Page 1

Alumni Magazine of the Fashion Institute of Technology

volume 1 | number 2 | spring 2008


16

12 6

Hue is the alumni magazine of the Fashion Institute of Technology, a State University of New York college of art and design, business and technology. It is published three times a year by the Division of Advancement and External Relations, Seventh Alumni Magazine of the Fashion Institute of Technology

Avenue at 27 Street, Room B905, New York City 10001-5992, 212.217.4700. Email: hue@fitnyc.edu

volume 1 | number 2 | spring 2008

Features

6

Will the Real FIT Please Stand Up? How market research helps the college

8

More Than a Drop of Glamour Steven Stipelman ’63 reminisces about 40 years as a top fashion illustrator

12

The Life and Times of Mannequins So beautiful, so creepy, these “girls” will wear anything

16

More Than Lonely A young man(nequin) ponders the nature of his existence

18

What’s in Store New ventures, including a Greenwich Village boutique, from John Bartlett ’88

22

A Tale of Three Cities Three Global Fashion Management graduates, two new businesses

24

Sphinx of Fashion The brilliant couturier Madame Grès is highly esteemed yet still mysterious

26

Added Value Kaffe Fassett’s multicolored knits

Vice President for Advancement and External Relations Loretta Lawrence Keane Assistant Vice President for Communications Carol Leven

Editor Linda Angrilli Managing Editor Alex Joseph Staff Writer Gregory Herbowy Art Direction and Design Empire Design Studio

Address letters to the editor, Hue Magazine. Hue magazine on the web: fitnyc.edu/hue

Departments

4

The ask FIT alumni are everywhere. Tell us where you’ve found them

4

Hue’s news Recent developments at and related to FIT

10

Artifact Geisha calling cards. Who knew?

11

I contact A graduate student on burlesque, and the nature of history

23

Faculty on… How FMM students learn their worth in the industry

27

27/7 Question asked on West 27th: Who would you like to be?

8 18

28 Alumni notes Find out what your classmates are up to 31

Sparks Shooting photos in his parents’ homeland, an alumnus discovers a different Colombia

24

Covers: Front, mannequin by Mondo; back, mannequin by Adel Rootstein. Photos by Paul Whicheloe

Sitings

On FIT’s website, www.fitnyc.edu Continuing and Professional Studies: fitnyc.edu/continuinged FIT job openings: fitnyc.edu/jobs Gallery of student work: fitnyc.edu/studentgalleries Gladys Marcus Library: fitnyc.edu/library The Museum at FIT: fitnyc.edu/museum Email the FIT Alumni Association: vicki_guranowski@fitnyc.edu

www.fitnyc.edu/hue




16

12 6

Hue is the alumni magazine of the Fashion Institute of Technology, a State University of New York college of art and design, business and technology. It is published three times a year by the Division of Advancement and External Relations, Seventh Alumni Magazine of the Fashion Institute of Technology

Avenue at 27 Street, Room B905, New York City 10001-5992, 212.217.4700. Email: hue@fitnyc.edu

volume 1 | number 2 | spring 2008

Features

6

Will the Real FIT Please Stand Up? How market research helps the college

8

More Than a Drop of Glamour Steven Stipelman ’63 reminisces about 40 years as a top fashion illustrator

12

The Life and Times of Mannequins So beautiful, so creepy, these “girls” will wear anything

16

More Than Lonely A young man(nequin) ponders the nature of his existence

18

What’s in Store New ventures, including a Greenwich Village boutique, from John Bartlett ’88

22

A Tale of Three Cities Three Global Fashion Management graduates, two new businesses

24

Sphinx of Fashion The brilliant couturier Madame Grès is highly esteemed yet still mysterious

26

Added Value Kaffe Fassett’s multicolored knits

Vice President for Advancement and External Relations Loretta Lawrence Keane Assistant Vice President for Communications Carol Leven

Editor Linda Angrilli Managing Editor Alex Joseph Staff Writer Gregory Herbowy Art Direction and Design Empire Design Studio

Address letters to the editor, Hue Magazine. Hue magazine on the web: fitnyc.edu/hue

Departments

4

The ask FIT alumni are everywhere. Tell us where you’ve found them

4

Hue’s news Recent developments at and related to FIT

10

Artifact Geisha calling cards. Who knew?

11

I contact A graduate student on burlesque, and the nature of history

23

Faculty on… How FMM students learn their worth in the industry

27

27/7 Question asked on West 27th: Who would you like to be?

8 18

28 Alumni notes Find out what your classmates are up to 31

Sparks Shooting photos in his parents’ homeland, an alumnus discovers a different Colombia

24

Covers: Front, mannequin by Mondo; back, mannequin by Adel Rootstein. Photos by Paul Whicheloe

Sitings

On FIT’s website, www.fitnyc.edu Continuing and Professional Studies: fitnyc.edu/continuinged FIT job openings: fitnyc.edu/jobs Gallery of student work: fitnyc.edu/studentgalleries Gladys Marcus Library: fitnyc.edu/library The Museum at FIT: fitnyc.edu/museum Email the FIT Alumni Association: vicki_guranowski@fitnyc.edu

www.fitnyc.edu/hue




The Museum at FIT’s Fashion and Textile History Gallery is now featuring Exoticism, a survey of 250 years of fashion inspired by diverse cultures around the world, from the age of colonialism to the rise of multiculturalism and globalization. On view are more than 70 looks by designers including Poiret, Saint Laurent, Kenzo, Yeohlee, and Vivienne Tam as well as Manish Arora (India), Alexandre Herchcovitch (Brazil), and Xuly Bët and Stoned Cherrie (Africa). The show runs through May 7.

Marty Heitner

what’s happening on campus

A new computer lab for Fashion Merchandising Management students was dedicated in November in honor of the late Henry Doneger, founder and chairman of the Doneger Group, a global fashion merchandising company. The facility’s 25 stateof-the-art Dell computers are used in such courses as Planning and Allocation and Web Product Management. The Doneger family is a longtime supporter of FIT. Today, Henry’s son Abbey is a vice president of the Educational Foundation, the college’s advisory and fundraising body. In November 2006, the Doneger Group celebrated its 60th anniversary with an event that raised $700,000 to benefit the Henry Doneger Scholarship Fund at FIT.

Rita Doneger, wife of the late Henry Doneger; President Joyce F. Brown; Abbey Doneger

Insights from the classroom and beyond

and wife Valerie.

What’s the most unexpected place you’ve ever run into an FIT alum?

Roadtrip Nation Launches Tour at FIT

City rules prohibit daytime parking on the stretch of West 27th Street that bisects FIT’s campus, but exceptions were made on September 26 when two green RVs rumbled onto the block. The college was the kickoff site for the fall campus tour of Roadtrip Nation— a book-turned-TV-series-turnedmovement dedicated to encouraging young people to seek out their path in life through active exploration and an open mind. The popular PBS reality series follows graduating college students on a quintessential American pastime, the road trip, but with a twist. Armed with video cameras, they drive cross-country in an RTN RV, seek out exceptional professionals in varied fields—past subjects include an astrobiologist, a bullfighter, and former White House chief of staff John Podesta— and speak with them about their sometimes unconventional career paths. At FIT, RTN cofounder Mike Marriner and his team of volunteers (“roadies”) offered

tours of the RVs—whose ceilings were covered with autographs of luminaries who’ve appeared on the show—and spoke with students about launching their own journeys. It was their second visit to campus— the first was last spring—and both were made possible by Pam Zuckerman, associate professor of Career Services and avid RTN fan. “I’ve developed exercises from their books that I use in my career planning course,” she said. “I have my students watch the show. They truly respond to it.” Zuckerman said RTN was “impressed with the energy” of FIT, and that was one reason they decided to launch the current tour here. “FIT is a very unique campus,” Marriner said, “which aligns well with our mission to help students define their own roads in life.” Very well, it seems: A third visit, to lead off RTN’s spring campus tour, was scheduled for March 25.

Liberal Arts Dean Appointed

Kam Mak’s Stamp Act

Scott Stoddart has been named dean for the School of Liberal Arts, where he now oversees nine areas of study. He served as acting provost, dean of faculty, and vice president for academic affairs at Manhattanville College, and was executive director of the Northeast Modern Language Association. Stoddart, who has a PhD in American literature from the University of Illinois, was also professor of liberal arts and humanities at Nova Southeastern University, in Florida.

It’s not often that an artist’s stellar achievement can be bought at 41 cents a pop, but so it goes for Kam Mak, assistant professor of Illustration. On February 7, in celebration of Chinese New Year, the U.S. Postal Service introduced the first in a series of 12 stamps by Mak—each for a different animal in the Chinese zodiac, and each portraying one of the holiday’s traditional objects or rituals. In 2005, USPS art director Ethel Kessler, impressed by Mak’s “exquisite” work in a Society of Illustrators show, contacted him about the project. “This is my most significant assignment,” Mak says. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase my culture, and a great responsibility. [These stamps] are sent not just throughout the country, but all over the world.” The USPS unveiled the first stamp, celebrating the Year of the Rat, in ceremonies in two of the nation’s biggest Chinatowns, one in San Francisco, and the other in New York, only a few blocks from where the Hong Kong-born Mak was raised. Future stamps will be released annually through 2019.

Tennis Team in National Championship In October, FIT’s women’s tennis team won the NJCAA Region XV championship for the fifth time in seven years, guaranteeing them a berth at the May 2008 national championship in Tucson, AZ. Top seed Stephanie Banzet and Coach Lynn Cabot-Puro won the region’s player and coach of the year awards.

Email your story to hue@fitnyc.edu, or send it to the Editors at Hue Magazine. Submissions will be considered for publication in a future issue.

