests at the star-studded luncheon included Dennis Basso ’73, Ralph Lauren, Oscar de la Renta, Donna Karan, Anna Wintour, Lucy Liu, and Renée Zellweger. Presenter Seth Meyers, host of Late Night with Seth Meyers, thanked Herrera for saving his wedding day with a dress that made his fiancée, who had fallen ill, look beautiful. “When fashion is at its best, that’s what it can make us do,” he said. “It can make us feel better than we were meant to feel.” See more photos in Dr. Brown’s blog post about the event at fitnyc.edu/herrera.
The Global Fashion Management master’s program gathers students from three schools—Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Institut Français de la Mode in Paris, and FIT—for intensive ten-day seminars in each city. The collaborative program studies manufacturing in Hong Kong, luxury markets in Paris, and marketing in New York; the seminars enable students to meet and form lasting global connections. During the New York seminar this fall, the 55 students of the class of 2016 visited shops in Williamsburg to explore different retail concepts. Kai D. Utility (left) is a menswear boutique owned by Kai D. Fan, a graduate of Design Entrepreneurs NYC, a business program of FIT and the New York City Economic Development Corporation.
QUICK READ FIT alumni earn the highest mid-career salaries— an average of $71,000—among graduates of schools that offer two-year degrees, according to a report by PayScale, a company with a database of more than 40 million salary profiles. 4
hue | fall 2014
Nine full-time faculty members joined FIT this fall, including seven classroom faculty members. Visit fitnyc.edu/newfaculty to learn about their work.
On October 16, a dozen organizations, including the New York City Mayor’s Office to Combat Domestic Violence, gathered on campus for the Pledge Purple event to raise awareness about sexual and domestic violence.
Handbag Designers Take DENYC Prize
In September, a panel of 14 fashion industry executives—including designer Amsale Aberra ’83 and Pamela Baxter, president and CEO for perfumes and cosmetics at LVMH and president of Christian Dior Couture—awarded sisters Bita and Rouzita Vahhabaghai, owners of ITA Collection, with $25,000 to implement the business plan they presented at the capstone event of Design Entrepreneurs NYC. DENYC, a collaboration between FIT and the New York City Economic Development Corporation, is a free, intensive “mini-MBA” program that helps emerging New York City–based designers advance their businesses.
Students, faculty, and staff visited the Sims Material Recovery Facility in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, where New York City’s plastic, glass, and metal recyclables are sorted using a staggeringly complex system of conveyor belts, lasers, and magnets. Hue staff writer Jonathan Vatner organized the trip.
Rouzita and Bita Vahhabaghai show off ITA Collection, their line of luxury handbags, handmade in New York, that combines metals with leather.
MFIT Director Honored Twice Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of The Museum at FIT, won the 2014 Millia Davenport Publication Award from the Costume Society of America for A Queer History of Fashion: From the Closet to the Catwalk (Yale University Press, 2013). She was also named to the Business of Fashion’s BoF500 list, an index of fashion’s top global influencers, for raising cultural awareness of fashion through her books and exhibitions.
The week of September 14, FIT joined the ranks of dozens of American colleges in observing No Impact Week, an effort to educate students about reducing their environmental footprint. The idea originated with Colin Beavan, “No Impact Man,” who spoke at FIT in 2012 about his yearlong effort to create zero environmental impact. FIT’s Sustainability Council, which organized the event, gave each day a different theme, from waste to food to energy.
REDUCING OUR IMPACT
It’s greener to buy locally grown produce. That’s why No Impact Week included a farmer’s market on campus.
FIT Wins International Prize…Again For the second consecutive year, a team of four students in the Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology won the Retail Futures Challenge, an international competition that takes place at the annual World Retail Congress, which was held in Paris September 29 to October 1. Victoria Kulesza, Fashion Merchandising Management ’16; Paula Cushman, Advertising and Marketing Communications ’14; Alison Rebozo, Fashion Merchandising Management ’15; and Cassandra Napoli, International Trade and Marketing ’15, outperformed teams from Hong Kong, London, Tokyo, and the Marche region of Italy, with their concept for the Samsung Life Store, “The Smart Apartment”—a retail concept that syncs with the connected home and lifestyle of the millennial consumer.
Textile/Surface Design students Elena Lavache ’14, Travis Wood ’15, and Ashley Molesso ’14 took first, second, and third place in the 2014 Sustainable Digital Textile Printing Challenge, sponsored by Kornit Digital, for their textile designs themed around sustainability.
On view at The Museum at FIT through December 13, ESC: Digital Artworks by C.J. Yeh, an interactive exhibition by the associate professor of Communication Design, explores life in the digital age through tropes from social media, video games, and current events.
During the inaugural Madison Avenue Fashion Heritage Week, October 20 to 26, 15 boutiques exhibited window displays celebrating their brand story. A portion of proceeds from sales benefited The Museum at FIT.
A TOWERING ACHIEVEMENT Here’s one for the record books: Stan Munro, Marketing: Fashion and Related Industries ’92, earned a Guinness World Record for “tallest toothpick structure” for his 16-foot replica of the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa in Dubai. It’s part of Toothpick World, Munro’s traveling exhibition of more than 60 toothpick constructions, built at 1:164 scale, modeling iconic structures from around the globe. One is a 40-foot-long Golden Gate Bridge. Unfortunately, Guinness doesn’t have a category for “longest toothpick structure”…yet.
Yuko Nagasue secures bottles in place to build a wall.
Students Help Build a “Bottle School” in Guatemala In August, five Interior Design students, along with Associate Professor Carmita Sanchez-Fong, helped build a school in the Guatemalan village of Chidonjuan, using 6,000 plastic bottles. The bottles are filled with inorganic trash, attached to chicken wire connected to a wood frame, then covered in concrete. The project was organized by Hug It Forward, a nonprofit that builds “bottle schools” in Latin America for half the price of traditional construction while also providing a way to dispose of trash. The students were Antonina Dominici, Lisbeth Jimenez, Joanna Kraszewska, Yuko Nagasue, and Natalie Zepeda.
Designers have struggled against knockoffs for more than a century. Learn about these intellectualproperty battles at Faking It: Originals, Copies, and Counterfeits, on view in The Museum at FIT’s Fashion and Textile History Gallery from December 2, 2014, to April 25, 2015. The show, organized by Assistant Curator Ariele Elia, features the originals and imitations of such designers as Madeleine Vionnet, Dior, and Chanel—who famously welcomed the imitators, proclaiming, “One should not bother to protect that which dies the minute it was born.” MFIT
FIT notes the passing of two faculty members, each with more than three decades of service to the college: Professor Emeritus Julius “Julie” Panero, former chair of the Interior Design Department, died June 6. He taught at FIT from 1959 to 1994 and was instrumental in the founding of the BFA program. Jack Barschi, professor of English and Speech and former chair of the department, died August 25. He began teaching at FIT in 1974 and became full time in 1980.
True Stories of Fakes
Brian Lichtenberg’s Homiés ensemble, 2014
QUICK READ The National Retail Federation Foundation awarded the $25,000 Ray Greenly Scholarship to Evan Chisholm, Fashion Merchandising Management ’17. The annual award goes to a student in the U.S. pursuing a degree in digital retail. 6
hue | fall 2014
In June, H. Carl McCall was reappointed as chairman of the SUNY Board of Trustees through 2021. McCall, a former comptroller and state senator of New York, has been chairman since 2011.
