VOLUME 12 | NUMBER 1 | WINTER 2018–19 3773_FIT-121318.indd 1
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ON THE COVER Loyal readers of Hue know that we rarely feature profile subjects on the cover. For Nina Garcia, Marketing: Fashion and Related Industries ’92, we made an exception. The trailblazing Colombian-born fashion editor, best known as a judge on all 17 seasons (and counting) of Project Runway, took the reins at Elle last year to keep it relevant and engaging for a new generation of plugged-in fashionistas. Her portrait was shot in her Hearst tower office by Joe Carrotta, Photography ’17, an alumnus of the Eddie Adams Workshop and a frequent contributor to The New York Times. Turn to page 22 for the story.
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 27th 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
Managing Editor Alex Joseph MA ’15
Staff Writer Jonathan Vatner
Editorial Assistant Laura Hatmaker
Photography Coordinator Smiljana Peros
Art Direction and Design Gary Tooth/Empire Design Studio Hue online: hue.fitnyc.edu Email: firstname.lastname@example.org FIT Newsroom: news.fitnyc.edu
FIT’S TOP INSTAGRAM POSTS OF 2018
If you’re not one of FIT’s nearly 50,000 Instagram followers, here’s a taste of what you missed this year.
LETTER TO HUE Hue’s last issue included a story about the restoration of a prismatic work of fiber art by Wilma Grayson, a former Textile Design faculty member. Grayson’s grandniece Cassandra Past, Fashion Merchandising Management ’13, reached out to thank FIT for restoring the piece, which hangs in the Katie Murphy Amphitheatre. As associate sourcing manager for rugs at West Elm, Past works with vendors, mostly in India, to negotiate pricing and ensure that the designers’ vision can be realized on time and at the right price. Wilma Grayson. “Before this job, I never thought about rugs at all,” she wrote. “They always existed in my head as something a machine spit out. Most rugs are truly handcrafted product, even in 2018. A lot of the techniques used today … are the same that were used thousands of years ago.” She came to rugs after working in product development and sourcing for apparel: “I guess the rug life chose me after all.”
1. The dynamite new gallery space
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CHECK OUT THE NEW HUE.FITNYC.EDU Surf on over to Hue’s brand-new website to read stories before they appear in the magazine and to see additional multimedia content, like a video of Arlene Gottfried, Photography ’72, belting out the gospel standard “God Cares.”
2. Model and disability activist Jillian Mercado ’10 in Times Square
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Features 8 Fashion Matters A student project makes a difference in a professor’s life 9 Ghost of Garments Past In the Fashion Design MFA program’s first year, a student wins a major accolade 11 Lust on Trial A History of Art professor revisits misguided moralist Anthony Comstock 14 She Made It Trend genius Dayna Isom Johnson ’07 stars on the popular TV competition Making It
16 The Street The life and mesmerizing photographs of Arlene Gottfried ’72
20 Period. Beginning of Story A company for women, by women 21 Rebuilding A recent grad volunteers in Puerto Rico 22 Nina A brief history of the unstoppable Nina Garcia ’92 27 The Public Eye Restoring two iconic sculptures on campus 28 Drawn from Life A look at Professor Melanie Reim’s illustration projects and process
4 Hue’s News 10 Counter Culture 32 Alumni Notes 35 What Inspires You?
Above: Photography alum Jim Marchese ’72 made this portrait of his former classmate Arlene Gottfried with some of her work in 1980. Marchese remembered assisting her on commercial jobs: “I would sometimes get a frantic call from her to come help on a photo assignment, including The New York Times Magazine, holding extra lights for her. She might be unsure about how she would tackle an assignment (one has that, if one is a perfectionist), but then a wave of confidence would take over and she would sail with flying colors.” See some of Gottfried’s work in “The Street,” page 16.
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A STUNNING NEW GALLERY AT FIT
Above: Passersby can see into the new gallery from the street.
Left: The gallery opening drew New York State Senator Brad Hoylman, Laura Pomerantz, Trustee Emeritus John Pomerantz, Board of Trustees Chair Elizabeth Peek, President Joyce F. Brown, SUNY Board of Trustees Chair H. Carl McCall, and Dean Troy Richards.
October 4 marked the official debut of the magnificent exhibition space in the Fred P. Pomerantz Art and Design Center. The light-filled, two-story gallery in the dramatically expanded 4,000-square-foot lobby fulfills the college’s pressing need for more space to showcase the work of students and faculty in the School of Art and Design’s 17 majors. President Joyce F. Brown called it “a new gateway to the FIT campus.” At the opening ceremony, the school’s dean, Troy Richards, noted that, true to the college’s “unconventional minds” brand, the new gallery takes an unusual approach. Where most college galleries exhibit the work of faculty, students, alumni, and outside artists separately, FIT’s will present them side by side. “Our goal is to be inclusive and to engage our faculty and students, as well as the greater community of New York and beyond,” he said. “This space, with its glass walls, is a window into FIT and also a window out.” “We want it to be a laboratory,” said Austin Thomas, exhibitions manager for the gallery, “a place to try out innovative ideas.” The space was designed by David Smotrich & Partners, an architectural firm that has worked on numerous campus spaces. In keeping with FIT’s Brutalist aesthetic, it features natural materials such as marble, limestone, and glass. However, unlike the fortress-like façades of Brutalism, its soaring glass walls allow passersby on Seventh Avenue to glimpse the goings-on inside. An intimate gallery in the back can be used for standalone exhibitions and special gatherings, and a second-floor classroom, visible to people on Seventh Avenue through floorto-ceiling windows, will accommodate a visiting artist program. “There’s this dynamic interaction between the public and the college,” said Deborah Homan, managing partner at Smotrich. “Day and night, passersby will be able to see fantastic work.”
COUTURIER JOHN ANTHONY IS FIRST VISITING ARTIST IN FIT’S NEW GALLERY
On October 16 and 18, two-time Coty Award winner John Anthony, Fashion Design ’57, shared his knowledge and business acumen with students in an intimate master class. Anthony was the first participant in the School of Art and Design’s new artist-in-residence program, in which a noted artist or designer teaches students in the glass-enclosed studio on the second floor of the new Pomerantz Center exhibition space. Anthony, who has dressed numerous first ladies and celebrities over the past half-century, talked about the importance of editing a collection (“You can’t sit and watch 45 evening gowns on the runway—after a while, you’ll go colorblind”), the magic of jersey (“It’s my favorite fabric in the whole world—it looks good on everyone”), and the importance of a beautiful studio (“You can’t sell a gown in a Dunkin’ Donuts”). He rose to prominence after his first collection was stolen on the way to the showroom; scrambling to source new fabrics to remake the dresses, he ended up with an all-black collection that wowed the critics and won him his first Coty. He has been in demand ever since. QUICK READ
Fabric in Fashion, a look at the role played by textiles in forming the silhouette in Western fashion over the last 250 years, is on view at The Museum at FIT through May 4, 2019.
This fall, Photography faculty member Keith Ellenbogen and industrial designer and alumnus Keith Kirkland, Accessories Design ’10, joined 19 other breakthrough thinkers in a four-month residency with TED, the nonprofit known for the lectures called TED Talks.
With a median mid-career salary of $74,400, FIT alumni are in the top 2 percent of earners in the country among community-college grads, according to the 2018 College Salary Report by compensation data site PayScale.com.
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JeongMee Yoon’s photograph, Jeeyoo and Her Pink Things (2007) from The Pink Project (2005-ongoing), inspired this diorama of pink girls’ toys.
THE POWER OF PINK
Joe Carrotta ’17
Pink provokes exceptionally strong feelings of both attraction and repulsion. Although the color is now popularly associated with little girls, ballerinas, and all things feminine, the stereotype of pink for girls and blue for boys only took root in the United States in the mid-20th century, and the symbolism of pink has varied greatly across world history. By placing men’s, women’s, and children’s pink clothing from both Western and non-Western cultures—including India, Africa, Mexico, and Japan—in a historical context, The Museum at FIT’s exhibition Pink: The History of a Punk, Pretty, Powerful Color corrects popular misconceptions, encourages viewers to question clichés and received opinion, and (in the words of color historian Michel Pastoureau) demonstrates that “It is society that ‘makes’ color, defines it, gives it meaning.” The exhibition, organized by Director and Chief Curator Valerie Steele, closes January 5.
Students cruised Jamaica Bay in search of marine textile debris.
THE OCEAN PLASTICS CRISIS Some predict that by 2050, there will be more plastic by weight in the world’s oceans than fish. But FIT took a step toward a different future with an October boat trip in Jamaica Bay to teach Textile Development and Marketing students about the problem of disposable plastics, microplastic fibrils (tiny fibers), and other marine textile debris. The Textile Ocean Plastics Pollution Initiative (TOPPI), led by TDM students Mari Kawamura and Louise Ford, exposes students to scientific research and enables them to explore the response from textile companies, brands, and retail organizations. There are five trillion plastic While the group didn’t see much marine life, they also didn’t see much pieces in the world’s oceans. trash, except for a Doritos bag floating by. The real value of the trip was in Eighty percent of fish the presentations by professors as the American Princess sailed around sold in markets contains Jamaica Bay. Three FIT professors—Jeff Silberman and Ajoy Sarkar from some plastic. Textile Development and Marketing; Arthur Kopelman, a SUNY Distin guished Service Professor of Science; and Richard Venditti from North One load of laundry can Carolina State University’s department of forest biomaterials—discussed release 1,900 microfibers different aspects of microfiber plastic pollution, and ways that students into the ocean. can help create solutions as they move forward in their careers. —Alexandra Mann
Museum of the City of New York
DID YOU KNOW?
FIT’S FIRST DIVERSITY COMIC CON
Gotham Beverage Service, a silver set created by Jewelry Design faculty member Wendy Yothers, was recently purchased by the Museum of the City of New York for its permanent collection. She created it for the 2017–18 exhibition titled New York Silver, Then and Now, which linked New York City's rich history of silversmithing to present-day artistic practice.