Kam Mak’s Year of the Rat

QUICK READ >> Pailin Nitibhon, Fashion Design ’07, winner of the second annual CosmoGIRL! Born to Lead Design Search, unveiled her collection at Macy’s in October. It was produced with a $10,000 grant from Macy’s and a partnership with Necessary Objects. >> Kleinfeld, Contrex Natural Mineral Water, and FIT collaborated on a wedding gown competition in which students designed water-themed bridal dresses. The winner, Karen Sabag, was awarded $5,000 for a gown inspired by waves and shells. >> Marc Gobé, CEO and executive director of the international branding and design firm Desgrippes Gobé Group New York, spoke in October on Emotional Branding: A Global Perspective. The event was part of the International Trade and Marketing Department’s Talking Trade lecture series.

what’s happening on campus

Exoticism in Museum

Marty Heitner

Doneger Computer Lab Dedicated

>> The Jewelry Design Department sponsored weekend Swarovski workshops on jewelry, accessories, and fashion techniques in December. All materials were provided by the famed crystal company. >> The fall 2007 Dean’s Forum featured Susan McGalla, president of American Eagle Outfitters. She spoke about her career and answered questions from students in the Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology. McGalla later returned to campus to conduct recruitment sessions with students.

SUNY Enrollment Sets Record In November, SUNY Interim Chancellor John B. Clark announced record-setting enrollment for fall 2007—the tenth consecutive year of growth for the university. SUNY’s overall enrollment grew by 2.2 percent to 426,891 students, an increase of 9,308 over the previous year. Fulltime enrollment reached an alltime high of 298,626. The university also admitted the largest freshman class in its history—74,149 students, an increase of 5.3 percent. SUNY is the largest comprehensive university system in the United States. It offers 7,669 degree and certificate programs on 64 campuses.

stamp for the USPS. Red lanterns, a common sight on Chinese New Year,

Steele’s Black Book

The Black Dress (HarperCollins 2007), the latest book by Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of The Museum at FIT, explores the enduring allure of black throughout fashion history.

are symbols of good fortune.



hue | spring 2008

www.fitnyc.edu/hue




The Museum at FIT’s Fashion and Textile History Gallery is now featuring Exoticism, a survey of 250 years of fashion inspired by diverse cultures around the world, from the age of colonialism to the rise of multiculturalism and globalization. On view are more than 70 looks by designers including Poiret, Saint Laurent, Kenzo, Yeohlee, and Vivienne Tam as well as Manish Arora (India), Alexandre Herchcovitch (Brazil), and Xuly Bët and Stoned Cherrie (Africa). The show runs through May 7.

Marty Heitner

what’s happening on campus

A new computer lab for Fashion Merchandising Management students was dedicated in November in honor of the late Henry Doneger, founder and chairman of the Doneger Group, a global fashion merchandising company. The facility’s 25 stateof-the-art Dell computers are used in such courses as Planning and Allocation and Web Product Management. The Doneger family is a longtime supporter of FIT. Today, Henry’s son Abbey is a vice president of the Educational Foundation, the college’s advisory and fundraising body. In November 2006, the Doneger Group celebrated its 60th anniversary with an event that raised $700,000 to benefit the Henry Doneger Scholarship Fund at FIT.

Rita Doneger, wife of the late Henry Doneger; President Joyce F. Brown; Abbey Doneger

Insights from the classroom and beyond

and wife Valerie.

What’s the most unexpected place you’ve ever run into an FIT alum?

Roadtrip Nation Launches Tour at FIT

City rules prohibit daytime parking on the stretch of West 27th Street that bisects FIT’s campus, but exceptions were made on September 26 when two green RVs rumbled onto the block. The college was the kickoff site for the fall campus tour of Roadtrip Nation— a book-turned-TV-series-turnedmovement dedicated to encouraging young people to seek out their path in life through active exploration and an open mind. The popular PBS reality series follows graduating college students on a quintessential American pastime, the road trip, but with a twist. Armed with video cameras, they drive cross-country in an RTN RV, seek out exceptional professionals in varied fields—past subjects include an astrobiologist, a bullfighter, and former White House chief of staff John Podesta— and speak with them about their sometimes unconventional career paths. At FIT, RTN cofounder Mike Marriner and his team of volunteers (“roadies”) offered

tours of the RVs—whose ceilings were covered with autographs of luminaries who’ve appeared on the show—and spoke with students about launching their own journeys. It was their second visit to campus— the first was last spring—and both were made possible by Pam Zuckerman, associate professor of Career Services and avid RTN fan. “I’ve developed exercises from their books that I use in my career planning course,” she said. “I have my students watch the show. They truly respond to it.” Zuckerman said RTN was “impressed with the energy” of FIT, and that was one reason they decided to launch the current tour here. “FIT is a very unique campus,” Marriner said, “which aligns well with our mission to help students define their own roads in life.” Very well, it seems: A third visit, to lead off RTN’s spring campus tour, was scheduled for March 25.

Liberal Arts Dean Appointed

Kam Mak’s Stamp Act

Scott Stoddart has been named dean for the School of Liberal Arts, where he now oversees nine areas of study. He served as acting provost, dean of faculty, and vice president for academic affairs at Manhattanville College, and was executive director of the Northeast Modern Language Association. Stoddart, who has a PhD in American literature from the University of Illinois, was also professor of liberal arts and humanities at Nova Southeastern University, in Florida.

It’s not often that an artist’s stellar achievement can be bought at 41 cents a pop, but so it goes for Kam Mak, assistant professor of Illustration. On February 7, in celebration of Chinese New Year, the U.S. Postal Service introduced the first in a series of 12 stamps by Mak—each for a different animal in the Chinese zodiac, and each portraying one of the holiday’s traditional objects or rituals. In 2005, USPS art director Ethel Kessler, impressed by Mak’s “exquisite” work in a Society of Illustrators show, contacted him about the project. “This is my most significant assignment,” Mak says. “It’s a great opportunity to showcase my culture, and a great responsibility. [These stamps] are sent not just throughout the country, but all over the world.” The USPS unveiled the first stamp, celebrating the Year of the Rat, in ceremonies in two of the nation’s biggest Chinatowns, one in San Francisco, and the other in New York, only a few blocks from where the Hong Kong-born Mak was raised. Future stamps will be released annually through 2019.

Tennis Team in National Championship In October, FIT’s women’s tennis team won the NJCAA Region XV championship for the fifth time in seven years, guaranteeing them a berth at the May 2008 national championship in Tucson, AZ. Top seed Stephanie Banzet and Coach Lynn Cabot-Puro won the region’s player and coach of the year awards.

Email your story to hue@fitnyc.edu, or send it to the Editors at Hue Magazine. Submissions will be considered for publication in a future issue.

Kam Mak’s Year of the Rat

QUICK READ >> Pailin Nitibhon, Fashion Design ’07, winner of the second annual CosmoGIRL! Born to Lead Design Search, unveiled her collection at Macy’s in October. It was produced with a $10,000 grant from Macy’s and a partnership with Necessary Objects. >> Kleinfeld, Contrex Natural Mineral Water, and FIT collaborated on a wedding gown competition in which students designed water-themed bridal dresses. The winner, Karen Sabag, was awarded $5,000 for a gown inspired by waves and shells. >> Marc Gobé, CEO and executive director of the international branding and design firm Desgrippes Gobé Group New York, spoke in October on Emotional Branding: A Global Perspective. The event was part of the International Trade and Marketing Department’s Talking Trade lecture series.

what’s happening on campus

Exoticism in Museum

Marty Heitner

Doneger Computer Lab Dedicated

>> The Jewelry Design Department sponsored weekend Swarovski workshops on jewelry, accessories, and fashion techniques in December. All materials were provided by the famed crystal company. >> The fall 2007 Dean’s Forum featured Susan McGalla, president of American Eagle Outfitters. She spoke about her career and answered questions from students in the Jay and Patty Baker School of Business and Technology. McGalla later returned to campus to conduct recruitment sessions with students.

SUNY Enrollment Sets Record In November, SUNY Interim Chancellor John B. Clark announced record-setting enrollment for fall 2007—the tenth consecutive year of growth for the university. SUNY’s overall enrollment grew by 2.2 percent to 426,891 students, an increase of 9,308 over the previous year. Fulltime enrollment reached an alltime high of 298,626. The university also admitted the largest freshman class in its history—74,149 students, an increase of 5.3 percent. SUNY is the largest comprehensive university system in the United States. It offers 7,669 degree and certificate programs on 64 campuses.

stamp for the USPS. Red lanterns, a common sight on Chinese New Year,

Steele’s Black Book

The Black Dress (HarperCollins 2007), the latest book by Valerie Steele, director and chief curator of The Museum at FIT, explores the enduring allure of black throughout fashion history.

are symbols of good fortune.



hue | spring 2008

www.fitnyc.edu/hue




FIT’s Market Research Project

Will the Real FIT Please Stand Up?