Fashion Design ’14 grads Talisa Almonte, Sarah Angel, and Danielle Ortiz were featured in Emerging Fashion Designers 4 (Schiffer, 2014), a coffee-table book by Sally Congdon-Martin.
American Dreams FIT plays a major part in the First Lady’s
“Fashion is about so much more than just a pretty pair of pumps or the perfect hemline,” First Lady Michelle Obama said at the first Celebration of Design event, on October 8, part of her Reach Higher initiative, encouraging students to complete their education. “For so many people across the country, it is a calling, it is a career, and it’s a way they feed their families. So that’s why we thought it was important to bring the industry to the White House, and to share it with all of you who are coming up in the next generation.” The occasion underscored the economic impact of the $350 billion American fashion industry and exposed high school students to all aspects of the industry. And Mrs. Obama offered FIT students a special gift: the opportunity to design her dress for the event. The two finalists in the design competition, Natalya Koval ’16 and Chelsea Chen ’15, went to the White House for the day’s activities—and the First Lady wore Koval’s dress. Koval and Chen, along with Dean for Art and Design Joanne Arbuckle, joined the First Lady at the educational program. They sat at lunch with Mrs. Obama and Anna Wintour, and mingled with industry luminaries, who praised and encouraged the students. Style expert Lilliana Vazquez moderated a panel, which included Diane von Furstenberg, Tracy Reese, and Jenna Lyons. Top designers, including Carolina Herrera, Thom Browne, Narciso Rodriguez, Phillip Lim, Prabal Gurung, and Zac Posen, conducted workshops for the high school students. To cap off the day, the FIT students were invited to the evening reception, along with President Joyce F. Brown, Dean Arbuckle, Acting Assistant Dean Sass Brown, and Fashion Design faculty member Kathlin Argiro, coordinator of the design competition. Among the industry notables present were Nanette Lepore ’83 and Michelle Smith ’92, designer for Milly. “[Mrs. Obama’s] appreciation of FIT—and her dedication to education—was palpable,” President Brown said later. “She could not have been more gracious or more impressive.”
AP photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta
Celebration of Design event at the White House
Above: Michelle Obama wears Natalya Koval’s dress at the Celebration of Design on October 8. Chelsea Chen’s dress appears at left. Below: Koval, President Joyce F. Brown, and Chen. Below left: The students with Phillip Lim. Bottom: Anna Wintour and Koval.
Dressing the First Lady
What President Brown called the students’ “memorable White House moment” was made possible by a mysterious project that began in June. FIT Fashion Design students were invited to submit sketches for a daytime dress for an unnamed high-profile African-American woman in her 50s. Koval suspected it was Mrs. Obama and began researching what styles and colors she liked to wear. She settled on a bicolored fit-and-flare racer-back dress made of silk/wool hammered satin and silk crepe, with curved seams instead of darts. Chen’s fluid creation incorporated a slash of color that disappeared at the waist and returned in the skirt. Both students had taken a circuitous route to FIT. Koval dreamed of being a designer as a child in Ukraine but couldn’t afford to study at FIT until she was 27. Chen, from Toronto, left a career in financial accounting after falling in love with Project Runway. For both, the journey is paying off. By the middle of July, their designs were selected as finalists from among the 26 submissions, and the mystery client was finally revealed. “I was like, ‘Yes! I knew it!’” Koval said. Koval was mentored by Lela Rose, Chen by Phillip Lim, to edit the designs and produce sample after sample until the dresses were just right. Adjunct faculty member Kathlin Argiro oversaw the competition and guided the students’ process. Chen was excited to work with Lim. “He was one of the first people I looked up to as a designer,” she said. At the event, Mrs. Obama wore Koval’s design, and Chen’s was displayed on a dress form while the First Lady spoke. When Mrs. Obama walked by in her design, the astonished Koval nearly fainted. “She looked so graceful and elegant and beautiful, I wanted to cry,” she said. “She made one of my American dreams come true.”
i contact: student
Soaring Ilia Rivera Technical Design ’15, Fashion Design ’11
You’re the first Technical Design student Hue has interviewed. What do graduates of that major do? We’re the bridge between the designer and mass production. We’re garment engineers. We make sure the design is going to fit right, and it’s not going to be too expensive to produce. It’s less creative, though we do have some creative leeway. What’s your favorite assignment so far? Making a pair of drop-crotch jeans for myself last semester. You get to see all the elements that come into play. I had to make sure there was enough give at the knee and ankle so the fabric wouldn’t pop open. We went to Theory and they gave us free fabric—wax-coated denim—and a lot of it, too. I don’t have a standard body, so to be able to make my pants with that fabric was, like, superb. So now you get to wear them? No, this semester we have to refit and remake the garment. When I was in Fashion Design, I would just make something and that would be that. But Tech Design is more detailoriented than that. You’d think a pair of drop-crotch pants would be simple, but they needed a lot of yoke and seaming work. I had a lot of issues with transforming a 3D idea onto paper and then back into 3D. I even had the teacher puzzled.
hue | fall 2014
You worked for six years as a denim specialist for women at Barneys. What was that like? Spotting celebrities was always fun. I helped Leslie Mann—she bought a ton of stuff. I also spent a lot of time convincing older women not to buy low-rise jeans. What do you do when you’re not studying? I went skydiving last summer in Upstate New York. There’s no practice jump; you just watch a video, and then they take you up 14,000 feet. You jump with an instructor on your back, and they sort of push you out. They have to or you’d never jump, you’re too scared. Then you’re falling. It feels like a big fan is blowing in your face. My gum flew out of my mouth. You just fall for a minute, but I wish it lasted longer. The instructor said, “Breathe,” because I forgot to breathe. Then he said, “Pull the ripcord,” and the parachute opened. And then it’s like sitting on a really high swing. You could see mountains everywhere. Once you have an experience like that, you realize there’s no problem you can’t get through on Earth. Not if you can fly in the sky.
FIT sets the curve with a new conference about omni-retailing, a strategy that blends the in-store and online experience BY JONATHAN VATNER
“The way customers define service has changed,” Pete Nordstrom, executive vice president and president of merchandising of Nordstrom, said at FIT’s First Annual Symposium on Omni Retailing on April 3. “They used to want a high-touch experience. Now they value speed and convenience. We let them buy what they want when they want it.” Omni-retailing—providing a seamless, effortless shopping experience whether in a store, on a computer, or on a phone— is the hottest topic in merchandising today. Jean Jacullo, associate professor of Fashion Merchandising Management, developed the half-day symposium to position FIT as “the go-to place for omni-retailing.” Jacullo teaches a new course on the subject, in which executives from Nordstrom, Macy’s, J. Crew, and Brooks Brothers explain their companies’ omni-channel strategies and critique student presentations about their brands. The best presentation from the class, a strategy to engage millennials with Brooks Brothers, earned a spot in the program.