On September 14, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer honored Curtis Willocks, adjunct instructor of Photography, among leaders from the New York Philharmonic and the Apollo Theater, at an event inaugurating the 49th African American Day Parade.
THE CITY IN SILVER
While comic books have been entertaining readers for almost a century, minorities have been largely absent as both creators and characters. Diversity Comic Con, held at FIT October 11 to cap off FIT’s Civility Week, exposed students to careers in the comics field and offered diverse artists an opportunity to showcase their work. The event also featured panel discussions, portfolio reviews, and a cosplay pageant. Civility Week, hosted by the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, also included a panel discussion on modest wear, a keynote by social justice advocate Howard J. Ross, and seminars on civil discourse.
This fall, FIT welcomed 23 new full-time faculty members. This large group reflects President Joyce F. Brown’s ongoing commitment to expanding FIT’s skilled, expert full-time faculty.
Target shoppers can now buy NFL travel mugs, totes, clocks, doormats, and wall art featuring a funky graphic remix of each team’s branding, developed by students in the Creative Technology minor. Visit NFLxFIT.info to learn more about the project.
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Class of ’68 Reunites FIT’s first-ever 50th alumni reunion took place in 2018, as members of the class of ’68 met old friends, toured the campus, and reminisced late into the night. Some alumni hadn’t seen each other since college; others had kept in touch— most notably Norman Cohen, Textile Administration and Sales, and Linda Kain, Fashion Buying and Merchandising, who reconnected in 1996 after their previous marriages ended, and married in 2011. The reunion was spearheaded by Cohen, who got the idea after moving to Quincy, Massachusetts, from South Africa in 2010, and his friend Stephen Bruh, Management Engineering ’68, a pilot based in London. Want to reunite with your FIT classmates? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The students who participated were Calvin Zhong (MIT); David Merchan (MIT); Melanie Wong, Fashion Design ’19; Veronica Apsan, Fashion Design ’18; Erika Anderson (MIT); and Jesse Doherty, Fashion Design ’19.
MIT AND FIT JOIN FORCES TO DESIGN THE CLOTHING OF THE FUTURE For the first FIT/MIT Summer Workshop, held over two weeks last June, three students from FIT and three from MIT spent a week at each institution to explore and develop clothing concepts using advanced materials that incorporate 3D printing or sophisticated knitting technologies. The workshop was held collaboratively with Advanced Functional Fabrics of America (AFFOA), a Cambridge, Massachusetts–based national nonprofit transforming traditional textiles into integrated and networked devices and systems. Veronica Apsan, Fashion Design ’18, and Erika Anderson of MIT conceived a T-shirt that changes color to reflect the wearer’s mood. They explored 3D printing a color-changing filament and creating hollow fibers filled with an ink that changes hue when an electrical current is sent through it. The other four students worked together to create a double-layer lab apron that transforms into a dress or bag with high-tech pockets, one that could charge a phone and another that sanitizes hands using antimicrobial chemicals or ultraviolet LEDs in the fabric. “As the fashion industry becomes more and more dependent on advanced textiles, students who have the experience this workshop has provided will be the industry’s next leaders,” said Joanne Arbuckle, deputy to the president for Industry Partnerships and Collaborative Programs.
Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of The Museum at FIT; Rodriguez; and Couture Council board member Angela Dotson, co-chair of the luncheon.
On September 5, the Couture Council of The Museum at FIT hosted its annual luncheon at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, honoring Narciso Rodriguez with the 2018 Couture Council Award for Artistry of Fashion. The event raised $850,000 for The Museum at FIT. Author and philanthropist Jessica Seinfeld presented Rodriguez with the award, which he received for his lifelong dedication to the art and craft of fashion. Seinfeld said, “Narciso Rodriguez designs clothing to make women feel strong and beautiful. He designs with integrity, ingenuity, longevity, and elegant simplicity, and that is why he is here.”
Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for FIT
NARCISO RODRIGUEZ HONORED AT COUTURE COUNCIL LUNCHEON
Top: Cohen, Bruh, Constance Chatterton ’68, and Judy Kalikow ’68, on the beach in their FIT days. Above: Bonnie Janus ’68 and Suann Levin Ray ’68 replace the women in a reenactment.
A recent case study by the nonprofit Building Energy Exchange and New York City’s Department of Citywide Administrative Services lauds FIT’s practices in installing equipment upgrades that reduced its carbon footprint by 55 percent since 2005, amounting to $3.1 million annual savings. 6
Lili Shi, Fashion Design ’18, Fine Arts ’15, won the 11th annual Supima Design Competition, for which students create a capsule collection that emphasizes the characteristics of Supima cotton. She received $10,000 and the chance to show at Paris Fashion Week.
First place in the 2018 PAVE Design Challenge went to Jesse Lee and Ariel Leder, both Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design ’19, for designing a simulated car interior that provokes consumer reaction.
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THE SCIENCE OF SHOPPER MARKETING
FIT Hosts SUNY Chancellor’s Inauguration How can companies know their shoppers with that level of precision? Before, these strategies were based on intuition. Now they have everyone’s purchase data. Everything you do online is tracked. The most successful companies are those that embrace data to get deep insight into their customers’ Smiljana Peros
In the digital age, companies need to work harder than ever to cultivate buyers and keep them. These companies use a coordinated strategy called shopper marketing to lure customers into stores and convince them to buy, both in person and online. Hue interviewed Jean Marc Rejaud, associate professor of Jean Marc Rejaud. Advertising and Marketing Communications, who wrote a textbook on this topic with Renée Azoulay, AMC adjunct instructor: Converting Shoppers to Buyers: The Power of Shopper Marketing and Promotions (Cognella Academic Publishing, 2019).
What is shopper marketing? It’s easier to understand shopper marketing in comparison with sales promotion, which is providing a targeted offer to a consumer to make a purchase—a 50 percent discount, perhaps. Shopper marketing is a comprehensive strategy to communicate with the shopper, touchpoint by touchpoint, to convince them to come into the store and make the purchase. Does the company contact you at the right time for the right price with the right offer? That’s good shopper marketing.
shopping preferences. You also co-authored a paper about the future of global business in the International Journal of Business Management and Commerce. What was the takeaway? We are facing a change in the economic order, a retreat into domestic economies. Globalism has created the most wealth in history; what is the impact of ending that? What should we communicate or change in the curriculum to enable graduates when there are barriers in the worldwide flow of goods and services? And what does it mean for the way business ethics should be taught? What were the answers? There is no answer! But here’s an example: Say you work for a corporation and are asked to grow business by 10 percent, but the flow of goods and services is going to drop by 50 percent because of tariffs. How do you handle that? It’s certainly going to disrupt supply chains.
REAFFIRMING OUR COMMITMENT TO SUSTAINABILITY
Beautiful, Accessible Designs Ahene Shin, Interior Design ’19, won a $30,000 Senior Student Scholarship Award from the Angelo Donghia Foundation. Each year, the foundation awards this prestigious honor to a handful of high-achieving, motivated undergraduates studying interior design, based on a portfolio submission. Shin’s submission, drawn from her second-year final project, was a design for an imagined Chelsea Market restaurant by the Roca brothers, renowned Catalan chefs. Her biophilic design, mimicking nature, created topographical variation with five different floor heights and incorporated an undulating, iridescent glass ceiling that represented the dramatic Mediterranean sky. The Queens resident hopes to make her mark in the industry by designing harmonious branded spaces for commercial clients. “I don’t only want to create beautiful designs, but places that are accessible to everyone,” she said.
A cocktail night at Our/New York, a vodka distillery owned by David Ortiz, Fine Arts ’94, drew 61 alumni from the classes of 2000 to 2018. To hear about future events for alumni of those class years, email email@example.com.
Dr. Kristina M. Johnson was officially inaugurated the 13th chancellor of the State University of New York during a ceremony held at FIT on September 14. Chancellor Johnson laid out her vision of creating opportunity and enabling a positive impact. “As unique and wonderful as our individual institutions are, if we can learn, search, and serve as one, we are unstoppable.” Introducing the new chancellor, President Joyce F. Brown said that Dr. Johnson had crafted “an exciting 21st-century vision, one that emphasizes sustainability, interdisciplinary research, innovation, and the technology that fuels it.”
FIT’s third annual Sustainability Awareness Week engaged a record number of students in a variety of activities, from a conversation about nature-inspired design, funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, to a panel discussion about the ethical consequences of human trafficking. A pop-up farmers market brought local produce to the Breezeway, as well as an upcycled embroidery workshop, representatives from the mayor’s Community Affairs Office, and Charlotte the pig (below), as part of a conversation about the ethics of eating livestock.
As part of a $1.5 million effort by Mayor Bill de Blasio, FIT is collaborating with nonprofit The Animation Project to train at-risk youth to become the next generation of New York City animators.
FIT President Joyce F. Brown, SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson, and SUNY Board of Trustees Chairman H. Carl McCall.
WE’RE BOWLED OVER
Sam Riley, Accessories Design ’19 (left), won the #BeBowled shoe design contest for bowling alley operator Bowlero. His winning design, selected from dozens of entries with the help of celebrity judge designer Christian Siriano (right), will be produced and distributed to more than 75 Bowlero and Bowlmor locations nationwide in 2019.
An excerpt of Playground of My Mind, a graphic memoir by Julia Jacquette, associate professor of Fine Arts, was included in Houghton Mifflin’s Best American Comics 2018.