What’s your opinion of FIT? Take a short survey at: http://www3.fitnyc.edu/externalrelations/HueMag/FIT_Experience.htm

by Alexander Gelfand

Let’s begin with a pop quiz. Please choose the correct answer, to the best of your knowledge: fit is a fashion

school. design

fit is a community

college. four-year

fit is a public

college. private

fit is . highly selective

business

easy to get into

industries, from advertising communications to product development to international trade. Meanwhile, promoting the public rather than private nature of the institution (and its relative affordability) could enhance the college’s ability to reach students from a wide range of economic, ethnic, and educational backgrounds. This, in turn, informs the discussion about the kinds of students the college ought to recruit. Any changes to the institution’s marketing and recruitment activities will inevitably affect the kinds of students it attracts, thereby shaping the character of the college for years to come. As a result, the study has already sparked discussion within FIT regarding the mix of students that the college should teach: Local or out-of-state, affluent or disadvantaged. In recent years, FIT has tended to attract applicants whose family incomes, geographic distribution, education, and aspirations reflect an increasingly national and international pool of middle-class students seeking an education beyond the associate’s degree. Yet providing access to a diverse range of students in and around New York City remains central to FIT’s mission as a community college within the SUNY system. The college is already acting on the research findings. The majority of prospective students surveyed said that they did most of their college research on the web, and most students and parents said that they identified candidate schools based on the availability of particular degrees and programs. A long-planned redesign of the college’s website is now under way with a structure created directly in response to the

research findings. A set of five key messages reflecting the college’s core values and strengths will be integrated into all college communications to make sure that perception matches reality. And for the first time, the college will acquire enrollment management software that will allow it to track and communicate with applicants and prospective students from initial contact through graduation and beyond. Because students and parents said that they find campus visits extremely helpful, the college is also developing a tour program. And since 84 percent of prospective students are interested in pursuing a four-year bachelor’s degree, a number of college departments have reworked their curricula to avoid redundancy in course content as students move from associate’s into baccalaureate programs. One of the great advantages of initiating the research now is that the college will ultimately be able to prepare itself for the challenges of the future—challenges that are presently unknown, but sure to arise in a constantly evolving and increasingly competitive marketplace. And that argues for more research down the road. “Any organization that engages in market research doesn’t do it every 20 years,” Keane says. “You do it every five.” In keeping with that commitment to ongoing research, the college has already commissioned research for the School of Graduate Studies and The Museum at FIT. If this first foray into market research is any guide, it should yield plenty of additional food for thought.

Impressions of FIT Graduates What are your general impressions of FIT graduates compared with graduates you hire from other institutions? ARROGANT FOLLOWERS LEADERS BRIGHTER THAN AVERAGE SOLID COMMUNICATORS TECHNICALLY ADVANCED CREATIVE WELL-ROUNDED illustrations by Leigh Wells

These are among the questions asked in a series of recent surveys of prospective students, their parents, and industry leaders. The results revealed that public perceptions of FIT, though overwhelmingly positive, do not always match reality. For instance, some people believe FIT is a trade school, rather than a rigorous degree-granting college with a full complement of liberal arts requirements. Some don’t know it’s part of the State University of New York—and thus a public institution with affordable tuition. Many don’t know that FIT is a community college that provides baccalaureate and graduate programs in addition to the associate’s degree. And some assume it offers only fashion, not a wide variety of designrelated majors and highly regarded business programs. The surveys were part of a comprehensive market research project designed to help the college develop a strategic recruitment plan. The need for such a plan emerged during the college’s 18-month strategic planning process that yielded a roadmap for FIT’s growth in the coming decades. “This project stems directly from the strategic plan, and the research will allow us to engage in a recruitment process that is more strategic and comprehensive over time,” says Loretta Lawrence Keane, vice president for Advancement and External Relations. Until recently, there had been little incentive for FIT to engage in comprehensive external market research. Admissions numbers have been extraordinarily strong and its applicant pool robust. But the educational marketplace has changed significantly in recent years, as more and more educational institutions—public and private, offline and online—have begun to compete for students, faculty, and funding. In response, academic institutions have turned increasingly to market research to guide their

communications and recruitment efforts. “The reason colleges and universities are spending more money on marketing is that the stakes have become higher, so they’re using research to make decisions,” says Dr. Robert Sevier, senior vice president for strategy at Stamats, a company that works with hundreds of colleges and universities throughout the United States, and conducted the research project for FIT. In order to shape a strategic recruitment plan, it’s vital to know how groups such as prospective students and parents, industry members, and high-school counselors view the college. Research data can support more efficient and targeted recruitment and help to sharpen communications efforts and correct public misperceptions. “To shape your image is to shape your destiny,” says Carol Leven, assistant vice president for Communications, who emphasizes the need to craft messages that are honest and true to the college’s core values and distinguishing characteristics. As the college strengthens its brand by emphasizing its deep connections to industry, its accomplished faculty, and its academic quality, alumni benefit, too—as graduates of a premier New York City educational institution. “The more prestigious the college is, the more prestigious the alumni’s degrees are,” says Dr. Herbert Cohen, vice president for Student Affairs. The research sheds light both on how people perceive FIT and what they want from it. Most respondents ranked FIT at the top of their lists of the best fashion and design schools. Yet many weren’t fully aware of the range of design and business programs offered by FIT or that every major has significant liberal arts requirements. The balance between career preparation and traditional academics is valued by prospective students, parents, and particularly prospective employers who want candidates with the advanced communications and critical-thinking skills required for mid- and upper-level positions. “Rather than asking if a recent graduate can handle an entry-level position,” says Keane, “employers are instead asking, ‘Can they make a presentation for an ad agency? Can they make toplevel marketing and business decisions? Can they be a design director, rather than a design associate?’” Findings like these could have far-reaching implications for the college. For example, by emphasizing the breadth of its program offerings, the college could enhance its appeal to strong candidates who might mistakenly assume that an FIT education would be too narrow or lack overall academic rigor. The college might also attract larger numbers of talented applicants who are simply unaware of the wide variety of career opportunities available within fashion and related

HARDWORKING CONFIDENT WELL-PREPARED

16%

74%

22%

56%

53%

22%

12%

35%

58%

32% 78%

11%

79%

11%

11% 22% 11%

83%

17%

83%

17%

84% 5%

11%

84%

16%

90%

0%

11% 100%

yes

NO

NOt sure

WHAT INDUSTRY LEADERS THINK As part of the overall market research study, one survey of fifty industry leaders revealed critical inconsistencies in attitudes toward FIT. For example, in response to one question, only 13 percent said the college produced “qualified graduates.” But when asked about overall impressions, the same respondents rated graduates highly (table at left). Identifying such contradictions provides an opportunity for FIT to correct misperceptions and emphasize its strengths.

© Stamats, Inc.



hue | spring 2008

www.fitnyc.edu/hue




FIT’s Market Research Project

Will the Real FIT Please Stand Up?

What’s your opinion of FIT? Take a short survey at: http://www3.fitnyc.edu/externalrelations/HueMag/FIT_Experience.htm

by Alexander Gelfand

Let’s begin with a pop quiz. Please choose the correct answer, to the best of your knowledge: fit is a fashion

school. design

fit is a community

college. four-year

fit is a public

college. private

fit is . highly selective

business

easy to get into

industries, from advertising communications to product development to international trade. Meanwhile, promoting the public rather than private nature of the institution (and its relative affordability) could enhance the college’s ability to reach students from a wide range of economic, ethnic, and educational backgrounds. This, in turn, informs the discussion about the kinds of students the college ought to recruit. Any changes to the institution’s marketing and recruitment activities will inevitably affect the kinds of students it attracts, thereby shaping the character of the college for years to come. As a result, the study has already sparked discussion within FIT regarding the mix of students that the college should teach: Local or out-of-state, affluent or disadvantaged. In recent years, FIT has tended to attract applicants whose family incomes, geographic distribution, education, and aspirations reflect an increasingly national and international pool of middle-class students seeking an education beyond the associate’s degree. Yet providing access to a diverse range of students in and around New York City remains central to FIT’s mission as a community college within the SUNY system. The college is already acting on the research findings. The majority of prospective students surveyed said that they did most of their college research on the web, and most students and parents said that they identified candidate schools based on the availability of particular degrees and programs. A long-planned redesign of the college’s website is now under way with a structure created directly in response to the

research findings. A set of five key messages reflecting the college’s core values and strengths will be integrated into all college communications to make sure that perception matches reality. And for the first time, the college will acquire enrollment management software that will allow it to track and communicate with applicants and prospective students from initial contact through graduation and beyond. Because students and parents said that they find campus visits extremely helpful, the college is also developing a tour program. And since 84 percent of prospective students are interested in pursuing a four-year bachelor’s degree, a number of college departments have reworked their curricula to avoid redundancy in course content as students move from associate’s into baccalaureate programs. One of the great advantages of initiating the research now is that the college will ultimately be able to prepare itself for the challenges of the future—challenges that are presently unknown, but sure to arise in a constantly evolving and increasingly competitive marketplace. And that argues for more research down the road. “Any organization that engages in market research doesn’t do it every 20 years,” Keane says. “You do it every five.” In keeping with that commitment to ongoing research, the college has already commissioned research for the School of Graduate Studies and The Museum at FIT. If this first foray into market research is any guide, it should yield plenty of additional food for thought.

Impressions of FIT Graduates What are your general impressions of FIT graduates compared with graduates you hire from other institutions? ARROGANT FOLLOWERS LEADERS BRIGHTER THAN AVERAGE SOLID COMMUNICATORS TECHNICALLY ADVANCED CREATIVE WELL-ROUNDED illustrations by Leigh Wells