“We let them buy what they want when they want it.” —Pete Nordstrom, executive vice president and president of merchandising of Nordstrom
Considering that Nordstrom.com launched way back in 1998, and the company was the first to integrate its in-store and online inventories, Pete Nordstrom was an obvious choice to keynote. Especially because he doesn’t often appear on the East Coast, his presence elevated the symposium into a marquee industry event. To a packed house of 360 students and industry professionals, Nordstrom described his company’s customer-focused mindset and the “ecosystem” of in-store and online retail channels that encourages shoppers to spend more. ILLUSTRATION BY DAVID DePASQUALE ’10
The other speakers were Jean-Marc Bellaiche, senior partner and managing director of the Boston Consulting Group, who discussed the competitive advantages of online retailers; Katia Beauchamp, co-founder and co-CEO of Birchbox, who explained how the beauty company’s subscription-based model attracted 800,000 customers in less than four years; and David Cox, global business manager for Microsoft, who showed how the “personal cloud” will color every interaction we have. But omni-retail doesn’t just mean beefing up the online experience. Brick-and-mortar stores are essential to the equation. Pete Nordstrom disclosed a plan to add more than 80 Nordstrom Rack discount stores by 2016. And New York’s first full-price Nordstrom, opening in 2018, will give the company much-needed exposure in the Northeast. “If you don’t have a store in Manhattan,” he said, “to many people it’s as if you don’t exist.”
Pete Nordstrom discussed the department store’s pioneering in-store and online “ecosystem” at FIT’s omni-retailing symposium in April.
The symposium was organized by Jacullo and Robin Sackin, assistant professor and chair of Fashion Merchandising Management, and presented by the Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology. Next year’s conference, April 9, 2015, will feature David Lauren, executive vice president of Global Advertising, Marketing, and Corporate Communications for the Ralph Lauren Corporation.
10 hue | fall 2014
On Point From pointe shoes to Halston, a show at The Museum at FIT explores how dance and fashion have influenced each other BY RAQUEL LANERI
Dance fever has swept the fashion world. Not one, but four high-fashion designers will debut costumes for new works at the New York City Ballet’s fall gala, including the elegant Carolina Herrera and the quirky young Brit Mary Katrantzou. (Thom Browne, known for his playful deconstructions of all-American prep, and Alexander McQueen’s Sarah Burton round out the list.) Rick Owens electrified audiences last year with a runway show featuring step dancers recruited from American sororities. And barre classes have replaced yoga as the fitness regimen du jour among the fashion elite. Dance—its visual allure, its romance, its grace and sheer athleticism—has long captivated couturiers. Of course, it has also enthralled other artists, including writers, painters, and filmmakers. But its relationship with la mode is particularly rich. That’s the subject of Dance & Fashion, the current exhibition at The Museum at FIT, which runs through January 3, 2015. Featuring nearly 100 costumes and high-fashion pieces from the 19th century to the present, Dance & Fashion explores not only how dance has influenced designers from Chanel to Valentino, but also the myriad ways these two art forms have inspired and shaped one another. “The vectors of influence go back and forth between dance and fashion,” says museum director Valerie Steele, who curated the highly regarded exhibition. “I hope that after seeing the show people think more carefully about the relationship between fashion and the body, and also the decorative and fashionable aspects that go with dance costume.” Ballet originated in the Italian courts in the 15th century, flourishing in Paris in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the early days, dancers wore, essentially, the popular fashions of the time. For example, ballerinas in the Paris Opera in the 1700s performed in stays, hoop skirts, and high heels, while the dawn of the
Enlightenment at the end of that century briefly brought Neoclassical garments—Grecian tunics, flesh-colored tights— to the stage. It wasn’t until the Romantic era, and the rise of the tutu, in the 1830s that ballet costume really came into its own. Romantic ballet dress did adhere to certain fashion trends—corseted waists, lavishly embellished bodices, and pointe shoes that resembled the high heels of the time, which often featured ribbons. But skirts were much shorter, to emphasize the legs and the ballerina’s footwork. “It’s sort of a princess image,” Steele says, “very curvaceous on top with a very romantic skirt. So many fashion designers have been inspired by this romantic, hyperfeminine look that it has become deeply associated with classical ballet.” Dance & Fashion begins with the rise of Romantic dance— and the evolution of a signature ballerina style. The show’s oldest piece, worn in 1836 by the great Austrian ballerina Fanny Elssler—famous for her sensual take on the Spanishstyle cachucha—looks like a extraordinary ethnic-inspired
Opposite: Costumes by Jean Paul Gaultier for Façade, un divertissement, choreography for 11 dancers by Régine Chopinot, La Coursive, La Rochelle, 1993. Capezio, “Duro Toe” pointe shoes, 1941.
OPPOSITE, ERIC RICHMOND. THIS PAGE, THE MUSEUM AT FIT
high-fashion dress, with its full pleated skirt in pale pink silk, cinched waist, and black lace trim. But the skirts get lighter, and more abbreviated, from there. Wispy tulle replaces the more opaque fabrics of yore, and hemlines creep from midcalf to above the derriere, in the form of the now-iconic flat, pancake-style skirt. The Romantic tutu has remained ballet’s most persistent symbol, inspiring both contemporary costume—such as the ethereal pink dress for the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s 1980s Creole take on Giselle—and fashion—such as Rei Kawakubo’s Comme des Garçons biker ballerina collection featuring fluffy pink skirts worn with tough leather jackets. But dance has continued to evolve, and to borrow from and shape the fashions of its day. No other ballet company did more to upend the classical tutu, and to influence fashion, than Sergei Diaghilev’s famous avant-garde troupe, the Ballets Russes. Its 1910 production of Scheherazade, with its jewel-toned harem pants, turbans, and short boleros, for example, launched a craze for Orientalism— and inspired such couturiers as Paul Poiret in the teens and Yves Saint Laurent in the 1970s. Diaghilev would later enlist
Coco Chanel to create sporty costumes for his 1920s ballet Le Train Bleu, as Orientalism’s lush excess made way for Modernism’s minimal chic. Modernism also helped bring the leotard from the rehearsal space onto the stage—with special thanks to Neoclassical dancers like Isadora Duncan in the early 20th century and Martha Graham a generation later. “If ballet was about the legs,” Steele says, “Graham’s style of dance was about the torso and being able to move fluidly from the torso.” Graham’s stretchy, bias-cut costumes—which Graham designed and sewed herself—changed not only choreography, but also fashion. They inspired American sportswear designer Claire McCardell to create a line of tights and leotards and made the ballet flat omnipresent among young women in the mid-century. (Think Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face.) Halston’s slinky Studio 54–era sheaths owed an enormous debt to Graham—so much so that when the dancer developed arthritis in her hands, the young designer offered to make her costumes for her, including a sexy snakelike number featured in the exhibition. Fashion designers continue to look to dance for its costumes (the ruffled skirts of Balenciaga’s flamenco-inspired dresses, or the stretchy rehearsal sweaters of Ralph Lauren’s elegant sylphs) as well as its athleticism, poise, and grace (Geoffrey Beene’s body-hugging jersey dresses, which he showed on ballerinas, or Rick Owens’s aforementioned dancestepping collection). But fashion has proved just as vital and inspiring to dance, as choreographers continue to seek new modes of expression and attract new audiences. Some of the exhibition’s most stunning examples of this kind of collaboration are Rei Kawakubo’s lumpy, misshapen checkered outfits for Merce Cunningham, which forced the choreographer to explore the tension between the dancers’ movements and the rigid, awkward costumes, creating something thrilling and
Clockwise from top: Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, 1916, brought Orientalism into fashion; Halston’s costume for Martha Graham’s Tangled Night, 1986; Balenciaga’s 1950 silk taffeta and cut velvet dress was inspired by flamenco outfits.