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A student makes stylish garments to help her professor, a breast cancer survivor
“There’s a psychological aspect to recovery,” Katagiri says, and fashion can be part of that. Above: Nobleza with Katagiri, who wears the reversible bat-wing dress; the other side is purple. The hat is Katagiri’s own creation. Top right: Nobleza’s technical drawing for the dress. Bottom right: Shots from Katagiri’s Heal in Heels blog, which documents her efforts to stay stylish during her cancer treatment.
n fall 2017, Yoko Katagiri, adjunct assistant professor of Social Sciences, gave an impassioned talk to her Fashion Economics class. A survivor of breast cancer who had undergone a mastectomy, she felt the fashion industry should do a better job of creating clothes for and presenting images of women with cancer. Katagiri urged her students, who were headed into the industry, to find ways to do good. “Fashion can help people in need,” she said. Technical Design student Sidney Nobleza ’18 took her plea to heart. Breast cancer, she learned, is remarkably common. Each year, nearly 240,000 women in the United States are diagnosed. For her spring capstone project, Nobleza designed a compression bra, T-shirt, and dress that could be worn by women recovering from a mastectomy or breast reduction surgery. Nobleza and Katagiri worked together closely, perfecting the fit and details. After surgery, “some women don’t have anyone to help them get dressed,” Nobleza said. “They can’t lift their arms over their head—it can rip the incision—and they have to wear a drainage device.” The dress has magnet closures along the side and shoulder so it can be slipped on effortlessly, and the bra features a pouch to hold the device. Luz Pascal, assistant professor
of Technical Design, found the project exceptional. “Sidney’s bra was made using a special power mesh in combination with a two-way stretch fabric. It was such a comfortable fit.” For the fashionable Katagiri, who is completing a millinery certificate at the college, style was part of recovery. She keeps a blog, Heal in Heels, about her experience. Medical garments are notoriously unappealing. For example, the compression bra she wore after surgery was pale pink with flowers. “That’s not my style,” she said. She craved sophisticated colors, patterns, and silhouettes. “During recovery days,” she wrote on the blog, “I had basically no social life, no makeup, and no hairdo. I was getting low self-esteem. Dressing up brought back my good energy!” Nobleza was inspired by Katagiri’s look. “She was always wearing something interesting.” Her design for her professor has an elegant bat-wing silhouette, and can be worn four ways. After graduation, Nobleza took a position as a product development assistant at Kate Spade. Katagiri is creating a business proposal for the project, which Nobleza supports with design expertise. Katagiri has bold ambitions: “My goal is to eliminate the border between cancer fashion and fashion.” —ALEX JOSEPH
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GHOST OF GARMENTS PAST How the Fashion Design MFA program’s rebel approach helped a student win big This past spring, as FIT’s new MFA program in Fashion Design wrapped up its first year, a student won a major national honor from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Kritika Manchanda ’19 took home the $25,000 Geoffrey Beene Design Scholar Award, given to “the most exemplary and innovative women's wear design student in a full-time graduate program at a leading American college or university.” Eliza Fisher, another student in the MFA program, was also among the five finalists. Graduate students across America were asked to create a collection that respects the history and legacy of the Geoffrey Beene brand. Manchanda did research in The Museum at FIT and the Special Collections and College Archives unit of the Gladys Marcus Library, then purchased vintage patterns from the ’50s to the ’80s from an Etsy retailer. She constructed the garments faithfully, substituting white, sheer fabrics, such as organdy. She also shaped them using compression or fusing techniques, or stiffening the fabric with horsehair. The result looked like “a ghost of the garment that was,” she says. Jonathan Kyle Farmer, founder and chair of the Fashion Design MFA program, says her style is like “a futurist in a boxing ring with a historian.” “It’s very conceptual, almost whimsical, but not in a pretty way,” Manchanda says. “It’s almost eerie.” The Beene award is welcome recognition for the new program, whose first class will graduate in May 2019. Unlike the fast-paced fashion industry, the program allows students the time and space to embark on a personal journey of discovery within a structured, highly mentored environment. A unique four-semester thesis process results in student collections to be presented in four ways: at a thesis defense, at an intimate viewing in May to connect graduates with headhunters and financial backers, in a printed annual, and in a presentation during Fashion Week in September. “I encourage the students not to think about clothes for at least the first half a year,” Farmer says. “Clothes can get in the way of being a good fashion designer.” It’s a controversial stance, but transcending common notions of fashion calls for a deeper approach. “When you experiment and play without knowing the endpoint,” Manchanda says, “it opens up whole new possibilities.” Farmer urges his students—who come from varied backgrounds, from graffiti art to engineering—to draw from personal experience, taking a perspective grounded in history but always looking to the future. “If you research fashion to create fashion, it becomes incestuous—a copy of a copy of a copy,” Farmer says. “I ask them, ‘What are you doing to move the creative industries forward?’ This kind of thinking positions them for jobs both inside and outside of fashion, at companies that are known for being innovative.” —JONATHAN VATNER
Above: Manchanda brought the past and the future together in her collection. Right: Images from Manchanda’s submission for the Geoffrey Beene Design Scholar Award.
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SKIN IN THE GAME
BESTSELLER The Audrey, a simple, angular handbag, is a perennial favorite for its beauty and versatility. It can be worn as a clutch, a cross-body, or a fanny pack.
10 Winter 2018–19
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Images courtesy of Amy Werbel, unless otherwise credited.
In Tesoro’s Philadelphia store, hanging hides serve as decor.
When Brit Reed, Fashion Design ’13, was in an FIT study-abroad program in Florence, she noticed that stylish women didn’t seem particularly interested in big-name luxury handbags. They were happy to wear something from a small, private label designer—as long as it was elegant and fashionable. “I realized that a handbag doesn’t have to be a big brand for it to be beautiful and functional and interesting,” she said. That insight stuck with her. After she graduated from FIT, she moved home to Pennsylvania to launch a leather handbag company from her parents’ basement, designing and crafting each one by hand. She called her fledgling company Tesoro, the Italian word for “treasure.” From the start, she was a perfectionist: she pored over the colors and textures of every hide she bought. She obsessed over each measurement, cut, and stitch. She thought and rethought the exact placement of every rivet and snap. Her handbags have an architectural precision, with sharp, clean lines and angles. Soon, sales were brisk enough for her to open a small shop an hour’s drive from Philadelphia. This past summer, she moved to South Street, a popular shopping thoroughfare in the city. For Reed, the new retail store has been a perfect fit. “Leather’s really tactile,” she says. “People want to smell it and feel it. Having a retail space really changed the trajectory of my business.” Customers often pop into the back to see her works in progress, along with the tools and materials she uses to create them. She chats with them about her ethically sourced leather, which she considers essential to her brand. It is purchased from American companies that protect the safety of their workers and follow sustainable environmental practices. Reed will make a bigger leap in her business soon. Even at peak production, she’s never produced more than seven pieces in any given style—a number that has been limited primarily by her time. After exhaustively searching more than 75 manufacturers, she found one that can deliver her designs at a slightly larger scale, enabling her to offer a few dozen pieces in her most popular styles. Reed knows that these calculated risks are what it takes to succeed. As much as she longs for a vacation and would love to slow down for a moment, she is even more passionate about building a business that matters. “It’s not just about making handbags,” she says. “It’s about making functional bags for women who want something in their lives that makes them feel beautiful and intelligent, that goes with everything they have, and that is made consciously.”
Pam Reed / Sabina Sister
A peek inside Brit Reed’s handbag haven in Philadelphia
A H I S T O R Y O F A R T FA C U L T Y M E M B E R ’ S B O O K E X P L A I N S T H E C A R E E R O F A M E R I C A’ S MOST NOTORIOUS CENSOR
Images courtesy of Amy Werbel, unless otherwise credited.
BY KURT CONKLIN WITH ALE X JOSEPH
In the late 19th and early 20th century, no American embod-
his career trying to squelch. In a front-page review in the pres-
ied the crusade for Victorian morality better than Anthony
tigious Times Literary Supplement, noted literary critic Elaine
Comstock (1844–1915). As a U.S. postal inspector, he enforced
Showalter called the book “a richly detailed, deeply researched
the notorious Comstock laws, which enabled the confiscation
… account” that is “lively and instructive.” The book, Werbel
of any materials with sexual content sent through the mail.
writes, is a “study of a battle against vice” that reveals the
In Lust on Trial: Censorship and the Rise of Amer-
“boundary between free and suppressed culture,
ican Obscenity in the Age of Anthony Comstock
and the critical importance of ‘We the People’ in
(Columbia University Press, 2018), Amy Werbel,
determining its place.”
associate professor of History of Art, tells this story
Kurt Conklin teaches human sexuality in the Department of Public Health at Montclair State University. He was director of programs for SIECUS, the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S.
through the images and words Comstock spent
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Comstock came to New York in his 20s, after serving
Comstock’s youth shaped his expectations about what constituted proper art, Werbel writes. He grew up in the puritanical Congregational Church in New Canaan, Connecticut, where “art” usually meant didactic lithographs, like this one depicting The Good Tree, a symbol of divine grace, which were displayed at home or in church.
in the Civil War. He wanted to become the next A.T. Stewart, then the city’s most successful department store owner. In the late 1860s, leadership of New York’s Young Men’s Christian Association lobbied state legislators to write laws allowing for the arrest of people who created, distributed, or consumed sexual images. The YMCA’s main concern was imagery that could incite young men to lust and masturbation. For many Christians in this era, any sexual activity not devoted to procreation within marriage was sinful. Comstock shared this sensibility, as Werbel shows in excerpts from his diaries: “I debased myself in my own eyes today by my own weakness and sinfulness, was strongly tempted today, and oh! I yealded [sic] instead of fleeing to the ‘fountain’ of all my strength.” Struggling in the competitive world The Connecticut Historical Society
of New York retail,
With assistance from the New York State Legislature, and an alliance with the Post Office Department, the federal agency that deputized Comstock as its agent and censor, the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice opened an office near City Hall in Manhattan. Agents raided stores, warehouses, saloons, theaters, and art schools. For eight decades, they prosecuted, fined, and jailed thousands of Americans on obscenity charges. In 1877, Comstock investigated the Columbia Opera House at 12th Street and Greenwich Avenue, where impresario Jake Berry and his wife, Belle, staged burlesque shows featuring “naughty Parisian Dances.” A subsequent police raid led to the arrest of 28 performers, a highly publicized trial, and the conviction and imprisonment of Jake for running a “disorderly” business, defined as “open promiscuously to the public, and resorted to for the purposes of prostitution or indecency, or of corrupting, debasing, and depraving public morals.”