These are among the questions asked in a series of recent surveys of prospective students, their parents, and industry leaders. The results revealed that public perceptions of FIT, though overwhelmingly positive, do not always match reality. For instance, some people believe FIT is a trade school, rather than a rigorous degree-granting college with a full complement of liberal arts requirements. Some don’t know it’s part of the State University of New York—and thus a public institution with affordable tuition. Many don’t know that FIT is a community college that provides baccalaureate and graduate programs in addition to the associate’s degree. And some assume it offers only fashion, not a wide variety of designrelated majors and highly regarded business programs. The surveys were part of a comprehensive market research project designed to help the college develop a strategic recruitment plan. The need for such a plan emerged during the college’s 18-month strategic planning process that yielded a roadmap for FIT’s growth in the coming decades. “This project stems directly from the strategic plan, and the research will allow us to engage in a recruitment process that is more strategic and comprehensive over time,” says Loretta Lawrence Keane, vice president for Advancement and External Relations. Until recently, there had been little incentive for FIT to engage in comprehensive external market research. Admissions numbers have been extraordinarily strong and its applicant pool robust. But the educational marketplace has changed significantly in recent years, as more and more educational institutions—public and private, offline and online—have begun to compete for students, faculty, and funding. In response, academic institutions have turned increasingly to market research to guide their

communications and recruitment efforts. “The reason colleges and universities are spending more money on marketing is that the stakes have become higher, so they’re using research to make decisions,” says Dr. Robert Sevier, senior vice president for strategy at Stamats, a company that works with hundreds of colleges and universities throughout the United States, and conducted the research project for FIT. In order to shape a strategic recruitment plan, it’s vital to know how groups such as prospective students and parents, industry members, and high-school counselors view the college. Research data can support more efficient and targeted recruitment and help to sharpen communications efforts and correct public misperceptions. “To shape your image is to shape your destiny,” says Carol Leven, assistant vice president for Communications, who emphasizes the need to craft messages that are honest and true to the college’s core values and distinguishing characteristics. As the college strengthens its brand by emphasizing its deep connections to industry, its accomplished faculty, and its academic quality, alumni benefit, too—as graduates of a premier New York City educational institution. “The more prestigious the college is, the more prestigious the alumni’s degrees are,” says Dr. Herbert Cohen, vice president for Student Affairs. The research sheds light both on how people perceive FIT and what they want from it. Most respondents ranked FIT at the top of their lists of the best fashion and design schools. Yet many weren’t fully aware of the range of design and business programs offered by FIT or that every major has significant liberal arts requirements. The balance between career preparation and traditional academics is valued by prospective students, parents, and particularly prospective employers who want candidates with the advanced communications and critical-thinking skills required for mid- and upper-level positions. “Rather than asking if a recent graduate can handle an entry-level position,” says Keane, “employers are instead asking, ‘Can they make a presentation for an ad agency? Can they make toplevel marketing and business decisions? Can they be a design director, rather than a design associate?’” Findings like these could have far-reaching implications for the college. For example, by emphasizing the breadth of its program offerings, the college could enhance its appeal to strong candidates who might mistakenly assume that an FIT education would be too narrow or lack overall academic rigor. The college might also attract larger numbers of talented applicants who are simply unaware of the wide variety of career opportunities available within fashion and related

HARDWORKING CONFIDENT WELL-PREPARED

16%

74%

22%

56%

53%

22%

12%

35%

58%

32% 78%

11%

79%

11%

11% 22% 11%

83%

17%

83%

17%

84% 5%

11%

84%

16%

90%

0%

11% 100%

yes

NO

NOt sure

WHAT INDUSTRY LEADERS THINK As part of the overall market research study, one survey of fifty industry leaders revealed critical inconsistencies in attitudes toward FIT. For example, in response to one question, only 13 percent said the college produced “qualified graduates.” But when asked about overall impressions, the same respondents rated graduates highly (table at left). Identifying such contradictions provides an opportunity for FIT to correct misperceptions and emphasize its strengths.

© Stamats, Inc.



hue | spring 2008

www.fitnyc.edu/hue




after graduation, i had the basic first jobs, the usual horror stories. the first time i was fired, i lasted three days. it was in high - end coats. the owner looked at my sketches and said, ‘what’s all this dirt ?’ years later, after i had done well , he said, ‘we hired him out of school . he was a genius!’

My dream was to work at Women’s Wear. I got a job there in 1964, when I was 20. I was there 25 years. Every season, I did some of the first sketches from the European and American collections. Seventy percent of my work was of clothes I’d never seen. But I knew what each designer’s clothes were about. I’d get a swatch and a description: ‘A marvelous little coat with funny buttons—a divine color!’ I drew Nancy Reagan’s many gowns and a lot of celebrity portraits. In 1969, I sketched Gloria Guinness and Babe Paley, the goddesses of fashion, in Valentino. I can still draw Jackie Kennedy from every angle. I met Saint Laurent, Beene, Trigère. I find the more talented people are, the less ego they have. Galanos was a genius American designer, and you could just talk to him. I’d go up to Adolfo while he was walking to the elevator—it was the easiest way to get the job done.

more than

steven stipelman ’63 on 40 years as a fashion illustrator Steven Stipelman, noted fashion illustrator and teacher, reminisced about his career in a series of conversations excerpted here. The Museum at FIT presented a retrospective of his work this past fall. —Editor

All illustrations are acrylic and Prismacolor pencil on Color-aid paper. this page, WWD, 1984. opposite page, top: WWD cosmetics section, 1986, with actual eyeshadow applied to drawing. bottom: Illustration of Balenciaga gown for poster for Stipelman’s one-man show at Kent State University, 1995.



hue | spring 2008

Then, designers were designers— the Chanels, the Balenciagas, the Norells. It wasn’t about licensing, or becoming a new person every season. It was about evolving a point of view. They had a look and they polished and polished it. Chanel brought greater quality. Balenciaga— the chemise was liberating. And what Saint Laurent did with pants. A great designer had to change the way women dressed—forever. Today it’s not only about the clothes. It’s about the model, the movie stars in the first row, the designer as celebrity. But serious designers are coming in, like Nicolas Ghesquière and Olivier Theyskens. And some brilliant pieces are being done by Ralph Rucci. In 1991, Women’s Wear closed the art department. I was happy there.

It was my entire adult life. I feel very lucky, but I wouldn’t want to go back. You can’t live in the past; you have to go on to the future. In any creative field, your peak can’t last more than 20 years. When you’re starting, the energy is incredible— you can do anything. But you’re going to level off and be—well, historic. And new people come along. I’ve always been connected with fit one way or another—as a student, an alumnus, a teacher. The minute I walked into fit, I felt like I was home. I started teaching in 1993. Now, the thing I love most is the classroom. I love to see students come up with things I would never think of. As a young person you have endless creative energy. Every company should hire a student and see what they bring to the process. As you get older, your talent becomes more refined. In my early work, there was a spontaneity, an immediacy. Now, it’s simpler, more elegant, more controlled. It looks more effortless. For the exhibition, I looked back at 40 years of work, and each decade brought back a different time in my life. There were times when I couldn’t believe I was in a room with all those clothes and all those women. But it was uplifting to see I did such a body of work. People have the wrong fantasy about fashion. It’s hard work. There’s no glamour. There’s a drop of glamour. A few years ago, someone wanting me to do a workshop left me a message: ‘It seems like we’re never going to connect; you’re probably in Paris now, working.’ Actually, I had just come in from outside. It was 100 degrees. And I was out doing the laundry.

www.fitnyc.edu/hue




after graduation, i had the basic first jobs, the usual horror stories. the first time i was fired, i lasted three days. it was in high - end coats. the owner looked at my sketches and said, ‘what’s all this dirt ?’ years later, after i had done well , he said, ‘we hired him out of school . he was a genius!’

My dream was to work at Women’s Wear. I got a job there in 1964, when I was 20. I was there 25 years. Every season, I did some of the first sketches from the European and American collections. Seventy percent of my work was of clothes I’d never seen. But I knew what each designer’s clothes were about. I’d get a swatch and a description: ‘A marvelous little coat with funny buttons—a divine color!’ I drew Nancy Reagan’s many gowns and a lot of celebrity portraits. In 1969, I sketched Gloria Guinness and Babe Paley, the goddesses of fashion, in Valentino. I can still draw Jackie Kennedy from every angle. I met Saint Laurent, Beene, Trigère. I find the more talented people are, the less ego they have. Galanos was a genius American designer, and you could just talk to him. I’d go up to Adolfo while he was walking to the elevator—it was the easiest way to get the job done.

more than

steven stipelman ’63 on 40 years as a fashion illustrator Steven Stipelman, noted fashion illustrator and teacher, reminisced about his career in a series of conversations excerpted here. The Museum at FIT presented a retrospective of his work this past fall. —Editor

All illustrations are acrylic and Prismacolor pencil on Color-aid paper. this page, WWD, 1984. opposite page, top: WWD cosmetics section, 1986, with actual eyeshadow applied to drawing. bottom: Illustration of Balenciaga gown for poster for Stipelman’s one-man show at Kent State University, 1995.



hue | spring 2008

Then, designers were designers— the Chanels, the Balenciagas, the Norells. It wasn’t about licensing, or becoming a new person every season. It was about evolving a point of view. They had a look and they polished and polished it. Chanel brought greater quality. Balenciaga— the chemise was liberating. And what Saint Laurent did with pants. A great designer had to change the way women dressed—forever. Today it’s not only about the clothes. It’s about the model, the movie stars in the first row, the designer as celebrity. But serious designers are coming in, like Nicolas Ghesquière and Olivier Theyskens. And some brilliant pieces are being done by Ralph Rucci. In 1991, Women’s Wear closed the art department. I was happy there.

It was my entire adult life. I feel very lucky, but I wouldn’t want to go back. You can’t live in the past; you have to go on to the future. In any creative field, your peak can’t last more than 20 years. When you’re starting, the energy is incredible— you can do anything. But you’re going to level off and be—well, historic. And new people come along. I’ve always been connected with fit one way or another—as a student, an alumnus, a teacher. The minute I walked into fit, I felt like I was home. I started teaching in 1993. Now, the thing I love most is the classroom. I love to see students come up with things I would never think of. As a young person you have endless creative energy. Every company should hire a student and see what they bring to the process. As you get older, your talent becomes more refined. In my early work, there was a spontaneity, an immediacy. Now, it’s simpler, more elegant, more controlled. It looks more effortless. For the exhibition, I looked back at 40 years of work, and each decade brought back a different time in my life. There were times when I couldn’t believe I was in a room with all those clothes and all those women. But it was uplifting to see I did such a body of work. People have the wrong fantasy about fashion. It’s hard work. There’s no glamour. There’s a drop of glamour. A few years ago, someone wanting me to do a workshop left me a message: ‘It seems like we’re never going to connect; you’re probably in Paris now, working.’ Actually, I had just come in from outside. It was 100 degrees. And I was out doing the laundry.

www.fitnyc.edu/hue




Joshua Waller, adjunct reference librarian and former Special Collections librarian, Gladys Marcus Library object:

Collection of 131 geisha calling cards

geisha calling cards Exquisite, colorful, stylized: words to describe a geisha’s elegant costume—or the charming calling cards she presents to her guests. This collection is a delightful surprise, first because few in America know that geisha calling cards even exist—and then because their designs are enchanting. A number of scholars were consulted about the collection, including librarians at the Japan Society and Columbia University’s C.V. Starr East Asian Library, and Liza Dalby, author, anthropologist, and the only non-Japanese to train as a geisha.