12 hue | fall 2014
Visionary filmmaker collaborates with choreographers
Atlas recently worked with the band Antony and the Johnsons on a unique concert film, Turning. The songs are about the experience of transitioning from male to female.
strange and completely original. Or Iris van Herpen’s brilliant black anti-tutu designed for the New York City Ballet, made of little pieces of plastic whose intricate placement had to be determined through a computer program. (The slippers were radical too: fierce black pointe boots that articulate the dancers’ calves.) Dance & Fashion pushes the idea of the standard dance costume beyond the tutu and its countless high-fashion variations. “I wanted to show that even from the beginning, ballet was never just this whitebread Eurocentric style,” Steele says. “There was always a wide variety of costumes and dances that drew on non-Western stereotypes and traditions. And those dances continue to have an influence today.”
Charles Atlas, the experimental film and video artist with the distinctive orange sideburns, came to FIT in September to present excerpts of his work. The event was a collaboration between the college’s new Film, Media, and Performing Arts Department and The Museum at FIT, and coordinated with Dance & Fashion programming, since Atlas has a long history of working with choreographers. Michelle Handelman, assistant chair of the department, introduced Atlas, calling his work “classically formal yet totally punk rock…exploding onscreen the power of pleasure and its discontents.” Atlas sometimes filmed dances in recognizable locations. One sequence, choreographed by Karole Armitage in the early 1980s, featured dancers gyrating across an airport luggage carousel and along the wing of a plane. In a piece choreographed by Michael Clark, a Mohawk-wearing youth moved through a dark club, alternately dancing and kissing For his 1989 film Because We Must, Atlas various patrons. Atlas’s longest collaborated with performance artist Leigh collaboration was with master modBowery and choreographer Michael Clark. ernist choreographer Merce Cunningham, and these films tended to be more abstract, usually set in studios and lacking explicit narratives. Handelman called Atlas “a pioneering filmmaker in the world of dance; he, along with Merce, created new forms of dance and video in the 1970s.” It was the first time the two art forms were presented simultaneously, with a video monitor onstage alongside the dancers. Explaining how he worked with early, now primtive-seeming film equipment, Atlas said, “I was always pushing the boundaries. I never waited; I just made the pieces with whatever technology was available.” He is still an innovative artist; his film installations recently appeared at the Tate Modern, in London, and at the Centre Pompidou, in Paris, and he sometimes performs live. He manipulates various found video clips in a rhythmic way while musicians improvise. The event launched the department’s new Film and Media Screening Series. More events are planned for Women’s History Month, in March, including films by Beth B and Laura Parnes.
BALENCIAGA AND HALSTON GARMENTS, THE MUSEUM AT FIT. BALLETS RUSSES IMAGE, GLADYS MARCUS LIBRARY, DEPARTMENT OF SPECIAL COLLECTIONS. STILL FROM BECAUSE WE MUST, CHARLES ATLAS AND VILMA GOLD.
How an ancient wood-burning technique and an emerging sport saved Chris Rini, Fine Arts ’97 BY JONATHAN VATNER
few years ago, Chris Rini was in a slump. He was in an unhappy marriage, working at an accounting job he hated, and feeling stuck in his art. He got divorced, moved into a cramped studio, and took a lower-paying, less stressful job. Hoping to find clarity amid such drastic change, he went on a ten-day meditation retreat, where he gave up reading, writing, and speaking, and focused on his breathing for ten hours a day. He emerged with a new motivation: to make art from mixed martial arts. MMA—a combat sport blending Brazilian jujitsu, kickboxing, wrestling, and other traditional fighting techniques—might seem like an odd focus for an art career. But it’s a source of inspiration for Rini, a scrappy yet contemplative guy who was mugged twice growing up in Ridgewood, a then-dangerous part of Queens. “A friend told me, ‘You like to watch people devolve,’” he says, with characteristic fervor. “I think that’s a cynical way to look at it. I’m interested in depicting fear and the survival instinct, because in these intense situations, something about ourselves is revealed.” He also decided that to make his name as a fine artist he needed a subject that no one else had tackled. MMA is a young sport—just over 20 years old—and he didn’t know of anyone depicting it artistically. Using pyrography, an ancient technique of burning lines into wood, Rini rendered subtle, perceptive portraits of the fighters in significant matches, then colored them in with wood stain. He’d previously perfected the technique on cityscapes, portraits, and abstracts, calling them “wood stained glass” because of their bold lines and translucent colors. He also drew series (such as the one at right) that could be digitized into GIFs, brief repeating animations currently popular on the internet. He believes that converting the ancient woodburning technique into a digital format is well suited to MMA—a postmodern sport, he says—melded from classical fighting techniques. Indeed, the quaint beauty of the hand-wrought lines and the contours of the wood grain underscore the vicious knockouts he portrays. These days, Rini is in a much happier place, recently remarried, enjoying his job at a natural foods store in Brooklyn, and finding lots of time to draw. He envisions his portraits someday becoming as iconic as the sculpted bronze plaques at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, he is finding an audience. He writes about and illustrates key moments in MMA history in a biweekly column for Vice magazine’s Fightland blog, and the first GIF he created has been viewed more than 200,000 times. “It resonates with the fans so much, and the athletes see it too,” he says with a smile. “They love that someone is making art from the thing they love.”
14 hue | fall 2014
Rini burned mulitple drawings onto wood panels to create a brief animation that captures the visceral power of two women MMA fighters. Watch the final result at hue.fitnyc.edu.
hue.ďŹ tnyc.edu 15
Her Aim Is True Half a century after opening her own firm, Babette Wiener Pinsky, Apparel Design ’62, stays faithful to her vision
BY ALEX JOSEPH
The story of the fashion label Babette is remarkable: Babette Wiener Pinsky started the company in 1968 to create funky-yet-wearable clothes. Forty-six years later, she’s still designing, and you don’t have to squint to see the sophisticated, modernist style in her fashions. The $11 million concern has 100 employees and eight stores nationally, plus e-commerce. Though the fabrics are often sourced in Asia— usually Japan, which manufactures the high-twist (meaning silky and well-draping) microfibers Pinsky prefers—the garments have always been designed and made in the Bay Area. This year, she was nominated for the Martha Stewart American Made Award. She told the award committee, “For me, there has never been any reason to move my business overseas. American-made means health insurance, preventive care, and fair treatment of workers.” Beginnings
Her mother designed gloves and her father sold printed tags to the trade, but Pinsky’s parents wanted her to get a liberal arts degree. She chose FIT instead, graduating in 1962 with high honors and snagging the Apparel Design Department Award. She specialized in suits and coats, and her eyes widened at the sight of delicious furs zipping by on delivery carts in the nearby Fur District. But when she graduated, she found out the cold, hard truth: “There were no women in that end of the business. There were unions, and there were tailors, and the tailors designed the coats.” Instead, she and her first husband went to Denmark on an exchange program so he could study furniture design. (In the early ’60s, she says, Danish Modern furniture was a 16 hue | fall 2014
thing.) She got a job in a factory designing raincoats. “The guy loved having a young American designer on staff,” Pinsky says. “Whenever people came in to buy, he would drag me out and say, ‘This is the designer.’ I was young and cute and back then that was part of the deal. Fortunately, it’s not anymore.” Nearly every aspect of this experience—raincoats, Scandinavian aesthetics, perhaps even a dawning feminist consciousness—proved formative for her. San Francisco Style
She returned to the U.S. in 1964 and found the country on the verge of radical change. Over the next few years, she witnessed the sexual revolution, the peace movement, and a burgeoning aesthetic with roots in the hippie culture. Living in San Francisco put her in the front row for these developments— Haight-Ashbury, for example—yet that style didn’t suit her: “I was interested in plain, contemporary, Scandinavian stuff. Simple, solid colors, that kind of thing,” she says. “So I started my career that way, and it still sort of looks the same.” Perhaps living at some remove from the fashion capital of New York gave her the freedom to pursue modernism her own way. Or perhaps she was drawn to San Francisco because she was slightly iconoclastic. Either way, she says, “I was always a functiondictates-form person. If a zipper was in a garment, it couldn’t just be decorative. It had to function. I also liked to see the zipper, because if it’s there, that’s an honest thing; you don’t need to cover it up. That’s kind of my philosophy.” Over the years, she’s become a bit less strict. If, for example, a dress has a pocket OPPOSITE: MAX S. GERBER
Pinsky and her husband, Steven, who is also her business partner, collect contemporary art: Here, Tornado, by Estelle Akamine. Pinsky wears her own designs. Opposite: Pinsky appears at right in this early-’70s photo, wearing a simple black and shocking-pink wool jersey dress. “I put the zipper on the shoulder so I didn’t have to put the seam at the center back. This was the height of my ‘function-dictates-form’ days,” the designer says. The model wears a similar dress with white cuffs.