Comstock volunteered his services to the YMCA. With his involvement, it launched the infamous New York Society for the Suppression of Vice (NYSSV).
In the 1890s, tableaux vivants, or living pictures, became a popular form of entertainment. Actors posed in elaborately staged scenes, sometimes recreating legends. Five men and women were arrested during a tableau of the Orpheus and Eurydice myth at New York’s Casino Theater. “Prosecutors may have been especially eager to shut the show down given that Eurydice’s left breast was exposed in the show’s souvenir photograph,” Werbel writes. Artist William Merritt Chase, president of the Society of American Artists, testified for the defense, stating, “There is nothing immoral in the human frame.”
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Courtesy of the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, USA
Comstock reached his peak in the first decade of his career, censoring purveyors of “racy magazines” and “dirty postcards.” Emboldened by his accomplishments, he moved on to people of higher social standing, such as the owners of saloons decorated with expensive European oil paintings (like William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s 1873 Nymphs and Satyr, far right); and administrators of the Art Students League of New York, whose publications included reproduced student drawings of nude models. Werbel shows that Comstockery “worked” when directed at the middle and lower classes, who lacked political and social capital, but not when targeting the richest and most powerful citizens, who were deemed to be impervious to “depraving influences.” As the Progressive Era took hold, free speech activists emerged who defended American liberties, including organizations of attorneys such as the National Defense Association and Free Speech League, both forerunners of the American Civil Liberties Union.
THERE IS NOTHING IMMORAL IN THE HUMAN FRAME. —WILLIAM MERRITT CHASE, PRESIDENT OF THE SOCIETY OF AMERICAN ARTISTS
Comstock’s own hunger for the spotlight further undermined his effectiveness. He became an object of ridicule in the press, as in this 1906 cartoon, which shows Comstock forcing horses, dogs, and a cat to wear pants, while the sight of an ordinary garter sales display sends him reeling. Further, the more he denounced obscenity to the American public, the more people became aware of, and curious to see, the suppressed materials. Comstock died in 1915; the NYSSV, already much diminished in influence, continued to promote censorship until 1948, when the society finally closed, due to a lack of funds and political support. Today, one legacy of this era is that proponents of free speech have strategies for defending sexual expression. Kirkus, a leading book review magazine, aptly summarized Lust on Trial as an “incisive history of the futility of censorship,” a lesson that still resonates today.
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She Made It
On NBC’s new crafting competition Making It, Dayna Isom Johnson, Fashion Merchandising Management ’07, calls it like she sees it
By Raquel Laneri
hen Dayna Isom Johnson studied Simon Doonan’s legendary window displays for Barneys New York in class at FIT, she was bowled over by their wit, imagination, and humor. They were an education unto themselves. Now she’s the one schooling him. Johnson and Doonan are judges on the NBC crafting competition Making It—hosted by Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman, actors from the show Parks and Recreation. And the 33-year-old isn’t afraid to disagree with her 65-year-old costar, like the time Doonan was kvelling over a contestant’s unicorn mantelpiece.
“Simon was like, ‘That thing was incredible!’” Johnson says. “I said, ‘Simon, I’ve seen that 8,000 times on Etsy—it was not original.’” She should know. Johnson has spent the past seven years at Etsy, an online marketplace comprising some 2 million sellers from all over the globe peddling handmade (and some vintage) clothing, accessories, home goods, artworks, and more. But since 2016, she’s been the company’s leading trend expert, hunting for new, fresh, and undiscovered gems that she can turn into bestselling sensations, and spreading the gospel of DIY crafting. “I believe we’re all born with a maker inside of us,” says Johnson, whose colorful jumpsuit and tassel
earrings (from Etsy, of course) underscore her gregarious personality. “But sometime along the path to adulthood we lose it because we’re concerned with becoming a grownup or being cool. But we can all reignite that creativity, and I’ve seen that story come alive in so many people over the years.” Johnson was born in “a speck of a town” in Louisa County, Virginia. Her father was in the Navy and her mother a social worker, but they had artistic souls, and encouraged her to use her imagination. Johnson with fellow Making It judge Simon Doonan, the hosts Amy Poehler and Nick Offerman, and winning contestant Khiem Nguyen on set.
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“I grew up a true playing-in-the-dirt Southern girl, but I always had a creative niche,” Johnson recalls. She had a Barbie Fashion Plates activity kit that made it easy to create fashion sketches with lots of different outfits. “It was the first time I felt, ‘I want to do something like this.’”
Thanks to an aunt who lived in New York, Johnson learned about FIT, and got in as a Fashion Merchandising Management student—thinking she would become a buyer. “I thought being a buyer was picking out fabulous clothes for a store,” Johnson says. “And then I entered the real world, and I was like, ‘Excuse me, Excel sheets and math? This is not for me.’” Instead, through Assistant Professor Bob Shultz’s Strategies of Selling, she found that she had a natural talent for hawking goods and ideas, and Associate Professor Shawn Grain Carter’s international business lecture awakened more expansive ambitions. “Between those two, I realized that no matter what I do in life, I needed to have some type of global impact … and be able to use my voice to sell and tell stories,” she says. After working in various showrooms, Johnson landed a PR job at Chico’s before nabbing a similar position at Etsy seven years ago. But she felt that she wasn’t using her imagination. At the time, Etsy was still small—with 120 employees vs. today’s 750—so Johnson approached her supervisors asking if she could use her expert eye and communication skills to help identify, nurture, and promote new talent and trends on the site. “I thought, ‘I can find these things—I’m a maker at heart.’” Johnson stumbled into TV two years ago, when an Etsy spokesperson backed out of an appearance on the Today show. Since Johnson had written all the
talking points and messaging for the segment, the company put her on camera at the last minute. “From that moment I knew this was my dream job.’” She started regularly appearing on Today as Etsy’s trend expert, and last year an NBC producer queried her about judging a new crafting reality show. She sent an audition tape, met Poehler, and got the gig, which she had to keep a secret. “I told my husband, but I couldn’t tell anyone else,” she recalls. When she informed her parents that she would be in L.A. for a month for an “exciting project,” her mother warned her it sounded “fishy.” Making It, which premiered July 31, is like Project Runway, but with crafts instead of clothes. Eight “makers”—who specialize in different mediums, from wood to paper to felt—complete two challenges a week, and Johnson and Doonan have to send one home at the end of every episode. But it’s also gentler and sweeter than typical competition shows. “Amy and Nick were very clear from the jump that this not about drama, this is not about negativity,” says Johnson. “The goal is to inspire people to make and be creative.” That goal guides Johnson in everything she does. “Being a maker doesn’t always have to mean you’re knitting a scarf or making some incredible piece of woodwork or ceramic,” she says. “I’m an avid baker. I cook. I have this new hobby of making candles. You have to think about what brings you joy. Helping people discover that spark of joy is something I’m passionate about.”
Johnson’s favorite trends currently popping up on Etsy
Crystal-enhanced beauty products
Whether it’s in jewelry or for the home, Etsy shoppers are going gaga for hippie-dippie stones like amethyst, quartz and obsidian. But Johnson says that makers are now infusing makeup and scents with these tiny gems. “There are a lot of natural beauty products that incorporate crystals,” she says. Rose Quartz Gemstone Perfume, $16
Another trend Johnson has spotted is terrazzo, a scattered marbled tile found in kitchen flooring or splash walls. “It was very popular in the ’70s, but now it’s being incorporated in jewelry and home decor pieces,” she says. Terrazzo Earrings, $35
Etsy isn’t just a place to buy handmade products; it’s also become a place where people find the tools or inspiration to do their own crafts. “People are wanting to do more than Netflix and chill, so DIY kits are becoming very popular,” says Johnson. “Kimchi-making sets are huge, as are paint-by-numbers ones. Some sellers will create a personalized set just for you, so you can send a picture of your pet, and they’ll create a version that you can then paint yourself.” Kimchi Kit, $19.82
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Couple, vintage chromogenic print, 16 by 20 inches, c. 1980s.
by Alex Joseph 16 Winter 2018–19
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Images courtesy of Daniel Cooney Fine Art
The Street Street photographer Arlene Gottfried, Photography ’72, was obscure for most of her life. Now that’s changing
Boy With Scooter, vintage chromogenic print, 16 by 20 inches, c. 1980s.
Images courtesy of Daniel Cooney Fine Art
ime has been good to the work of Arlene Gottfried ’72, the street photographer who captured down-at-the-heels New York with a singular blend of affection, irony, and an eye for serendipity. From the 1970s until her death from cancer in 2017, she trawled the city, shooting strippers, transgender people, interracial couples, and countless members of the African-American and Puerto Rican communities, with what The New Yorker called a “fantastic openness.” The New York Times, Time, Life, and other outlets ran her pictures. But this unassuming artist made her greatest work for herself. In 1984, she began photographing an eccentric friend, a nightclub dancer named Midnight. Gottfried spent the next 18 years documenting his slide into schizophrenia and homelessness, but she never considered the photos a formal project; she kept them in a shoebox. In the early 2000s, when her freelance work slowed down, she began to show the images to friends. “People would cry when they saw them,” she said in a lecture. “That’s when I knew I had something.” In 2004, she published the book Midnight, an unflinching yet compassionate study of a life in freefall. A collection of photos about New York’s vibrant Puerto Rican community, Bacalaitos and Fireworks, was laid out in 1991 but only printed in 2011. Gottfried grew up in an apartment above her father’s hardware store in Coney Island, and later on the Lower East Side, places she returned to repeatedly in her work. She took night classes in Photography at FIT because, she said, it was what her parents could afford. Her classmates and teachers were all male. Afterward, she took a few of the traditional photo assistant jobs but she once said, “They didn’t think women could do the work or carry the equipment.” She spent much of her career developing images for an advertising agency. Her book Mommie attests to the importance of family in her life. It portrays three generations of Gottfried women: grandmother, mother, sister. The grandmother emerges as fiercely independent and idiosyncratic. (Gottfried loved photographing her grandmother kissing her mother on the lips to say goodbye.) With profound intimacy, the book bears witness to the mother’s agonizing final illness and death. “I was trying to stop time,” Gottfried explained, “which of course I couldn’t do.” There is joy, too: Late in life, her sister decided to have a baby. The cycle of birth and death in Mommie manages to be both archetypal and achingly particular. Time named it Best Photobook of 2016.