The three-by-one-inch cards, called senjafuda, served as calling or business cards. Each features the geisha’s professional name and her district or teahouse. Cards include various motifs, such as a stylized hemp leaf (asanoha), seen on the pink card (closeup below). The blue card has an arrow pattern (yasaguri), accom-panied by a wood sorrel crest (katabami mon), a lucky symbol. The center line is the geisha’s name, Kinya, from the house Takenoya (righthand line). The left-hand line is the address, Den Echizen Awara 19, in a hot springs resort. The house

country of origin:

Japan date:

Burlesque, the Weeksville Heritage Center, and searching for the past

Taisho period, 1912 to 1926 acquisition: 

Purchased by the FIT library in 1986, and held in Special Collections

apparently no longer exists, though geisha is still practiced in Awara. The cards came from communities in different areas, though most were from Gion in Kyoto. They were likely collected by a connoisseur of Japanese culture, perhaps a businessman who frequented teahouses. Geisha entertainment is unbelievably expensive, and is often engaged by businesses to impress clients, as American businesses wine and dine important guests at the finest restaurants. Contrary to the belief of many Westerners, geisha are not prostitutes, but highly

a student in first person

a captivating object from FIT’s collections

chosen by:

Jennifer Steverson

trained practitioners of the arts of classical music and dance, and the cultivation of conversation and wit. Geisha dress, makeup, and hairstyles made them the early fashion icons of Japan. While at one time they were fashion innovators, they are now curators of a tradition.

Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice MA ’09

The Gladys Marcus Library’s Special Collections contains noncirculating material available by appointment only. Your first project in the program was on burlesque costumes. Why?

Any particular performers capture your interest?

Who’s a designer we should know about?

You work as the public programs curator for the Weeksville Heritage Center in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. What is that?

Matthew Septimus

You curated a small show there?

I’m interested in the ways people entertain themselves, especially working-class people. Modern porn is so serious, but to me, burlesque seems lighthearted. If you went to a burlesque show in Times Square in the ’40s, you saw a stripper and also a comedian. They might have even been the same person. They were funny and sexy at the same time. The Darlings of Rhythm were an all-girl African-American big band from the ’40s that included burlesque in their act. Some performers from those old acts are still alive. I like to imagine all these grandmothers with boxes full of feathers and pasties. Yinka Shonibare’s work brings together everything I like about fashion. He was born in Nigeria but grew up in London. He creates clothes with tailored, 19th-century silhouettes using batik prints associated with West Africa, although they’re actually made in Indonesia. His work is a commentary on what we think of as African versus Western, but it also gets at the feeling of being from “somewhere else.” Weeksville was a free black community that was founded in 1838. At its height in the 1860s, 700 people lived there—sailors, tobacconists, seamstresses, pressers. There was a church, a school, and an orphan asylum. The center has preserved three 19th-century wood-frame houses to give an idea of what life there was like. I pulled objects from the collection that had never been exhibited before, including three washboards made of scalloped glass. In an oral history, one woman said she preferred the glass ones because they were gentler on clothes and hands. Small things in ordinary life intersect with and add up to major historical events. That’s what interests me.

Paul Whicheloe

10

hue | spring 2008

11


Joshua Waller, adjunct reference librarian and former Special Collections librarian, Gladys Marcus Library object:

Collection of 131 geisha calling cards

geisha calling cards Exquisite, colorful, stylized: words to describe a geisha’s elegant costume—or the charming calling cards she presents to her guests. This collection is a delightful surprise, first because few in America know that geisha calling cards even exist—and then because their designs are enchanting. A number of scholars were consulted about the collection, including librarians at the Japan Society and Columbia University’s C.V. Starr East Asian Library, and Liza Dalby, author, anthropologist, and the only non-Japanese to train as a geisha.

The three-by-one-inch cards, called senjafuda, served as calling or business cards. Each features the geisha’s professional name and her district or teahouse. Cards include various motifs, such as a stylized hemp leaf (asanoha), seen on the pink card (closeup below). The blue card has an arrow pattern (yasaguri), accom-panied by a wood sorrel crest (katabami mon), a lucky symbol. The center line is the geisha’s name, Kinya, from the house Takenoya (righthand line). The left-hand line is the address, Den Echizen Awara 19, in a hot springs resort. The house

country of origin:

Japan date:

Burlesque, the Weeksville Heritage Center, and searching for the past

Taisho period, 1912 to 1926 acquisition: 

Purchased by the FIT library in 1986, and held in Special Collections

apparently no longer exists, though geisha is still practiced in Awara. The cards came from communities in different areas, though most were from Gion in Kyoto. They were likely collected by a connoisseur of Japanese culture, perhaps a businessman who frequented teahouses. Geisha entertainment is unbelievably expensive, and is often engaged by businesses to impress clients, as American businesses wine and dine important guests at the finest restaurants. Contrary to the belief of many Westerners, geisha are not prostitutes, but highly

a student in first person

a captivating object from FIT’s collections

chosen by:

Jennifer Steverson

trained practitioners of the arts of classical music and dance, and the cultivation of conversation and wit. Geisha dress, makeup, and hairstyles made them the early fashion icons of Japan. While at one time they were fashion innovators, they are now curators of a tradition.

Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice MA ’09

The Gladys Marcus Library’s Special Collections contains noncirculating material available by appointment only. Your first project in the program was on burlesque costumes. Why?

Any particular performers capture your interest?

Who’s a designer we should know about?

You work as the public programs curator for the Weeksville Heritage Center in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. What is that?

Matthew Septimus

You curated a small show there?

I’m interested in the ways people entertain themselves, especially working-class people. Modern porn is so serious, but to me, burlesque seems lighthearted. If you went to a burlesque show in Times Square in the ’40s, you saw a stripper and also a comedian. They might have even been the same person. They were funny and sexy at the same time. The Darlings of Rhythm were an all-girl African-American big band from the ’40s that included burlesque in their act. Some performers from those old acts are still alive. I like to imagine all these grandmothers with boxes full of feathers and pasties. Yinka Shonibare’s work brings together everything I like about fashion. He was born in Nigeria but grew up in London. He creates clothes with tailored, 19th-century silhouettes using batik prints associated with West Africa, although they’re actually made in Indonesia. His work is a commentary on what we think of as African versus Western, but it also gets at the feeling of being from “somewhere else.” Weeksville was a free black community that was founded in 1838. At its height in the 1860s, 700 people lived there—sailors, tobacconists, seamstresses, pressers. There was a church, a school, and an orphan asylum. The center has preserved three 19th-century wood-frame houses to give an idea of what life there was like. I pulled objects from the collection that had never been exhibited before, including three washboards made of scalloped glass. In an oral history, one woman said she preferred the glass ones because they were gentler on clothes and hands. Small things in ordinary life intersect with and add up to major historical events. That’s what interests me.

Paul Whicheloe

10

hue | spring 2008

11


Photographs by Paul Whicheloe

The Life and Times of

Mannequins

1

7 “Toukie Smith”

Everything you need to know about fiberglass people by Alex Joseph

Should you plan to explore the world of mannequins, know this: The people who manufacture

2

3 “Dianne Brill”

4

5

6

them, dress them, and position them in displays, usually refer to females as “the girls.” “This is exciting,” Anne Kong says. “Some press for the girls.” For the benefit of a photographer, Kong, assistant professor, Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design (VPED), unlocks an out-of-the-way closet in FIT’s Pomerantz Art and Design Center, revealing a room full of stunning, realistic mannequins. There’s a “Toukie Smith,” created by leading mannequin design firm Adel Rootstein, and one of the first modeled on a black person. A male creation by the firm Mondo, Kong points out, was also based on a unique human being. “His head was not put on anybody else’s body. He’s somebody.” There are plus-sized mannequins, Asian mannequins, and “lifestyle” mannequins that slouch, lounge, and lean. Kong, who has worked in the display field more than 30 years, is the college’s resident mannequin expert. Their individuality impresses her. “When you buy Rootstein you get the real person, no breast enhancements, hip downsizing, or butt reduction. Every one of these girls has a social security number and a thumbprint, as it were.” Not all mannequins are realistic, of course. The Schläppi (usually pronounced “schleppy”), a popular Swiss model, has only the suggestion of a face. Gap and Banana Republic are known for using headless figures. These abstract versions offer versatility. “You can put anything on a Schläppi and she looks great,” says Clinton Ridgeway, visual coordinator for Le Château, one of Canada’s largest retailers. Throughout mannequin history, “there’s been a constant back and forth” between realistic and abstract models, says Glenn Sokoli ’90, a VPED instructor. One could argue that abstracts came first. Dress forms, used for fit purposes and lacking heads, hands, and individuality, have existed for thousands of years. A wooden figure found beside a box of clothes in King Tut’s tomb may be the first one, according to Smithsonian magazine. The word mannequin originates from the Dutch manneken (“little man”), and their precursors may have been the dolls European monarchs once sent out as examples of national fashion. Charles IV of France sent one to Richard II of England, as part of a peace negotiation, in 1396. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the modern mannequin—a tool for selling clothes—emerged. Where and when they were first introduced has been debated, though certain factors made their use possible. By midcentury, electric lights and newly invented plate glass helped create a stage for them in store windows. The spread of ready-to-wear meant shoppers could be enticed to buy an outfit featured in such a display. One early esteemed window dresser was L. Frank Baum, who wrote several books on the subject, as well as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Made of wax and wood, the first mannequins had glass eyes, authentic-looking teeth, and real human hair. Weighing up to 300 pounds and spooky looking, they were prone to melt under hot lights and on summer days. In 1925, Vogue reported on a new development at the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs in Paris: “The art Photos 1, 4, 6, Ralph Pucci workroom and studio. Others, VPED’s collection at FIT.