Clockwise from above: This spring 2014 look features a jacket in purple “scuba” fabric that the designer discovered at Première Vision in Paris. “It’s a knit on both sides with a lamination in between,” Pinsky says. “What changes fashion the most is the fabrics.” For a recent collection, Pinsky chose a Mona Lisa motif. The garment was pleated first, then the paper for the print was purchased, but the image was too short for the skirt, so the designer created a collage. A recent Babette style with signature pleating. “The brand is about texture.” Pieces range from $95 to $985. In the early ’80s (note shoulder pads), Babette designed innovative, pleated raincoats. “They were the thing that started us up again,” Pinsky says. What’s the secret to making a great raincoat? “Just make it look great, because people don’t care if it functions,” she says, pointing out the model’s sunglasses.
18 hue | fall 2014
Babette in the early ’80s, wearing a tan silk dress and an organza “butterfly” top. “We did many versions of that top,” she says.
“People dress the way they want to now. I like that a lot.” —Babette Pinsky
on one side, she might add a flounce on the other, even if it’s merely decorative. In addition, she observes contemporary fashionable proportions— not making voluminous garments, say, when a slim fit is in style. Fashion itself, she notes, has also loosened up. Gone are the days when designers like Dior created styles that were universally adopted, and that’s fine with her. “People dress the way they want to now,” Pinsky says happily. “Everyone’s doing their own thing.” There are still trends, though, and sometimes those work in Babette’s favor. Fringe, for example, is popular; she happens to like the way it moves, so it’s in the line. Then there are the pleats. The Business of Babette
Pleats were a watershed motif for Babette. Today, they feature regularly in about 40 percent of her line, yet this innovation came about by accident. In the early ’80s, when Pinsky had only three employees, she accidentally reordered 500 yards of laminated black polyurethane when she already had 400 on hand. “In a small company, that can put you out of business,” she says. When the fabric arrived, she found herself looking at it and thinking, “What can I do with that?” She read an article in Women’s Wear Daily about pleated raincoats that Mary McFadden was planning to design. Pinsky imagined the Fortuny-inspired styles McFadden would probably make, and saw an
opportunity to make her own versions with the excess polyurethane. McFadden never made the coats, but Pinsky’s pleats were an instant hit (see photo, opposite). “Just amazing,” she says. “I figured, ‘Well! I’ve got to do something more with this idea. Then one day, into our studio walks this salesman, and he has this stuff called microfiber.” Pinsky had bad associations with Ultrasuede and other polyester; but this material was different: “It was very drapey, and it looked really nice. So I ordered this stuff and I turned it into women’s [pleated] separates and I said to my rep, ‘This is what I’m going to do.’ He said, ‘Well, I’m only interested in the coats,’ and I said, ‘Well, I’m not interested in you.’ And I got us another rep, and that started the pleats.” In 1995, Babette bought her own pleating factory, right in the Bay Area. Until her husband joined the firm in 1991, Pinsky didn’t have a business partner. Over the years, she says, running the company required both flexibility and rigor—either coming up with some new idea, like the raincoats, cutting expenses like travel or entertainment, or, if necessary, laying off staff. “Like everyone else, we’ve had a really tough time these last two years, but you know…” she laughs. “I’ve been through a lot of recessions. We always come out the other side OK.” Today, the company is profitable, and Pinsky’s still branching out in new directions. In November, the Bullseye Gallery in Portland mounted a two
month show, a collaboration between Babette and a young sculptor who cast some of the designer’s garments in glass. In March, she’s launching a small line of men’s shirts, including some innovative Japanese shibori (a kind of tie-dye) plaids. It’s named for her husband: Babette for Steven. The Paradigm
Such one-off projects aside, who is the Babette customer? “Nowadays, we get more and more facts about her through e-commerce and so forth, don’t we?” Pinsky says. “She’s 50 to 65, she’s educated, she travels for work and pleasure, she goes to art museums, she’s up on the movies, she reads the Sunday New York Times, she is healthy and has a good figure, and she doesn’t think she is the age she is. We all think that we’re never gonna die. She has a fixed income; her kids are grown; she’s not a trendy person, but she is a fashionable person and she has the type of personality that can carry off the type of clothes that I design.” Pinsky sounds like she’s having a very good time in her life. “I don’t design for shy people,” she says. Watch a Babette garment being pleated in the designer’s Oakland studio at hue.fitnyc.edu.
Talk to Grammy Award winner Michele McGonigle, Advertising and Marketing Communications ’99, and you’ll never hear an audiobook the same way again BY ALEX JOSEPH
Not long ago, filmmaker and political activist Michael Moore came to Hachette Audio in midtown Manhattan to record his book Here Comes Trouble. He thought the seat in the studio wasn’t comfortable—at any rate, not as comfortable as his own writing chair. So Michele McGonigle ’99, a director of audio production and executive producer for this division of Hachette Books, arranged to have Moore’s chair brought over from his apartment. “As the director, I have to create a certain atmosphere,” she says. McGonigle has built her career in audiobooks, whose sales total about eight percent of their print counterparts. Directing an audiobook, she says, is like directing a movie, but with different challenges: “The performer is usually alone in the studio, without other actors or props to play off of.” In her eight years at Hachette, she has coached performances by, among others, Julie Andrews, Tina Fey, and Jon Stewart, whose audiobook Earth: A Visitor’s Guide to the Human Race won McGonigle a Grammy (her first) as executive producer. Fey’s Bossypants was recorded in the actor’s apartment late at night so she could work
These Books Speak to You In more than eight years at Hachette Audio, Michele McGonigle has worked with top talent on an array of projects. She has been nominated for eight Grammys and won three.