Largely absent from the work is the artist’s younger brother, comedian Gilbert Gottfried, though the siblings were close, and they encouraged each other in their careers. “In the early years,” Gilbert recalled in a conversation with Hue, “New York was totally different. There were bombed-out areas—like war zones, practically. But Arlene loved how they looked. She saw it all affectionately.” Her best work captures the city’s misfits and the marginalized, with whom she identified. “I don’t think they’re freaks, because then I’d be a freak too,” she once said. Daniel Cooney, whose gallery represents her work, said humanity is her hallmark: “There’s never a picture where she’s looking down at someone, judging them, or laughing at them.” Gottfried loved to wander, and one advantage of her easy identification with strangers is that she was comfortable everywhere. “I feel at home in a lot of different places,” she said. Though her family were nonobservant Jews, in the early 1990s she became fascinated with a Pentecostal gospel choir, made up largely of African-Americans. One day, she once explained, she felt moved to join the singers: “The same force that pulled me to them pulled me further. It was a long process to learn to sing that way, with all your might.” Her mother dubbed her “the singing photographer.” Gottfried published a book of photos about the group, The Eternal Light. It wasn’t until she was in her 50s that she began to publish monographs. Cooney produced her first solo, commercial gallery show in 2012. Perhaps Gottfried was right when she told her brother, “They’ll recognize me when I’m dead.” After her death, major publications ran her images, along with thoughtful appraisals. Gothamist called her an “NYC treasure.” Though she continued to photograph until last year, shooting in both black and white (which she printed herself) and color (she was heartbroken when Kodak discontinued Kodachrome), the early work remains the most striking. Gottfried felt New York had become less interesting over time. The New Yorker said her images show “a city that’s been priced out of its own identity.” They also record moments when an artist looked at our strange, strange world and felt an uncanny glimmer of recognition. The images on these pages were recently on view in FIT’s new Art and Design Gallery in the Fred P. Pomerantz Art and Design Center Lobby, in an exhibition called The Future Is … the Human Experience.
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“It’s kind of a gift and a stroke of luck when all the elements come together and you get a good picture.” —Arlene Gottfried
Purim, vintage cibochrome, 16 by 20 inches, c. 1970s. 18 Winter 2018–19
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PERIOD. BEGINNING OF STORY How two entrepreneurial sisters are helping women everywhere stay on top of their cycles
Clockwise from top left: Monthly Gift founders Lawrence and Scotti; Dear Kate underwear is stylish and leak-resistant; the company sends a monthly box of tampons, pads, and/or liners in the mail; Monthly Gift’s app helps users keep track of their cycles.
best, most comfortable, and most stylish on the market. The absorbent, antibacterial polyester microfiber, originally developed as an HIV blood barrier, is made without plastic, so it’s light and breathable and doesn’t feel like wearing a diaper. “You could blow out a candle through it,” Scotti says. The sisters purchased the company in late 2017 and have already delivered to customers in 70 countries. “There’s such a stigma that goes along with period products,” Lawrence says. “But our customers cannot believe their period underwear are the sexiest ones they own.” —JONATHAN VATNER
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All photos by Andrea Navarro except portrait by Jessica Naissant.
n 2015, Kimmy Scotti, Production Management ’07, Jewelry Design ’04, was in the bathroom at her former employer, an investor and business incubator, when she realized her period had arrived—and “for the zillionth time,” she wasn’t prepared. “I was living a pretty tech-centric life; I had an app for everything, a delivery service for everything,” she says. “But all the period-tracker apps looked like they were for little kids.” She suspected they were designed by men. She called her younger sister, LisaMarie Lawrence, Interior Design ’09, and pitched her idea: a useful, sleekly designed period-tracker app and coordinated delivery service that sends a monthly box of tampons, pads, and liners for on-the-go millennials. “Kimmy said, ‘Would you stop what you’re doing to help me build this company?’” Lawrence recalls. “I said, ‘100 percent.’ If it was my sister’s idea, I knew I could get behind it.” They called it Monthly Gift. Scotti became CEO, Lawrence COO. Between them, the sisters had all the necessary experience to launch a startup. Lawrence was a New York–based head of global sales and specifications (that is, product selections) for Kohler Co., the manufacturing company known for high-end kitchen and bath fixtures; before that, she traveled the country, designing dream renovations for the ABC TV show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. And Scotti was an experienced entrepreneur and investor. While at FIT, she ran her own jewelry label that sold at Bloomingdale’s. She is a founding partner of 8VC, a San Francisco–based venture capital fund, leading investments in companies such as Blink Health, which provides access to low prescription prices; MakeSpace, a full-service storage company; and uBiome, which has developed key technology to sequence the human microbiome, the organisms inside our bodies that affect our health. Fundraising for Monthly Gift initially presented a challenge. “Investors tend to be male, and they don’t really love spending their time hearing about period products,” Scotti says. “But focusing on the science of our product gets them excited.” As it turns out, there is indeed quite a bit of science in the field of absorbent materials. Tampons are a class 2 medical device, regulated by the FDA. When Monthly Gift customers asked for an organic version, Scotti and Lawrence quickly discovered that conventional tampons already on the market were in fact safer and just as environmentally friendly. But they found a sustainable, nontoxic replacement for (or supplement to) tampons in Dear Kate, a washable, leak-resistant, stain-resistant underwear that Scotti and Lawrence felt was the
RE BUILD ING
What I learned while volunteering in Puerto Rico
All photos by Andrea Navarro except portrait by Jessica Naissant.
By Andrea Navarro, Advertising and Marketing Communications ’18
Clockwise from top right: Students mixed cement and repaired the roofs of Puerto Rico homes; Yokahú Tower in El Yunque National Forest, which Navarro saw while exploring the island on free days; students repaired homes that had become unlivable; Navarro scraped damaged, rain-soaked foam and paint from a roof.
The only rules are drink your water and don’t die. This was one of the first things my volunteer group was told upon arriving in Puerto Rico for a two-week service trip in August. I was part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative. From June through August, students from SUNY and CUNY schools could volunteer for two weeks with on-site nonprofits for academic credit, a small stipend, and the satisfaction of knowing we did something to help. More than a year after Hurricane Maria, the island is still in shambles. Approximately 3,000 people died, and more than 4,000 homes were damaged. Many people lost their jobs, especially those in the fishing industry. Some people in Naguabo, the town where we spent most of our time working, went as long as three months without grid power or safe drinking water. At times, however, being in Puerto Rico felt better than the statistics made it sound. It could be that the food is wonderful (you haven’t truly lived until you’ve tried shrimp mofongo, made with mashed green plantains and spiced with abundant garlic and salt) or that the beaches are warm and the rainforests lush. Or, more likely, the fact that Puerto Ricans are resilient and generous to a fault. Case in point: Vanessa, the owner of one of the houses we were working to repair, would offer us lunch most days, despite the cost and effort of feeding more than 15 volunteers. Her home was wrecked, at times without electricity and with a persistent humidity stench that wouldn’t go away. Months after, water would still leak into almost every room of the house on rainy days—basically every day. Our job was to make sure that no more damage could happen. By getting rid of fallen trees and debris, mixing cement for filling holes and repairing cracks, power-washing huge amounts of dirt, and coating the roofs with special paint, we ensured that houses could resist rain and wind.
The physical labor could be exhausting. The sun was so intense I felt my skin scorching, and the rain was so cold it gave me full body shivers. I would remind myself and my group, “Hey, only two more days and we’re done. We can do this.” It was motivating to think this way, but it also made me realize that for us, it was a countdown. For the homeowners whose roofs still leaked and whose power was still unreliable 10 months after the hurricane, it was their reality. They could not simply leave it behind. The thought was sobering, and it motivated me to work even harder. The governor is continuing the NY Stands with Puerto Rico program in 2019. If you want help the people of Puerto Rico, considering donating through the organization Public Good.
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Nina From Elle to Project Runway, Nina Garcia ’92 is a major force in fashion
by Raquel Laneri
Portrait by Joe Carrotta ’17
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hen Nina Garcia walks into the Hearst Tower and rides the sleek, modern elevators to the
Now Garcia is back where she belongs. This time, she’s running the show. “It feels really great,” Garcia says. Also: intense. If Elle was
Elle magazine offices, she can’t
like an old boyfriend before, now it’s more like a (very needy)
help but get emotional.
husband. When Garcia first left the magazine, legacy publica-
“It feels like coming home,” the editor-in-chief says.
Garcia, Marketing: Fashion and Related Industries ’92,
tions barely acknowledged the internet. Now, in addition to landing cover stars, brainstorming story ideas, and keeping up relationships with brands and designers (to secure garments
made her name at Elle, spearheading its fashion coverage
and exclusive interviews), Garcia has to ensure that every piece
from 2000 to 2008 and bringing a brash sensibility to the
of “content” that appears on the website—not to mention
glossy that made it edgier and more youthful than American
Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter—adheres to the brand she
competitors Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, known for their
has established, one she defines as “bold, colorful, optimistic,
unapproachable hauteur. Elle was also the place she worked
sexy, and smart.”
when she became a household name as a tough-love judge on the reality series Project Runway, which debuted in 2004 (and is still on the air). But after a very public ousting at the magazine in 2008,
“The hardest part is finding enough hours in the day!” she says. But if anyone can deal with the demands of the 21st-century magazine, it is Garcia. After all, the editor has long been ahead
Garcia spent 10 years at rival Marie Claire, stalking Elle from
of the curve. She jumped on the reality-TV bandwagon early
afar like, as she once told the website Business of Fashion, “the
with Project Runway, and fired up her social media accounts
boyfriend you’re always pining for.”
before it was de rigueur. She has more than half a million Instagram followers—far more than InStyle editor-in-chief Laura Brown (230,000) or former Teen Vogue editor and well-known millennial influencer Elaine Welteroth (300,000). That kind of reach and openminded approach is what prompted Joanna Coles, then chief content officer of Hearst Magazines, to lure Garcia back to Elle. “She understands the multiplatform world and embraced it early on, becoming one of fashion’s first social media influencers,” Coles said in a statement. “Nina is a force of personality, and she’ll bring her energy, her unique sensibility and style to Elle, a brand she knows so well.”
day,” says Martin Hoops, Elle’s design director. “She encourages collaboration, has impeccable taste, ardently welcomes new ideas, and inspires the people around her to push themselves in the best way possible.”