8 9

www.fitnyc.edu/hue

13


Photographs by Paul Whicheloe

The Life and Times of

Mannequins

1

7 “Toukie Smith”

Everything you need to know about fiberglass people by Alex Joseph

Should you plan to explore the world of mannequins, know this: The people who manufacture

2

3 “Dianne Brill”

4

5

6

them, dress them, and position them in displays, usually refer to females as “the girls.” “This is exciting,” Anne Kong says. “Some press for the girls.” For the benefit of a photographer, Kong, assistant professor, Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design (VPED), unlocks an out-of-the-way closet in FIT’s Pomerantz Art and Design Center, revealing a room full of stunning, realistic mannequins. There’s a “Toukie Smith,” created by leading mannequin design firm Adel Rootstein, and one of the first modeled on a black person. A male creation by the firm Mondo, Kong points out, was also based on a unique human being. “His head was not put on anybody else’s body. He’s somebody.” There are plus-sized mannequins, Asian mannequins, and “lifestyle” mannequins that slouch, lounge, and lean. Kong, who has worked in the display field more than 30 years, is the college’s resident mannequin expert. Their individuality impresses her. “When you buy Rootstein you get the real person, no breast enhancements, hip downsizing, or butt reduction. Every one of these girls has a social security number and a thumbprint, as it were.” Not all mannequins are realistic, of course. The Schläppi (usually pronounced “schleppy”), a popular Swiss model, has only the suggestion of a face. Gap and Banana Republic are known for using headless figures. These abstract versions offer versatility. “You can put anything on a Schläppi and she looks great,” says Clinton Ridgeway, visual coordinator for Le Château, one of Canada’s largest retailers. Throughout mannequin history, “there’s been a constant back and forth” between realistic and abstract models, says Glenn Sokoli ’90, a VPED instructor. One could argue that abstracts came first. Dress forms, used for fit purposes and lacking heads, hands, and individuality, have existed for thousands of years. A wooden figure found beside a box of clothes in King Tut’s tomb may be the first one, according to Smithsonian magazine. The word mannequin originates from the Dutch manneken (“little man”), and their precursors may have been the dolls European monarchs once sent out as examples of national fashion. Charles IV of France sent one to Richard II of England, as part of a peace negotiation, in 1396. It wasn’t until the 19th century that the modern mannequin—a tool for selling clothes—emerged. Where and when they were first introduced has been debated, though certain factors made their use possible. By midcentury, electric lights and newly invented plate glass helped create a stage for them in store windows. The spread of ready-to-wear meant shoppers could be enticed to buy an outfit featured in such a display. One early esteemed window dresser was L. Frank Baum, who wrote several books on the subject, as well as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Made of wax and wood, the first mannequins had glass eyes, authentic-looking teeth, and real human hair. Weighing up to 300 pounds and spooky looking, they were prone to melt under hot lights and on summer days. In 1925, Vogue reported on a new development at the Exposition des Arts Décoratifs in Paris: “The art Photos 1, 4, 6, Ralph Pucci workroom and studio. Others, VPED’s collection at FIT.

8 9

www.fitnyc.edu/hue

13


Talking with Simon Doonan

Mannequins in Museums The last time you went to a costume exhibition, did you notice the mannequins? You probably weren’t supposed to. Visitors should notice the clothes instead, according to Fred Dennis, exhibitions manager, and Tommy Synnamon, technologist, at The Museum at FIT. Abstraction is preferred, since realistic faces can distract from the garments. (Schläppis are favorites.) The exceptions are shows with a theatrical aspect, like the museum’s 1999 exhibition about flamboyant designer Bob Mackie; for that, the museum used, among others, a Rootstein that looked like Cher. For period shows, special mannequins from Japan’s Kyoto Costume Institute (torsos and heads, right) save display experts extra padding work. They feature sloped shoulders, posteriors that support bustles, and “corseted-looking” midsections that are also ideal for Empire-waist dresses.

Mannequin Fashion Show Once a year, mannequin manufacturers hold a fashion show—only it’s the viewers who walk, while the “models” remain perfectly still. The three-day event, organized by the National Association of Display Industries (NADI), is held in New York in early December. Major display companies, including Adel Rootstein, DK Display, and Mondo, premiere their latest wares for mannequin buyers across the country. Ralph Pucci’s display for the 2007 show is pictured above.

14

hue | spring 2008

of the mannequin, which did not previously exist, has been perfected.” They were referring to new art deco abstract figures, which proved short lived. Until World War II, most mannequins manufactured in Europe were realistic, with a distinctly Germanic look. Americans, including display designer Lester Gaba, creator of “Cynthia” in 1932, modernized their materials and appearance. Cynthia was not like other girls. Made of plaster, she had freckles, pigeon toes, and, like many actual women, different-sized feet. Gaba squired this 100-pound figure to New York theater and society events, and posed with her around town for Life magazine. The line of Gaba Girls featured, perhaps for the first time in mannequin history, “regular” Americans—“Not a lifted pinkie in the lot,” Gaba later wrote. During the war, their appearance shifted again. “Mannequin expressions became severe,” Clinton Ridgeway says. “In the ’50s, they were happier.” They lost weight, too, as their materials changed; today, most are fiberglass and weigh roughly 30 pounds. The venerable Schläppi debuted in 1952 and is still produced today. She is largely unaltered by the vagaries of fashion, while other girls come and go. Looks and poses tend to date badly: “In the ’70s and ’80s, mannequins tended to look a little ‘high,’” says Tommy Synnamon, who works on displays for The Museum at FIT. “Now they’re more relaxed, sexier, simpler.” Alas, they also tend to fall. “They chip, they break their ears,” Anne Kong says, and having them refinished costs as much as $400. Still, with proper care, they can survive quite a while. Ridgeway says, “I’ve got Rootstein girls from 1974, and they’re still workin’.” The firm created by Adel Rootstein (1930-92) holds the trophy for making mannequins based on real people. One of the British designer’s early successes, in 1966, was “Twiggy.” “Rootstein always finds ‘the person of the time,’” Kong says. “It’s not the most popular girl; it’s the one whose particular body language reflects the period.” The Twiggy figure stood without support, in part because she was made to wear flats, not high heels. The company’s executive vice president, Michael Steward, says, “A good mannequin is well balanced enough to stand up on its own.” (Some mannequins have a “foot rod” or “butt rod” that fixes them to a base.) Ralph Pucci began making mannequins in his 18th Street factory in 1976. Back then, he says, “all mannequins were ladylike and elegant, with chic, fashionable poses.” The jogging gear then in vogue, and athletic fashion images by photographers Herb Ritts and Bruce Weber, inspired his first line of abstracts. Since then, “lifestyle” mannequins, with active and idiosyncratic poses, have grown increasingly popular. “‘Just standing there’ is passé,” Ridgeway says. Rootstein’s “Dianne Brill,” from 1989, is posed as if making a big entrance. Steward says Brill was the ideal mannequin model. “She was the house model for Thierry Mugler, and also worked for Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood. Her husband owned Danceteria, and Warhol called her ‘Queen of the Night.’” Brill’s shape— 36-inch bust, tiny waist, and full derriere—was fashionable, too. She was promoted as the Shape of the Decade. “They’re her real measurements. Her look was a reaction to the waif look that was so popular then,” Kong says. In the recession of the early ’90s, budget cuts turned the trend against realistic mannequins, which look best in elaborate (read: labor-intensive) displays, while minimalistic abstracts are at home in simpler settings. Mass retailers like Gap chose abstracts. Now the pendulum is swinging back: “Fashion is in a romantic phase again,” and it’s easier to engage a shopper’s imagination with realism, she says. Steward agrees. “Fashion’s been minimal for so long—so Jil-Sander-Prada-esque,” he says. “There was so much homogenization that people are welcoming back a more flamboyant feeling. They want hair, makeup, the whole thing.”

Barneys creative director Simon Doonan is known for his outrageous window displays and rapier wit. He emailed us answers to a few questions about his experience working with fiberglass people. Did you ever have a nightmare about mannequins? I always dream that I am dragging them around looking for a base-plate which fits—and herniating myself.