20 hue | fall 2014
McGonigle won a Grammy as co-producer and sound designer for Colbert’s 2012 book. The comedian is “very unassuming” when not in character, she says.
on 30 Rock. Unsurprisingly, Fey was a natural; McGonigle only suggested making the reading less nakedly emotional in spots: “It wasn’t the quality she was going for in that book.” “What makes a good audiobook is so subjective,” McGonigle says. “Some listeners want the voice to be monotonous; they don’t want it ‘acted,’ they just want to feel the story.” The format has its own difficulties: With rare exceptions, the readings have to match word for word what’s in print. Audiobook listeners are serious, particularly the audience for sci-fi titles; if an author has created an entirely new world, McGonigle must research how all the invented words should be said. Accents have to be consistent: “You can’t have a Scottish character sound Irish— or, say, Jamaican.” McGonigle also produces (budgeting, setting deadlines, and organizing teams for projects), creates sound design, edits, mixes, and masters the recordings. Hachette develops some 450 audiobooks annually, of which she produces roughly a quarter. She’s been nominated for eight Grammys in her various roles—producer, director, mixing engineer—and won three.
McGonigle received her second Grammy nomination as producer, editor, and mixing engineer for Nelson Mandela’s Favorite African Folktales. She sat next to actor Alfre Woodard at the ceremony. “She was calm and collected,” McGonigle says, “but my hands were shaking.”
McGonigle in the studio she designed for Hachette Audio, where she records roughly 100 audiobooks a year.
“What makes a good audiobook is so subjective.”
McGonigle won her first Grammy as the producer of Jon Stewart’s Earth. “As the executive producer, I ‘hovered.’ I just rode the producer, pushed buttons, and said, ‘Do it quicker or cheaper,’” she says. She calls Stewart “easy to work with—very open to ideas.”
NICK PARISSE ’12
Elton John recorded the entirety of Love Is the Cure in one day.
“You can’t have a Scottish character sound Irish— or, say, Jamaican.” Fiction audiobooks can be like plays. For Emma Donoghue’s thriller Room, for example, McGonigle cast the actors who voiced the various characters, and fine-tuned their performances to convey the fraught emotions in the story. Working closely with the author, she also created sound effects and chose music from a stock music library. The project came with an additional restriction. When audio rights are acquired, they often come with strict guidelines: a fully developed audio drama can jeopardize the movie option. So the audiobook version had to be scaled down, using four actors instead of a full cast. For Stephen Colbert’s America Again, McGonigle created sound effects (referred to as “foley” in the industry): Colbert’s character falling out of a chair, jukebox music woven into the narration. She made the sound of someone smoking a bong by blowing bubbles through a straw in a glass. The project won her a Grammy for sound design. Most readings need editing—“people burp, their stomach gurgles,” or they read too slowly. Occasionally, sound effects can be jarring: “We had complaints that gunshots in the background of one audiobook made people duck while driving.” McGonigle works with Pro Tools software to refine the material. McGonigle started in Interior Design at FIT, but finished in Advertising and Marketing Communications. She had a disastrous experience with a class assignment to produce a TV spot, but the technology intrigued her in spite of it. So she got an internship at Thirsty Ear Records, which led her to audiobooks—first at Talking Books, then at Audible.com. She met her husband at Hachette; the couple has one son and another on the way. Once a bass player for several promising rock bands (see sidebar), McGonigle now seems happy working in the more anonymous realm of audiobook production. Asked about where she keeps her Grammys, she laughs. “I try to keep them out of sight; I’m very proud of them, but it feels like bragging.” But every once in a while, she says with a what-can-you-do shrug, “My husband gets them out and puts them on the mantel.”
IT’S ALL ABOUT THAT BASS! In her work as an audiobook producer, McGonigle works behind the scenes, but she also spent 12 years playing bass in a series of punk/indie bands, including The Sense and Magic Robot. She got her start when she was still studying Interior Design at FIT, and called her first band Portico. Her biggest success came with the group The Pervs, which played at numerous spots around New York, including Brownies, where they had a standing gig, and Mercury Lounge. The last group, Plastic Honey, disbanded in 2009. “I never wanted to be a rock star,” she says. “Then it would be a job.” She still makes music, though. When she was adapting the young adult novel Beautiful Creatures, by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl, she came across lyrics the authors wrote for the story; she was inspired to create music for and sing the song. The audiobook won a 2011 Audie, and McGonigle’s haunting rendition of “Sixteen Moons” can be found online.
Go online to the new Hue site at hue.fitnyc.edu to hear sound clips that McGonigle produced for Stephen Colbert and others.
Keith Richards’s Life, “a huge labor of love” for McGonigle, won Audiobook of the Year from the Audio Publishers Association. Richards read about one fifth of the text; Johnny Depp and Joe Hurley voiced the rest.
22 hue | fall 2014
Breaking with convention, McGonigle arranged for the two readers of Julie Andrews’ poetry book—Andrews and her daughter—to sit in the studio together. Their tenderness for each other came through, and McGonigle won a Grammy as producer and director.
i contact: faculty
The Art of Craft
make applied art,” says Wendy Yothers, assistant professor of Jewelry Design. “Everything has a use.” Yet there’s nothing remotely utilitarian or ordinary about her work, pieces of which have been purchased for the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Corning Museum of Glass, and the Vatican Museums. She’s incised intricate moiré effects into knife blades and created purse clasps out of actual cane toads. (“They’re not endangered,” she’s quick to point out.) She designed FIT’s brass mace, a ceremonial symbol of the college, crowned with an apple and garlanded with laurel leaves, which holds pride of place each May at commencement. And she makes silver necklaces that resemble skeleton hands, joined so the bony fingers rest gently, almost proprietarily, on the wearer’s clavicles. “I do anything I want to do, always,” she insists. “The only question is: Do I want to do it?” That sense of freedom, of serious, mindful play, is one she encourages in her students. Yothers began teaching at FIT in 2000, and she became chair of the department in
IMAGES COURTESY OF WENDY YOTHERS
October. Among her many classes are soldering, jewelry fabrication, die construction, and silversmithing. She says she teaches from the standpoint of problem solving, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into mundane concerns for structure or materials. “I’m idea-driven,” she says. “I make what I want instead of what I already know how to do. Many good people I worked with absolutely assassinated themselves by not trying something new.” In developing any design, she sketches ceaselessly, and if she encounters a problem she can’t solve, she’ll take a class or save up so she can experiment with new materials. Not long ago, she got the idea of creating silver and glass teapots based on the Slavic folktale of Baba Yaga, a witch who lived in a magical hut that walked around on chicken legs. For this project, the materials were familiar: “Silver and I are married. We’re in a good place now,” Yothers says. “But glass is my affair; it cuts me. Turns me into a slave.” The teapots were exhibited at the Biennial Teapot Exhibition in St. Louis and the Newark Museum, and now reside at the Smithsonian. Perhaps the curators had the experience Yothers says she has when she witnesses a successful work of art: “Once you’ve seen it, you can never unsee it.”
Top left: The glass of the teapot was engraved using the point of a diamond. “The steam that wafts from it is very special,” Yothers says. “If you’re in the right frame of mind, it might be a spirit.” Above: Yothers’s sketchbook, filled with drawings and notes, tracks her design process.
1984 Jill Anthony, Illustration, has created artwork featuring a series of Dalmatians dressed as such fashion icons as Coco Chanel, Iris Apfel, and Diana Vreeland. The images are available as wall art or greeting cards at her Etsy storefront. She chose Dalmatians not as a comment on any of her subjects— or out of any sort of canine obsession— but because it was a fun theme, and because makeup shows up well on a mostly white dog.