Zac Posen, Heidi Klum, alumnus Michael Kors, and Garcia at Project Runway’s February 2013 fashion show. Of these, only Garcia has remained on the show.
Everett Collection Inc / Alamy Stock Photo
“Nina is someone who makes you excited to come to work every
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inotchka “Nina” Garcia grew up far away
York, and enrolled at FIT with the more pragmatic goal of
from the New York—or for that matter,
studying fashion merchandising.
European—fashion world. She was born in 1965 in Barranquilla, Colombia, a
prohibited from getting a job during her time at FIT. But the
bustling port town and cultural center
college helped place her in various internships, including a
that nurtured writers including Gabriel
life-changing gig at Perry Ellis, then run by a rebellious young
García Márquez, as well as the singer Shakira. “The fashion in Colombia was always vibrant,” she recalls,
designer named Marc Jacobs. “I worked in their fashion closets, helped the public
but to see haute couture, Garcia had to go to the newsstand
relations department, and greeted guests,” she says. “It was an
in her town’s international hotel. Every month, she would beg
incredible scene, with Keith Richards, Steven Meisel, Christy
her father for money to buy such treasures as Paris Elle and
Turlington, and Naomi Campbell showing up at the showroom.”
American Vogue, cutting up the pages and creating her own
Garcia’s time at Perry
collages and magazines, and dreaming of a glamorous life of
Ellis also coincided with
clothes and beauty.
Jacobs’s visionary 1992
When she was 15, Garcia—out at a restaurant with
Everett Collection Inc / Alamy Stock Photo
Because she was an international student, she was
“grunge collection,” which
friends—got caught in the middle of a mafia shooting. Cocaine
shocked the fashion world
cartels were taking over the city, and Garcia’s parents decided
with its tattered flannel
to send her to the United States, where she joined her older
shirts, knit beanies, and
sister and enrolled in a tony all-girls high school in Wellesley,
dissolute attitude. “It created
such a huge convulsion—he
“My parents always encouraged me to work hard and emphasized the importance of education,” she says. Garcia attended Boston University and later went to Paris to study fashion design at ESMOD. But she felt the pull of New
Above left: As editor-inchief, Garcia has brought the biggest celebrities of the moment to the covers of Elle, including Nicki Minaj and Kim Kardashian. Left: Garcia looked fashionable (and adorable) on a visit to New York City at 4 years old.
was fired,” Garcia says. “I still remember the faces that I saw backstage.” (Even Jacobsbooster and legendary fashion
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Nina’s Fall/Winter 2018–19 Picks
critic Cathy Horyn was aghast, though she has since reevaluated her initial pan.) Garcia adds: “At the time I wasn’t aware that I was witnessing such a big moment in fashion history.” Working so closely with the media at Perry Ellis pushed Garcia to pursue a career in magazines, and she landed a fashion assistant job at the now-defunct women’s magazine Mirabella. By 2000, she was named the fashion director of Elle.
he media landscape has utterly transformed since Garcia’s first go-round at Elle. But she
Over-the-top outerwear “Tailoring is such a big trend,” Garcia says, particularly for outerwear. Among her favorites: Balenciaga’s cartoonish 3D jackets (left) and oversized overcoats from Calvin Klein and Stella McCartney.
has handled the shifts more adroitly than most. At FIT, she learned to “say yes” to everything, and that hard-working, up-for-anything attitude has put her in the
forefront of social media and, of course, TV. When Project Runway debuted back in 2004, the concept of a reality show, let alone a competition-based one, was brand new. “I had no idea [it] was going to be such a success—I was actually quite nervous to go on the show,” Garcia says. “But I felt it was an opportunity that I needed to take advantage of. “The show has exposed so many to the ins and outs of fashion,” she adds. Runway, which is gearing up for its 17th season, has also helped spur the democratization of fashion, making audiences crave runway-worthy clothes and trends and pushing the industry to make them more widely available. “Fashion is much more accessible to people all over the world,” Garcia says. “You no longer need to spend an obscene amount of money to have the latest styles.” Or, crucially, have a stick-thin figure. “Just look at Christian Siriano,” Garcia says of Project
Dynasty decadence “The ’80s are back,” Garcia says. You can find nearly every trend from the decade at your department store, but it’s the brash, look-at-me hauteur that stands out the most: from Saint Laurent’s sequined looks (right) and Marc Jacobs’s neon-hued, broad-shouldered jackets to Versace’s showy throwback prints and tartan minis.
Runway’s greatest success story, who took home the gold in “He leads a successful fashion brand that’s a red carpet favorite of today’s top celebs,” such as Saturday Night Live’s Leslie Jones, voluptuous Mad Men star Christina Hendricks, and Whoopi Goldberg. That new, inclusive approach to fashion, which Garcia herself has helped pioneer, is what she, as the first Latina editor-in-chief of a major American fashion magazine, wants Elle to embody. So far, she’s made an effort to keep Elle’s pages reflective of the world. Recent cover stars include MexicanAmerican pop star Selena Gomez and Kim Kardashian, and its fashion spreads have included a diverse array of models, of all different colors and body types. “I think every industry can benefit from diverse minds, and I’m proud to be Latina and to be able to bring a unique perspective,” she says, adding that she hopes more fashion magazines and companies hire different voices. “Those are all things I want to make sure we emphasize in each issue.”
Sci-fi chic The fall/winter runways were awash in metallic silver. Take Calvin Klein’s tinfoil-looking shifts or Paco Rabanne’s mod-influenced chainmail. “It makes me dream of space travel,” Garcia says. Allison Janney (left) wore a Star Trek– fabulous Bibhu Mohapatra ’99 gown to the 2018 BAFTA Awards.
Top: DPA Picture Alliance / Alamy Stock Photo. Middle and bottom: Alpha Photo / Alamy Stock Photo
Season 4, and has since filled his shows with plus-size models.
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Joe Carrotta ’17 Cameron Wilson
THE PUBLIC EYE
Shamir’s untitled sculpture in its new home.
The restoration was undertaken by Wilson Conservation, LLC, one of New York City’s most respected conservation firms. The company, co-owned by Jackie Blumenthal Wilson, Restoration ’93, has conserved and restored outdoor sculptures at Herald Square, Madison Square Park, Princeton University, and the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue. Cronbach (1908–2001), like many artists of his generation, was hired by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to create public art. He was a political activist whose work dealt with the working class, art as a social force, and the relationship between art and landscape. Known primarily for public art, including at the Social Security Building in Washington, D.C., and the University of Minnesota Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, Cronbach also completed sculpture commissions for the Smithsonian American Art Museum, in Washington, as well as the U.N. General Assembly Meditation Room in New York. Also back on campus is an untitled work by Ami Shamir (1932–2007), an Israeli-American sculptor and stained-glass artist. Most of Shamir’s work is associated with Jewish themes, and linked to synagogues and Holocaust memorials. The 12-foot-tall abstract piece at FIT dates from the 1970s, and is typical of the public art movement of the time. It appears to represent a figure group with garment industry–related tools. After restoration by Wilson Conservation, the work now stands in front of the Dubinsky Student Center’s Style Shop. Students have been spotted sitting on its base, showing it’s already integrated into the life of the institution, as public art should be. —LINDA ANGRILLI
Eye of Fashion returned to its longtime home outside the Goodman Center, on the southwest corner of 27th and Seventh, on September 22. The 18-by-10-foot bronze sculpture, created by Robert Cronbach in 1976, had spent a year and a half at an art restoration facility in the Bronx, getting a much-needed facelift. The interior steel armature had rusted and showed serious deterioration, and the surface, once a shiny gold, was dark, dull, and dirty; weather, pollution, and age had taken a toll. After repair and cleaning, a protective patina was applied to the surface. The patina is a gleaming, warm brown that simulates the look of natural oxidation, so Eye of Fashion looks both refreshed and integral to the site.
Austin Jensen ’18
Two sculptures return to campus, repaired and refreshed
Top left: The sculpture was removed in pieces. Above, from top: The interior armature needed repair; the surface was hand-polished in preparation for refinishing; Wilson applied a protective patina, mimicking the look of oxidation; the piece was reinstalled at night, when there’s less foot and vehicle traffic; Eye of Fashion, restored.
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Weaver Mama Cartridge pen and watercolor on paper, 2016 On her 2016–17 sabbatical, Reim documented a family of weavers in the Dominican Republic. The matriarch and her nine children sat under a tree and handwove messenger bags, baskets, and other functional accessories from fronds grown in their yard, creating a sustainable business. She depicted their lives and livelihood with compassion. “Visual artists can do research, too,” she says.