Pucci has a different take on contemporary fashion. Over the years, he has collaborated with artists, including illustrators Maira Kalman and Ruben Toledo, pop surrealist Kenny Scharf, and designer Anna Sui. The defiantly proud look of Toledo’s “Birdie,” a size 16, was considered groundbreaking when she debuted in 2000. Kalman’s figures looked like pink-haired cartoon characters; Scharf created a purpleskinned cyclops. But unlike Kong and Steward, Pucci says the current look is “cleaner, simpler, more minimal.” Increasingly overburdened display staffs means abstraction is the future. “The realistic mannequin is a dinosaur,” he says. One new trend has nothing to do with the girls. “Male mannequins are very much in vogue,” says David Terveen, president of DK Display, which represents European mannequin makers to stores across North America. In the past, certain retailers wouldn’t use males because they were considered fey. “These days,” he says, “men shop for themselves. Male mannequins showed men how to layer, use color and stripes. They taught men how to shop.” Terveen thinks the trend of J-Lo- and Beyoncé-inspired “big booty” for female mannequins will pass, but Clinton Ridgeway says, “The boys are definitely getting beefier.” Au contraire, says Dina Meindl, Display and Exhibit Design ’95, northeast regional sales manager at Mondo Mannequins. The skinny silhouette rules, she says: “We tried making plus-size males. They haven’t gone — Anne Kong anywhere.” In 1999, an exhibition mounted by FIT graduate students explored the relationship between mannequins and fine art. American artists Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol had early careers in display, and the windows of Simon Doonan, Barneys creative director, have incorporated work by artists Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger. Pucci says it’s not so simple: “I want to treat mannequins as sculpture, but I’m well aware that they have to wear clothing.” Terveen is emphatic: “What we’re creating has only one purpose—to sell clothing. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t sell.” Perhaps the Rootsteins come closest to art. As Ridgeway says, “Those girls have life.” Of the mannequin’s appeal, Lester Gaba wrote, “Remember that the woman your customer wants to look like is the woman she envies.” Not all mannequins look enviable, but their human qualities can be unnerving in certain contexts. In a 1993 episode of Seinfeld, Elaine is shocked to see a store display with a figure that resembles her being spanked. A few years ago, Daffy’s created an ad campaign with mannequins. The next week, a gruesome murder was committed, and the killer’s picture ran in all the media. The retailer’s dummy looked exactly like the murderer. The ad was pulled. At FIT, after two hours of shooting, Anne Kong returns the mannequins to their closet. It is hard not to think of them in the dark, waiting for someone to tell their story. Perhaps, just for once, they would like the opportunity to speak for themselves.

Every one of these girls has a social security number and a thumbprint.

Which are easier to work with— girls or boys? Girls!!! They are so much lighter—fewer hernias!!! Do you have a favorite one? I loved the Violetta Sanchez by Rootstein— very snotty and languid. Do you prefer realistic ones or abstract? We have not used realistic mannequins for years—they tend to look older and more old-school glam. Abstract mannequins are a better blank canvas for the clothing. This is the Barneys approach. Rootsteins look great in Escada and Saint John. What’s the worst mannequin display you’ve seen? There is no such thing as a bad display. Lousy amateurish displays are always fun—and therefore they are good. I love the displays at Goodwill, with missing fingers and cockeyed wigs.

www.fitnyc.edu/hue

15


Talking with Simon Doonan

Mannequins in Museums The last time you went to a costume exhibition, did you notice the mannequins? You probably weren’t supposed to. Visitors should notice the clothes instead, according to Fred Dennis, exhibitions manager, and Tommy Synnamon, technologist, at The Museum at FIT. Abstraction is preferred, since realistic faces can distract from the garments. (Schläppis are favorites.) The exceptions are shows with a theatrical aspect, like the museum’s 1999 exhibition about flamboyant designer Bob Mackie; for that, the museum used, among others, a Rootstein that looked like Cher. For period shows, special mannequins from Japan’s Kyoto Costume Institute (torsos and heads, right) save display experts extra padding work. They feature sloped shoulders, posteriors that support bustles, and “corseted-looking” midsections that are also ideal for Empire-waist dresses.

Mannequin Fashion Show Once a year, mannequin manufacturers hold a fashion show—only it’s the viewers who walk, while the “models” remain perfectly still. The three-day event, organized by the National Association of Display Industries (NADI), is held in New York in early December. Major display companies, including Adel Rootstein, DK Display, and Mondo, premiere their latest wares for mannequin buyers across the country. Ralph Pucci’s display for the 2007 show is pictured above.

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hue | spring 2008

of the mannequin, which did not previously exist, has been perfected.” They were referring to new art deco abstract figures, which proved short lived. Until World War II, most mannequins manufactured in Europe were realistic, with a distinctly Germanic look. Americans, including display designer Lester Gaba, creator of “Cynthia” in 1932, modernized their materials and appearance. Cynthia was not like other girls. Made of plaster, she had freckles, pigeon toes, and, like many actual women, different-sized feet. Gaba squired this 100-pound figure to New York theater and society events, and posed with her around town for Life magazine. The line of Gaba Girls featured, perhaps for the first time in mannequin history, “regular” Americans—“Not a lifted pinkie in the lot,” Gaba later wrote. During the war, their appearance shifted again. “Mannequin expressions became severe,” Clinton Ridgeway says. “In the ’50s, they were happier.” They lost weight, too, as their materials changed; today, most are fiberglass and weigh roughly 30 pounds. The venerable Schläppi debuted in 1952 and is still produced today. She is largely unaltered by the vagaries of fashion, while other girls come and go. Looks and poses tend to date badly: “In the ’70s and ’80s, mannequins tended to look a little ‘high,’” says Tommy Synnamon, who works on displays for The Museum at FIT. “Now they’re more relaxed, sexier, simpler.” Alas, they also tend to fall. “They chip, they break their ears,” Anne Kong says, and having them refinished costs as much as $400. Still, with proper care, they can survive quite a while. Ridgeway says, “I’ve got Rootstein girls from 1974, and they’re still workin’.” The firm created by Adel Rootstein (1930-92) holds the trophy for making mannequins based on real people. One of the British designer’s early successes, in 1966, was “Twiggy.” “Rootstein always finds ‘the person of the time,’” Kong says. “It’s not the most popular girl; it’s the one whose particular body language reflects the period.” The Twiggy figure stood without support, in part because she was made to wear flats, not high heels. The company’s executive vice president, Michael Steward, says, “A good mannequin is well balanced enough to stand up on its own.” (Some mannequins have a “foot rod” or “butt rod” that fixes them to a base.) Ralph Pucci began making mannequins in his 18th Street factory in 1976. Back then, he says, “all mannequins were ladylike and elegant, with chic, fashionable poses.” The jogging gear then in vogue, and athletic fashion images by photographers Herb Ritts and Bruce Weber, inspired his first line of abstracts. Since then, “lifestyle” mannequins, with active and idiosyncratic poses, have grown increasingly popular. “‘Just standing there’ is passé,” Ridgeway says. Rootstein’s “Dianne Brill,” from 1989, is posed as if making a big entrance. Steward says Brill was the ideal mannequin model. “She was the house model for Thierry Mugler, and also worked for Gaultier and Vivienne Westwood. Her husband owned Danceteria, and Warhol called her ‘Queen of the Night.’” Brill’s shape— 36-inch bust, tiny waist, and full derriere—was fashionable, too. She was promoted as the Shape of the Decade. “They’re her real measurements. Her look was a reaction to the waif look that was so popular then,” Kong says. In the recession of the early ’90s, budget cuts turned the trend against realistic mannequins, which look best in elaborate (read: labor-intensive) displays, while minimalistic abstracts are at home in simpler settings. Mass retailers like Gap chose abstracts. Now the pendulum is swinging back: “Fashion is in a romantic phase again,” and it’s easier to engage a shopper’s imagination with realism, she says. Steward agrees. “Fashion’s been minimal for so long—so Jil-Sander-Prada-esque,” he says. “There was so much homogenization that people are welcoming back a more flamboyant feeling. They want hair, makeup, the whole thing.”

Barneys creative director Simon Doonan is known for his outrageous window displays and rapier wit. He emailed us answers to a few questions about his experience working with fiberglass people. Did you ever have a nightmare about mannequins? I always dream that I am dragging them around looking for a base-plate which fits—and herniating myself.

Pucci has a different take on contemporary fashion. Over the years, he has collaborated with artists, including illustrators Maira Kalman and Ruben Toledo, pop surrealist Kenny Scharf, and designer Anna Sui. The defiantly proud look of Toledo’s “Birdie,” a size 16, was considered groundbreaking when she debuted in 2000. Kalman’s figures looked like pink-haired cartoon characters; Scharf created a purpleskinned cyclops. But unlike Kong and Steward, Pucci says the current look is “cleaner, simpler, more minimal.” Increasingly overburdened display staffs means abstraction is the future. “The realistic mannequin is a dinosaur,” he says. One new trend has nothing to do with the girls. “Male mannequins are very much in vogue,” says David Terveen, president of DK Display, which represents European mannequin makers to stores across North America. In the past, certain retailers wouldn’t use males because they were considered fey. “These days,” he says, “men shop for themselves. Male mannequins showed men how to layer, use color and stripes. They taught men how to shop.” Terveen thinks the trend of J-Lo- and Beyoncé-inspired “big booty” for female mannequins will pass, but Clinton Ridgeway says, “The boys are definitely getting beefier.” Au contraire, says Dina Meindl, Display and Exhibit Design ’95, northeast regional sales manager at Mondo Mannequins. The skinny silhouette rules, she says: “We tried making plus-size males. They haven’t gone — Anne Kong anywhere.” In 1999, an exhibition mounted by FIT graduate students explored the relationship between mannequins and fine art. American artists Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol had early careers in display, and the windows of Simon Doonan, Barneys creative director, have incorporated work by artists Cindy Sherman and Barbara Kruger. Pucci says it’s not so simple: “I want to treat mannequins as sculpture, but I’m well aware that they have to wear clothing.” Terveen is emphatic: “What we’re creating has only one purpose—to sell clothing. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t sell.” Perhaps the Rootsteins come closest to art. As Ridgeway says, “Those girls have life.” Of the mannequin’s appeal, Lester Gaba wrote, “Remember that the woman your customer wants to look like is the woman she envies.” Not all mannequins look enviable, but their human qualities can be unnerving in certain contexts. In a 1993 episode of Seinfeld, Elaine is shocked to see a store display with a figure that resembles her being spanked. A few years ago, Daffy’s created an ad campaign with mannequins. The next week, a gruesome murder was committed, and the killer’s picture ran in all the media. The retailer’s dummy looked exactly like the murderer. The ad was pulled. At FIT, after two hours of shooting, Anne Kong returns the mannequins to their closet. It is hard not to think of them in the dark, waiting for someone to tell their story. Perhaps, just for once, they would like the opportunity to speak for themselves.