CHAPTER TWO Francesca Probo Azzara, Fashion Design ’72
Jeannette Dunn Kendall, Patternmaking Technology, started Success In Style, which has provided free business wardrobes to thousands of low-income jobseekers: single mothers, survivors of domestic violence, refugees, and others. The nonprofit, based in Savage, MD, now has five locations, plus three resale boutiques to fund them, including a popular secondhand bridal shop.
Cherie Amour, Kendall’s bridal resale shop in Savage, MD.
1983 Marie Maccaro Suri, Marketing: Fashion and Related Industries, fabricates furniture using jewelry-making and metalsmithing techniques. Her pieces—tables, sconces, andirons, and fire screens—are sold through Liz O’Brien, a decorative-arts dealer in New York. A favorite material is industrial steel medallions, modeled after motor components that she found in a salvage yard. She does all her own welding, at temperatures above 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. “It’s dirty work,” she says. “I look like a beekeeper when I arrive at the studio and a coal miner when I leave.”
Suri’s Duets table in steel and bronze.
24 hue | fall 2014
Coco; ink, colored pencil, and watercolor; 14 by 11 inches.
Sharon Khazzam, Jewelry Design, creates one-of-a-kind pieces from rare, colorful gemstones, such as Paraiba tourmaline from Brazil. Her work, handmade by jewelers in New York, is sold exclusively at Barneys in the U.S., as well as at Isetan and Mitsukoshi department stores in Tokyo. Khazzam doesn’t want her jewels to be locked up in a safe, despite their high cost. “My customers will throw them on with black tie or with jeans and a white T-shirt,” she says. “Even if a necklace is $100,000, it’s not necessarily screaming $100,000.” This year, Khazzam joined the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
For the Tavous medallion necklace, in 18-karat gold with gemstones and diamonds, Khazzam was inspired by the peacock throne of the Shah of Iran. “Tavous” in Persian means “peacock.”
After designing children’s wear for 17 years, Francesca Azzara left the industry in 1990 to raise her son. This year, a few months after retiring from a second career in real estate, she came back to fashion in a big way. Dining with her husband in New York in February, she struck up a conversation with a casting agent at the next table who thought Azzara would be perfect for “Chapter Two,” a Prudential campaign in which retirees do things they’ve always loved but never had time for. They were looking for someone to design an evening gown for a red-carpet event. Soon it came out that Naomi Watts would wear the dress at the Cannes Film Festival on May 16. The ad agency, Droga5, wanted someone without experience in the fashion industry, but Azzara talked them out of it. “How could you pick a person to work with people at a design house who doesn’t have a clue about how fabric drapes and how a pattern is made?” The agency chose her for the spot. As cameras rolled, she showed up at the atelier of Marchesa in Chelsea. She, along with Marchesa co-founders Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig, created the dress collaboratively over three days. Azzara thought that a bluegray fabric looked fresh and would match the actress’s eyes. She also requested that they lower the back of the dress, and she helped place the metallic trim. Azzara was surprised by how much Watts’s stylist guided the design. She also wasn’t expecting the dress to be sewn over a corset. “It looks like it’s about to fall right off her bosom,” Azzara says, “but in a million years that dress cannot fall. It’s a beautiful illusion.” Naomi Watts wore Azzara’s dress at the How Watts adored the dress, and it was to Train Your Dragon 2 premiere in Cannes. the only one she had shipped to Cannes— after it was resized to a 0, since she had lost weight. The paparazzi loved it too, calling it “gorgeous” and “exquisite,” and Watts “sexy” and “radiant.” Though Azzara has no plans to open her own couture house, the experience has helped her rethink her retirement. “It was great to be back in my industry,” she says, “and being part of a couture house was over-the-top exciting.” —Jonathan Vatner
From left: Azzara and co-founders of Marchesa, Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig.
Shawn Banner, Illustration, creates whimsical cartoons for advertisements and children’s books. This year, 16 of his ballet illustrations were exhibited at the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, NY. The illustrations, which originally ran in Ballet Beat, a newsletter promoting the New York City Ballet Summer Residency, also in Saratoga Springs, were paired with dance criticism by his late mother, Mae Banner, who was an institution in the local ballet community.
Duet 585, Reflections on Everywhere We Go, ink on paper, 8½ by 11 inches.
1997 Georgette Pascale, Marketing: Fashion and Related Industries, owns a public relations agency for health care firms, approaching its tenth anniversary. Her 21 employees work from home on publicity for companies such as Abbott Medical Optics, a vision-care company, and Mscripts, an online pharmacy. Not having a central office saves on rent, eliminates commutes, and reduces idle conversation.
2000 Tanita Holloway Gray, Accessories Design, Fashion Design ’97, is lead designer for Max Martin shoes, a new made-in-the-USA luxury footwear line, co-founded by entrepreneur William Panzarella and rapper MC Lyte. (Max Martin refers to the name of Panzarella’s dog, not the record producer.) According to Gray, Max Martin is the only company manufacturing high-heeled boots in the U.S. She also edits Last-Report, a footwear magazine.
Newman displays her Toastmasters awards for “The Seeds of Greatness.” From left, the trophies are from the division, the district, the club, and the area.
MC Lyte examines the Betty shoe as Gray looks on, at the gifting suite at the 2014 Grammy Awards.
Veronique Salimbene Lindell, Fashion Design, repurposes vintage fabrics from estate sales—carpeting, kimonos, hunting pants, a military duffel—into tote bags and pillows. She designs each bag separately, and her mother sews them in their Bradenton, FL, shop, Ocean Rock Design. Much of her product sells through Facebook and Scoutmob. Her customers love ocean themes. “Anything I put a whale on—as soon as I finish it, it’s gone.”
Cassandra Williams Newman, Textile/ Surface Design, placed third in the Toastmasters International Speech Contest at the district level, surpassing contestants at 150 clubs. Her talk, “The Seeds of Greatness,” focused on the moment she knew she would become an artist and the teachers who inspired her. Besides entering the world of professional motivational speaking— she has already given the speech at Rollins College in Winter Park, FL—she teaches art at SunRidge Elementary in Winter Garden, FL, and paints murals.
Some of Lindell’s vintage tote bags.