Career highlights of Melanie Reim, this year’s Society of Illustrators Distinguished Educator in the Arts By Jonathan Vatner and Alexandra Mann
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o Melanie Reim, acting associate dean of FIT’s School of Art and Design, illustration isn’t only about drawing, it’s about thinking. “When you draw something, you really infuse your opinion into it,” she says. “It’s about assessing what’s important and how to put that in the forefront of your picture.” These documentary images, highlights from her prolific career, exemplify her distinctive point of view—and her lightning-fast pen. Her work is featured in several books about drawing and illustration, including The Art of Urban Sketching, and has appeared in many solo and group exhibitions, including Another Woman’s Life at Nassau Community College in 2016. And most recently, in honor of National Geographic’s Year of the Bird campaign, she was an artist in residence at the Cincinnati Zoo, documenting penguins and several near-extinct bird species being bred at the zoo. She’s not just a master of reportage illustration; she’s a beloved teacher, too. In addition to teaching BFA and MFA Illustration classes, Reim has taught many times over the past 17 years at the Altos de Chavón School of Design in the Dominican Republic; in 2006, she received a Fulbright award to retool that school’s art curriculum and assessment tools, conduct a master workshop in figure drawing, document the sugarcane workers, and teach their children. In May, she was honored with the Society of Illustrators 2018 Distinguished Educator in the Arts Award. “Her classes are inspirational, entertaining, challenging, and informative,” said fellow faculty member Bil Donovan ’78, when presenting the award, “leaving a lasting impression on anyone under her caring tutelage.” But if you know her, don’t ask her to draw you. “My drawings are not pretty,” she says. “No matter how elegant a line I try to draw, that’s just not me. It’s guttural and dirty. I don’t like to draw people I know—it always turns into an awkward moment.”
After her sabbatical, Reim enhanced some of the sketches with cut-up paper, yarn, and painted tin. Yellow House was recognized by the American Illustration–American Photography annual competition in 2018.
Yellow House Mixed media collage on Masonite board, 2018
Pressing 1 Graphite on vellum, 2007 With support from a grant from FIT’s Center for Excellence in Teaching, Reim tagged along on the Global Fashion Management seminar’s tour of Hong Kong factories; her drawings help to prepare future students for the intense conditions they will encounter there. Photography wasn’t allowed, so she sketched quickly as they walked, and later added details from memory. “You have to learn what’s important to get down,” she says. “You can’t fuss with someone’s eyelashes.” The sketches were exhibited several times at FIT, elsewhere in New York State, and in the Dominican Republic.
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South Africa Three Ladies Graphite, gesso, and gouache on paper, 2009 Reim is inspired by working women all over the world. On a drive in Durban, South Africa, she pulled out her sketchpad when she saw these three women on the side of the road, walking to work. As she drew, farmers throughout the countryside were burning their sugarcane in preparation for the harvest, and to this day, the painting evokes for her that sweet, smoky odor.
Need a Lingerie Brush pen and ink on paper, 2018 Reim sometimes sketches FIT’s Future of Fashion runway show, the hotly anticipated annual presentation of Fashion Design student work. This year, she drew a charming—and often hilarious— series at the fitting day in advance of the show. “The comments were too good not to include,” she says.
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Muslim Girls Are Feminist Graphite on paper with charcoal pencil, 2017 Reim, a passionate advocate for human rights, often draws protesters in the thick of a rally. “I don’t like speaking in crowds, I don’t like big parties, but put me in the middle of a demonstration, and everything else gets zoned out. I feed on it.” In addition to sketching the crowds, she was intrigued by this activist covered in “No!” buttons at the Today, I Am a Muslim Too rally in Times Square. Reim was drawn to the activist because she was stylishly dressed and outspoken but also clearly devoted to her culture and history.
From I Was Born a Slave, illustrated by Melanie Reim Linoleum cut, rice paper, and thread, 1997 To illustrate this children’s book about Harriet Jacobs, a slave who fled to the North, Reim combined hand and digital techniques. For the center image, she created the crazy-quilt edges by drawing historically accurate patterns, then scanning them into a computer to make the repeats. The stitching is historically accurate, too.
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1967 Cathi Pierro Stoler, Fashion Buying and Merchandising, is an award-winning author of mysteries, most recently Bar None about an East Village lounge owner who investigates a murder. Her next two, Nick of Time and Out of Time, about a crime-busting professional blackjack player, will debut in 2019. For most of her career, Stoler worked as an advertising copywriter for fashion, travel, and consumer products. The lifelong mystery reader took a writing course a decade ago and discovered her skill for crafting plots and planting clues.
A TRIUMPHANT RETURN Judith Kronick Mindell, Apparel Design
Pierre, watercolor, 15 by 11 inches, 2018.
after the Art League of Long Island noticed her watercolor on the poetry page of Creations Magazine, a holistic wellness publication that she designs. Through her business, Guarino Graphics, she created logos and marketing materials for 30 years, but now she teaches almost every day. “To discover teaching at this stage of my life is more of a shock than anything.”
1978 The cover of Stoler’s latest mystery.
1971 Elizabeth Cassidy, Fashion Illustration and Advertising Design, has distributed more than 70,000 small cards with inspiring messages and artwork of her own creation called Little Love Letters: A Peaceful Revolution. She began the project after the Pulse nightclub massacre in 2016, as a way to spread hope and comfort in an increasingly cruel world. She and dozens of allies worldwide hand them out and leave them in libraries, grocery stores, and other public places. “It’s a little card to say, ‘I see you. You matter.’”
Both sides of a Little Love Letter.
1975 Jan Bilancia Guarino, Illustration (Fashion), paints cheerful watercolors and teaches painting at art leagues and libraries across Long Island as well as on leisure tours domestically and abroad. She came to teaching in 2014
Sid Hoeltzell, Photography, has shot food and liquor campaigns for Burger King, Wendy’s, Bacardi, Sauza Tequila, and many more. His captivating images are the product of a single good light, an unexpected angle, and a talented food stylist. The experienced home cook competed on the Fox reality competition MasterChef in 2018.
Hoeltzell won a federal suit after his photographs, taken for Joe’s Stone Crab, were used by others without his permission.
1981 Juan Manuel Alonso, Menswear Design and Marketing, painted a threestory mural for the LGBT Community Center of the Desert in Palm Springs, California. His paintings of ecstatic dancers are inspired by Afro-Cuban
Left: Kronick as a young woman. Right: Kronick donated these and other sketches to FIT’s Special Collections Unit. After more than 70 years, 91-year-old Judith Kronick Mindell returned to FIT in October to share memories of her student days in 1945, when the college occupied the top two floors of the Central High School of Needle Trades. She spoke to students, alumni, staff, and a large contingent of her family members in the John E. Reeves Great Hall, recounting what it was like to study fashion illustration and draping back when FIT was brand new. President Joyce F. Brown introduced Mindell’s talk, saying, “[She] was one of only 100 young people accepted—real pioneers participating in what Governor Thomas Dewey called ‘one of the most thrilling experiments launched in our state in my time.’ I can only imagine the kind of spunk, imagination, and courage it took for Kronick and Dr. Brown at those first students to pin their futures on an FIT in October. institution with no history whatever.” Mindell recalled that she and her classmates worked incredibly hard: “There was no time to socialize.” Her illustration teacher insisted that the students take their sketchbooks everywhere and draw all the time. Mindell regretted that she had to leave FIT after her first year. “It was during the war,” she said. “My family had no money.” But she learned discipline and organizational skills that have served her throughout her life. She worked at a custom dress boutique in the 1940s, and in the 1980s owned her own consignment shop in Connecticut. She also had a bountiful and rich family life. It was one of her granddaughters who came across a box of Mindell’s old fashion sketches and declared, “I’m calling FIT.” She did, leading to her grandmother’s talk during the college’s Legacy Week. While on campus, Mindell also recorded an oral history—and donated her sketches—to FIT’s Special Collections and College Archives. mythology and images of Josephine Baker. In prior years, he designed for WilliWear and Nino Cerruti and had his own line at Bergdorf Goodman. He was featured in Desert Migration, a 2015 documentary about 13 longtime HIV survivors in Palm Springs. “I’m still here after cancer and three heart attacks and back operations,” he says. “My expiration date has not come.” Bailarina, acrylic on canvas, 60 by 48 inches. In a class at FIT, famed Tiffany jewelry designer Donald Claflin taught Alonso to paint trompe l’oeil jewels.
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alumni notes Todd Magill, Fashion Design, designs and manufactures his own line, Magill, in Los Angeles. Formerly the design director for Jack Spade, and previously at Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger, he designs rugby shirts and other preppy standards that are colorful and rich with detail: sensuous fabrics, bound seams, and contrasting waistbands and linings. Magill has a loyal following in Japan; recently, the clothes have found their way into U.S. boutiques.
2002 Erin McClurg Kozlowski, Fashion Merchandising Management, is chief development officer for Special Olympics Florida. Reeling from the September 11 terrorist attacks, Kozlowski moved to Miami after graduation and worked in hospitality marketing until 2013, when, disillusioned by South Beach’s materialistic culture, she took a fundraising position at the Special Olympics. Her statewide team now raises $18 million annually through corporate sponsorships, black-tie galas, sporting events, grants, and a campaign at grocery store checkouts; the funds allow 47,000 people of all ages with intellectual disabilities to compete in 22 sports. “Development is just marketing,” she explains. “Instead of a product, I’m marketing an idea.”
Connie Aluoch, Fashion Design ’02, brings her expertise home
Aluoch promotes (and wears) Aulgah Nato and other Kenyan designers.
Magill’s Keaton Rugby, made with 100 percent cotton, heavy knit jersey.
1996 Afshan Durrani, Fashion Design, founded Complete Unknown, a line of animal-free handbags embroidered with edgy designs by a collective of artisans in Lucknow, India. Durrani, who also owns a fine embroidery company called Lost City Products, is helping preserve this traditional art form. The name, Complete Unknown, references a Bob Dylan lyric; to her, “it evokes things of surprising beauty that have not been seen before.”
Koslowski (right) with a check for the Special Olympics Florida from the Marlins Foundation.
2006 Bryant Small, Advertising and Marketing Communications, paints abstract canvases with alcohol inks. Traditionally used in crafting rather than fine art, isopropanol-based ink resembles an intensely pigmented, luminous watercolor. Small’s mother, an artist herself, introduced him to the medium two and a half years ago; within a few months, he found representation in a local gallery in Bayonne, New Jersey, thanks in part to the gallerist recognizing his work from Instagram. His paintings have hung in more than 60 shows across the country. A seasoned marketer, he recently launched Art Is the Brand, a company that helps artists and gallerists grow their business.
When Kenyan Connie Aluoch ’02 was working on her BFA in Fashion Design, she had a life-changing internship with the Ground Crew. Working with the highly respected fashion show management firm headed by Audrey Smaltz, Aluoch says, “I saw what she was doing backstage—dressing models, working with magazine editors, and I thought, ‘Why can’t I do this back home?’” After graduating, she returned to Kenya. She networked “at every fashion week in Africa,” and was appointed the youngest editor of Cosmopolitan Kenya. The publication folded after two years, but she persisted as a stylist, earning a master’s in fashion styling at the Instituto Marangoni in Milan. In 2011, she launched Connie Aluoch Styling Management. Today, her company employs two assistants and three social media managers. She writes a weekly column for The Nairobian, discussing fashion questions and highlighting local designers like Yvonne Odhiambo of Afrostreet Collections. Aluoch is also resident stylist for KTN, the Kenya Television Network. She dresses the station’s 50 anchors and reporters in clothes from Turkey, London, and the U.S. (Her style for TV personalities tends to be, she says, more “Western,” for broader appeal.) In September, Aluoch gave a talk at FIT and discussed her work, which also includes advertising campaigns for the fashion company Truworth’s. Working in Kenya can be difficult, she acknowledged. She wants to start an accessories line, but the country lags in manufacturing capacity. Her ambition, however, remains undaunted: “I want to build up the fashion industry in Kenya.” —ALEX JOSEPH
2013 The Scorpion embroidered crossbody bag, made of hand-embroidered polyurethane.
1997 Juli Oliver, Photography, is the founder of OrganizeNY, an organization service for individuals and businesses. She will help clients with any kind of tidying and purging but specializes in time management, paper organization, closet design, room design, and moving.
Family Jewels, alcohol ink on yupo paper, 40 by 60 inches, 2017.
Kristen Luong, Menswear, sources innovative, sustainable materials such as silkworm cocoons and recycled saris for her men’s and women’s wear brand, Kromagnon. The clothes, sewn and hand-printed with natural dyes in the Garment District, start at $250 for dresses and $500 for jackets. She is a member of the FIT Design Entrepreneurs Collaborative, a shared showroom and office, and the clothes sell in New York, Florida, and Switzerland boutiques, as well as online and in pop-up shops. Luong’s next project is a line of adaptive wear, designed with Xian Horn, an educator and activist with cerebral palsy.
Kromagnon’s Mackintosh jacket is made with recycled bottles salvaged from the ocean.
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2015 Joy Davis, Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice, opened Waller Gallery, a 700-squarefoot space in Baltimore devoted to the work of artists of color, who are underrepresented in the art world. She selects artists who “want to tell a story with their work and go beyond what we’re seeing to give more context.” She also runs Unravel, a popular fashion-history podcast, with her former classmates Dana Goodin ’16 and Jasmine Helm ’15.
2017 Alexander Andronescu, Fashion Design/Florence, creates a Middle East–inspired line of tailored outerwear called Alex of Arabia. He says the colorful, embroidered jackets represent a non-religious side of the region that many Americans don’t see. Andronescu, of Romanian descent,
Angely Martinez, Jewelry Design, won the Future of the Industry award from MJSA, an industry association of jewelry designers, for La Inspiración de una Mariposa, a string of sterling silver butterfly wings dotted with tiny synthetic rubies. The student project was inspired by the glasswing butterfly, which blends into the environment with its transparent wings. “I’m interested in how animals survive—how nature survives,” Martinez says. She also won second prize in the Accessories Council’s Next Generation Award competition for her capstone collection, which incorporated a range of materials: vinyl, silver, rubber, and glass.
Michelle Porrazzo, Fashion Design, helped fit Bruce Springsteen and his family for the 2018 Tony Awards in June. Springsteen’s wife, Patti, was wearing a custom gown by FIT alumna Christy Rilling, for whom Porrazzo was interning (she was hired shortly after), and Porrazzo tagged along to their apartment to tailor Bruce’s suit and his daughter Jessica’s dress. This fall, she began the master’s program in Fashion and Textile Studies: History,
The Springsteen family at the 2018 Tony Awards.
Theory, Museum Practice. Alex of Arabia’s Omani shirt and Arabesque pants.
Kae Burke, Fashion Design ’08, and Anya Sapozhnikova, Fashion Design
La Inspiración de una Mariposa.
Davis and Helm gave a keynote address at LIM College in October.
Burke and Sapozhnikova swing on trapezes at the House of Yes. “I run slow in the pizza costume, so you will have to come to me,” Anya Sapozhnikova shouts to a fellow performer before the start of the Dirty Circus: Variety Show at her venue, the House of Yes, in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Bedazzled and feathered, Sapozhnikova looks like the love child of a Vegas showgirl and a New York slice. Backstage, co-founder/business partner/best friend Kae Burke prepares for her role as “Carl,” the night’s mustachioed emcee. His mop-top hair, tinted aviators, and wide-lapel brown leather jacket recall the ’70s. These are typical costumes for Dirty Circus, a monthly three-act showcase that Burke and Sapozhnikova curate, host, and perform in. It’s a 21st-century vaudeville of the brilliant and absurd. When Sapozhnikova took over the lease on a 2,500-square-foot loft space at the border of Brooklyn and Queens in 2007, she had no idea the House of Yes would become a globally recognized destination for the weird. Burke quickly joined her in creating a live/ work space to practice and teach circus arts (aerial and trapeze), offer both performance space and lodging for touring artists, and throw the occasional dance party. Ten years, one house fire, one lost lease, and one Burke and Sapozhnikova. $90,000 Kickstarter campaign later, the House, now in its third iteration, has transformed into a full-fledged performance space and nightclub with a seating capacity of 165 and standing (well, dancing) capacity of 550. Burke and Sapozhnikova employ upwards of 50 full-time staff and a rotating cast of performers, dancers, designers, installation artists, and DJs. The House has expanded beyond its four walls, with performances and immersive experiences at festivals like Bonnaroo, Envision, and Art Basel Miami. But it still celebrates the unexpected, revels in the random and—though the founders no longer live on the premises—welcomes everyone home. Between 10 and 100 performers submit proposals each month, and Sapozhnikova notes that they still “absolutely seek out artists in order to have a diverse roster.” Burke stresses that “It’s so important to us to make sure that all styles, bodies, and colors are showcased on our stages. We want all of our attendees to look at our performers and see themselves.” At the Dirty Circus that evening, a contortionist shoots a bow and arrow with her feet while in a headstand. A sword swallower and a human pincushion perform to a haunting rendition of “Send in the Clowns.” A drag queen lip-synchs Rep. Maxine Waters’s oft-quoted “reclaiming my time” interjection, set to a techno beat. There is also a raffle, and the winner gets the best seat in the house: a bubble bath in a vintage clawfoot tub, plus unlimited free drinks. And the dance party hasn’t even started yet. —JULIANNA ROSE DOW
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began his journey into Middle Eastern culture after watching news footage of the Iraq war and realizing that the region was more complicated and interesting than it appeared on the news.
Photos courtesy of House of Yes
what inspires you?
Michael Putnam, Interior Design ’12 Flowers have an energy. They can change the energy of a space—and change a person’s mood. A lot of floral designers miss how you can interact with space and create something transformative; you’re thinking from all different angles. That’s something I learned studying interior design at FIT. I loved it, but I didn’t like sitting at a desk. I’ve always had a passion for nature. As a child, I would visit my aunt in California, and I remember being in her flower garden with these big, big cosmos above my head. I’m insanely tactile, I love working with my hands, and I love instant gratification. It all comes together in floral design.
The Putnam & Putnam aesthetic is definitely romantic. There’s a sense of movement, an organic, alive feeling, as if it’s growing out of the vessel. And there’s always a sense of drama. Some of our favorite flowers are rare varieties of ranunculus from Japan, and incredible dahlias, some local and some from Holland. We also include more common stuff—yarrow, zinnias. Working with plants is like painting: the colors, the textures, how you layer them. We’re creating ephemeral art. The thing that makes me most excited is that it’s not just an object. You see it through all the stages, all the changes until it dies. It becomes a memory.
Michael Putnam and his husband, Darroch, are behind the floral design brand Putnam & Putnam, known for romantic designs that are deliciously tumbled and tangled yet perfectly balanced. Clients include Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Jason Wu, and Adam Lippes. The Putnams’ book, Flower Color Guide (Phaidon), featuring 400 species of blooms arranged by color, from pure white to purple-black, is a mix-and-match tool for painters, fashion designers, gardeners, and anyone wishing to create pleasing flower arrangements.
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227 West 27th Street New York, NY 10001-5992 return service requested
DRAWING THE FUTURE IN CHALK
Visiting art galleries has long been a popular New York City activity, but FIT brings the gallery to New Yorkers with the annual ChalkFIT project. Seventh-semester Illustration students used chalk mixed with water to create bold, colorful murals on the façade of the Pomerantz Art and Design Center this fall. “We’re turning FIT inside out,” said Associate Professor Dan Shefelman, the project’s founder. The outdoor exhibition shared its theme, The Future Is … The Human Experience, with a student, faculty, and alumni show in the new Art and Design exhibition space in the Pomerantz lobby. The 50-plus artworks touched on a diverse range of subjects, from autism to the gender spectrum. One popular piece (left) depicted Colin Kaepernick as Captain America. For the first time, the class worked with the augmented-reality app Arilyn to animate the murals. When viewers used the app to scan an artwork, it came to life on their smartphones. Like many galleries, ChalkFIT gave artists an opportunity to find potential clients. “I have a building I’m interested in putting a mural in,” said a passerby, “so I’ve been looking for someone to help me.” —Vanessa Machir
THE FREE ARILYN APP
Scan each panel to see it come to life!
Left: Illustration student Colby Rosenthal paints Colin Kaepernick as Captain America. Below: The murals were created by Aki Akama, Peter DeVito, Jamie Chiang, Jamie Ramsden, Joshuah Filemon, and Dakota Haraden. Photos by Smiljana Peros.
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