COMING HOME Kate English, Advertising and Marketing Communications ’02 Walk into HGTV Magazine’s office and you might see salvaged decorations from a recent ’80s-themed party, kits for painting ceramic garden gnomes, abundant tubes of glitter, and a herd of stuffed West Highland white terriers. These items are evidence of Kate English’s successful work as associate publisher of the magazine, which launched in the summer of 2012. The magazine, like the cable channel, shares design and DIY tips from HGTV stars, focusing on home improvement, gardening, and crafts. After only ten issues, it became, and remains, the number one home-lifestyle magazine on newsstands, with a distribution of 1.3 million. “Our January/February 2014 cover had a cute little dog on it, wearing a blue sweater, and I thought, That dog is adorable,” English says. She ordered boxes of tiny stuffed Westies sporting blue sweaters emblazoned with the magazine’s logo. The dogs became promotional gifts to help her team sell ads and sponsored content in the magazine. “The goal is to communicate to advertisers—you want to have your name in our magazine because look how much fun we’re having!” she says. A smiling gnome appeared on the cover of the June issue, so she created the gnome-painting kits (with a colorful note that read, “Make ‘gnome’ mistake, HGTV Magazine is perfect for your brand!”). Her sales team then hosted painting parties for current and potential advertisers. English and her staff also plan events, such as setting up a lounge at the annual Keene Pumpkin Festival in New Hampshire to promote their October issue. They hosted DIY-inspired demonstrations, including a “Trick Out Your Trick or Treat Bag” crafting station and pumpkin-carving lessons. “You could never do that at Harper’s Bazaar,” English says, laughing. Most of her career has been in marketing, but with fashion and luxury brands—Donna Karan, Interview magazine, and in Hearst’s corporate office. She enjoyed all of it but found her home with HGTV Magazine, where’s she’s been since its launch. One of her favorite features in the magazine, “How Bad Is It?”, reveals the truth about our daily habits. “This content is much more me,” she says. “We’re asking, how bad it is to drink from the garden hose, or throw the dishwasher detergent tab in with the dishes instead of in the compartment for it on the door?” —Katharine Reece
2002 Kiyeon Nam, Fashion Merchandising Management, launched N/A/M, an androgynous, architectural knitwear line, this fall after working for 12 years at Donna Karan, Elie Tahari, and other companies. To find inspiration for her futuristic collection, she researched planets and aliens, trying to craft a universal style that defies assumptions about what clothes say about people. N/A/M isn’t just her name; it’s an acronym of her three favorite things: nature, art, and music. Hyuna Shin
Right: Viscose/polyester jacquard jacket and pants, cotton T-shirt, and Gentle Monster sunglasses.
Lucy Zhune, Home Products Development, designed a back-to-school catalogue for Kipling, the VF Corporation–owned company known for its nylon backpacks. The 18-page catalogue, Kipling’s first, features Megan Nicole, a singer with more than 2.5 million subscribers on YouTube.
2011 Samantha Siegel, Advertising Design, co-created and starred in Less Than One, a six-minute film, viewable at LessThanOne.com, about the chances of finding a soul mate. (Her boyfriend Arturo Perez, Jr. worked on it with her.) The film is based on an episode of the public radio program This American Life in which a group of Harvard physicists hash out a formula to explain why they don’t have girlfriends. She and Perez are currently working on a feature-length film based on the same concept. By day she freelances as an art director for ad agencies. She’s previously worked on campaigns for Nicki Minaj and eBay.
THE LIVES OF OBJECTS Kira Eng-Wilmot, Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice ’09
Matt Flynn/Smithsonian Institution
Eng-Wilmot created a mount for this fan, using laminated layers of archival board and successively stepped layers of polyester felt, then covering it in display fabric. The fan will appear in an exhibition about the Hewitt sisters’ collections. Siegel and Rachel Frey in Less Than One. The cover of Kipling’s first catalogue.
2004 David Hart, Fashion Design, launched his eponymous menswear line in 2013, sold in Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, as well as in Japan. The dress shirts are sewn in New Jersey, and the ties in Brooklyn, and the tailoring is done in Massachusetts; only the sweaters are made overseas, in Italy. The collection builds on the success of his neckwear brand, active since 2009. Hart, who completed FIT’s 2014 Design Entrepreneurs NYC program, is an apostle of neckwear. In today’s dressed-down culture, he says, “it became rebellious to put on a tie again.”
2012 Alyssa Pachan Gagnon, Fabric Styling, is a trend and design coordinator at Surya, a rug company near Atlanta.She designs textiles, analyzes trends, sets up showrooms and window displays, styles catalogue shoots, and updates Surya’s Facebook and Pinterest pages. She was hired as part of a new design team that expands the line and keeps up with trends. “It used to be that home décor was two years behind fashion,” she says. “Now it’s a little more up to speed.”
As a textile conservator at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Kira Eng-Wilmot is a “front-line advocate for the objects”: she studies their material composition, weave structure, and age, and she ensures their safety when storing, moving, or exhibiting them. Hue caught up with her a few weeks before the museum’s December 12 reopening, after a three-year renovation and expansion. What kinds of textiles does the Cooper Hewitt have?
Our collection of 26,000 textiles spans the gamut. Our oldest object is a Chinese bonnet and mitts from the third century BC; our newest is a beautiful 2014 digital jacquard called “Millions of Colors.” What’s been your role during the museum’s expansion?
I’ve been making sure that the temperature and humidity are acceptable for museum objects to be installed. I’m also working with the exhibition designers, determining how objects can be displayed and preparing mounts for them. The museum is reopening with ten exhibitions, so we’re pretty busy right now. Tell us about an object you enjoyed working on for the reopening.
I prepared an early 19th-century Napoleon tapestry chair for an exhibition of the Hewitt sisters’ collections. The cushion was soiled, and the seat back had extensive breakage that revealed the stuffing. I worked with the Product Design and Decorative Art curator to develop a noninvasive, minimal, and reversible treatment. I used a dry-cleaning sponge to remove a layer of soiling, then used a series of insect pins to realign and temporarily reattach the loose elements. Lastly, I dyed a piece of sheer fabric and used it to contain the broken area and tone the area of loss. The treatment was minimal and allowed the chair’s history to shine through. What’s your favorite part of the job?
It’s such a great privilege to work with the objects. That’s why I’m here, to give a voice to them and to say what’s best for them. David Hart wearing David Hart.
26 hue | fall 2014
A botanical trend tableau Gagnon helped create for Surya’s Spring 2014 catalogue.
what inspires you?
Chinese Lessons Xiaodan “Emily” Yu, Fashion Design ’99
When they talk about intimate apparel in China, most people talk about the bra and panties. Before the housing reform in the late ’90s, homes were smaller, so there wasn’t space to wear other categories of intimate apparel. The reform allowed people to buy larger homes, giving parents and children separate spaces. Suddenly they could wear more beautiful sleepwear in the bedroom and loungewear in the living room. I wrote a book called Lingerie Lessons to introduce these concepts to my Chinese readers. In researching my book, I came across Hidden Underneath, a book about the history of lingerie. The concept of trousseau fascinated me. In the 19th century, a girl spent her whole young life preparing a collection of undergarments and table and bed linens to ready herself for marriage. She revealed herself through stitches and embroidery. A woman was not allowed to expose her body to her husband, so sleepwear was vitally important. Nowadays your nightgown still protects you and helps you feel comfortable. It’s like part of your body. My first intimate-apparel collection, called Trousseau, is based on designs I created for my book. Everything is made of fine linen and lace, with some embroidery, and all in white. I hand-sew everything, made to order in very small quantities, because I want my customers to have a very personal connection to it. An intimate-apparel designer for 15 years, for Komar and Maidenform, Yu is also a writer and translator. She translated Lolita and The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov into Chinese, and in 1992 became the first Chinese translator of Raymond Carver stories. She has published a novel and three other books. Lingerie Lessons and a book of stories come out in 2015.
This delicate, revealing nightgown from 1907, made of cotton, bobbin lace, and silk ribbon, was sewn by a mother for her daughter’s trousseau.
227 West 27 Street New York, NY 10001-5992 return service requested
Fashion and dance entwine in Tara Subkoff’s sexy costumes for Stephen Petronio’s 2011 choreographic work Underland. This is just one captivating image from The Museum at FIT’s hot exhibition, Dance & Fashion. See page 10.
volume 8 |number 1