Every one of these girls has a social security number and a thumbprint.

Which are easier to work with— girls or boys? Girls!!! They are so much lighter—fewer hernias!!! Do you have a favorite one? I loved the Violetta Sanchez by Rootstein— very snotty and languid. Do you prefer realistic ones or abstract? We have not used realistic mannequins for years—they tend to look older and more old-school glam. Abstract mannequins are a better blank canvas for the clothing. This is the Barneys approach. Rootsteins look great in Escada and Saint John. What’s the worst mannequin display you’ve seen? There is no such thing as a bad display. Lousy amateurish displays are always fun—and therefore they are good. I love the displays at Goodwill, with missing fingers and cockeyed wigs.

www.fitnyc.edu/hue

15


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hue | spring 2008

www.ďŹ tnyc.edu/hue

17


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hue | spring 2008

www.ďŹ tnyc.edu/hue

17


by Alex Joseph

photographs by Paul Whicheloe

What’s in Store with his first shop and new position at liz claiborne, john bartlett, menswear ’88, advances his unique vision for men

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hue | spring 2008

www.fitnyc.edu/hue

19


by Alex Joseph

photographs by Paul Whicheloe

What’s in Store with his first shop and new position at liz claiborne, john bartlett, menswear ’88, advances his unique vision for men

18

hue | spring 2008

www.fitnyc.edu/hue

19


john bartlett has changed. the two-time cfda menswear award winner unlocks the door of his new shop at 143 seventh avenue and begins to prepare for the day. to complete his outfit of a white button-down shirt, leather boots, and black trousers, bartlett dons a brown canvas apron. he confers with a couple of associates about the stock. he’s a shopkeeper ready for work. A customer enters. He drifts among the merchandise, considering carefully, touching an olive-green cashmere scarf ($250), slim brown jeans ($180), gray cotton blazer with green corduroy panels ($695). Silver-haired with a trim figure, he fits into the store’s surroundings— weathered floorboards, fieldstone walls, and palette of somber tones. He’s here for the opportunity to meet Bartlett, and asks informed questions about where the garments are made (India) and where the materials are from (Europe, chiefly Italy). Bartlett answers all, makes the sale, and thanks the shopper as he leaves. Bartlett pats his dog, a Rottweiler-Lab mix, who watches his master with utter devotion. “Good boy, Tim,” he says. The scene could be sponsored by Hallmark, except for the dog: Tim has three legs. The last time I saw Bartlett in person, he was speaking to a class of FIT students in March 2001. His form-fitting leather lace-up pants and black T-shirt suited his reputation as a provocateur. His fashion shows featured porn stars, and his garments referenced the lewd illustrations of Tom of Finland, the homoerotic ’70s magazine After Dark, and skintight uniforms of every kind. The industry applauded him, and critics adored him. Time wrote that he was “the first American designer trained specifically in menswear who has attracted a following since Ralph Lauren.” Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute curator Richard Martin dubbed his work “idiosyncratically shrewd.” At FIT, his presentation included a video of a recent fashion show that alluded to bondage: “I’ve always had a fetish for rope,” he told the students. That fall, Bartlett presented another memorable show at the New York State Armory on 26th Street. Models appeared in mock prison cells, wearing blindfolds. Bartlett himself modeled in a blindfold. Translating his look for a commercial audience had already proved challenging, and that new collection didn’t help. The show’s dark mood was eerily prescient; it took place three days before September 11th. “Afterwards,” he told me recently, “that kind of expression just didn’t feel appropriate.”

Bartlett’s store logo and label are inspired by his dog, Tiny Tim.

20

hue | spring 2008

In 2002, Bartlett left the business. He lived with Buddhist monks in Thailand and studied yoga. “You do the same six moves every day,” he told me. For nine months, he focused his mind and tried to figure out what to do next. When he returned, he considered a degree in media studies at the New School, but fashion drew him back. He began to do shows again. One of the most memorable was his fall 2006 “bears” show—clothes based on the subculture of big, hairy gay men. The line defied the current menswear trend toward leaner silhouettes, and its narrow demographic puzzled critics. Clearly, there was still a disconnect between the designer and a broader audience. While persuing a sociology degree at Harvard in the early ’80s, Bartlett had a formative shopping experience. “Louie’s of Boston was this place that sold upscale European clothes. They even had a cappuccino bar,” he says. One salesman allowed Bartlett to try on the clothes, even though he couldn’t afford to buy any. “That was smart,” Bartlett said. “It was a

way to develop a customer at a young age.” With the new shop, which opened last September, Bartlett himself provides the personal touch. Over the years, he has designed for other companies, but he says there’s an advantage to selling your own work. “I can monitor what the customer wants. When you’re wholesaling, the retailers have to do that for you. This is more direct.”

restrictive silhouette. They’re clothes for a preppy guy with a dark side. Most of the merchandise wouldn’t seem too out of place at Brooks Brothers, a store with a trademark look Bartlett says he has always admired. That iconic sportswear store probably wouldn’t feature a threelegged dog on their T-shirts and shopping bags, but Tim is special. The dog was rescued by the North

Bartlett’s new line is subtler, less aggressive. The strategy has already paid off. Actor Kiefer Sutherland came in one day, and Bartlett has been selling him clothes ever since. His new line represents a slightly revised aesthetic: It’s subtler, less aggressive. “The guy I dress is looking for clothes that will bring out his essence. He’s not looking for a costume,” he says. Though you can still find snug-fitting leather pants here— and a tie with a barbed-wire motif—the designer now favors soft moleskin fabric and a less

Shore Animal League after being hit by a car on Christmas Eve 2002. The shelter amputated his right front leg and named him Tiny Tim. Bartlett adopted him soon after. The colors of the store’s décor were inspired by Tim’s silky coat. “In my next incarnation, I’ll be an animal advocate,” Bartlett says. For now, he’s still Bartlett, the same but not the same. At FIT, he says, the fact that “we were on the machines from day one” led to an epiphany. “I realized I could make something that I could

wear out that night—that fashion could be personal for me.” By learning to dress himself, he learned how to dress other men, too. Now he’s adapted this skill for a look more men can aspire to. After Dark is still a reference, but these days, the magazine’s covers wallpaper the storage closet. His essence hasn’t changed, just his approach. It’s a style that’s about to go mass-market. In January, Liz Claiborne announced that Bartlett would design its men’s sportswear line, to debut in spring 2009. Though he’s still researching the design, Bartlett says “the lines will differ in many ways, price being one of them, but the approach for both is similar.” Today, Liz; tomorrow, the UPS man. Bartlett told me he’d love to redesign the UPS uniform. “I love it because it’s got both form and authority. When I began my company in 1992, I was shipping from my apartment, and I got used to waiting all day for that guy in the chocolate brown outfit. To me, he’s a very sexy icon.”

www.fitnyc.edu/hue

21


john bartlett has changed. the two-time cfda menswear award winner unlocks the door of his new shop at 143 seventh avenue and begins to prepare for the day. to complete his outfit of a white button-down shirt, leather boots, and black trousers, bartlett dons a brown canvas apron. he confers with a couple of associates about the stock. he’s a shopkeeper ready for work. A customer enters. He drifts among the merchandise, considering carefully, touching an olive-green cashmere scarf ($250), slim brown jeans ($180), gray cotton blazer with green corduroy panels ($695). Silver-haired with a trim figure, he fits into the store’s surroundings— weathered floorboards, fieldstone walls, and palette of somber tones. He’s here for the opportunity to meet Bartlett, and asks informed questions about where the garments are made (India) and where the materials are from (Europe, chiefly Italy). Bartlett answers all, makes the sale, and thanks the shopper as he leaves. Bartlett pats his dog, a Rottweiler-Lab mix, who watches his master with utter devotion. “Good boy, Tim,” he says. The scene could be sponsored by Hallmark, except for the dog: Tim has three legs. The last time I saw Bartlett in person, he was speaking to a class of FIT students in March 2001. His form-fitting leather lace-up pants and black T-shirt suited his reputation as a provocateur. His fashion shows featured porn stars, and his garments referenced the lewd illustrations of Tom of Finland, the homoerotic ’70s magazine After Dark, and skintight uniforms of every kind. The industry applauded him, and critics adored him. Time wrote that he was “the first American designer trained specifically in menswear who has attracted a following since Ralph Lauren.” Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute curator Richard Martin dubbed his work “idiosyncratically shrewd.” At FIT, his presentation included a video of a recent fashion show that alluded to bondage: “I’ve always had a fetish for rope,” he told the students. That fall, Bartlett presented another memorable show at the New York State Armory on 26th Street. Models appeared in mock prison cells, wearing blindfolds. Bartlett himself modeled in a blindfold. Translating his look for a commercial audience had already proved challenging, and that new collection didn’t help. The show’s dark mood was eerily prescient; it took place three days before September 11th. “Afterwards,” he told me recently, “that kind of expression just didn’t feel appropriate.”

Bartlett’s store logo and label are inspired by his dog, Tiny Tim.

20

hue | spring 2008

In 2002, Bartlett left the business. He lived with Buddhist monks in Thailand and studied yoga. “You do the same six moves every day,” he told me. For nine months, he focused his mind and tried to figure out what to do next. When he returned, he considered a degree in media studies at the New School, but fashion drew him back. He began to do shows again. One of the most memorable was his fall 2006 “bears” show—clothes based on the subculture of big, hairy gay men. The line defied the current menswear trend toward leaner silhouettes, and its narrow demographic puzzled critics. Clearly, there was still a disconnect between the designer and a broader audience. While persuing a sociology degree at Harvard in the early ’80s, Bartlett had a formative shopping experience. “Louie’s of Boston was this place that sold upscale European clothes. They even had a cappuccino bar,” he says. One salesman allowed Bartlett to try on the clothes, even though he couldn’t afford to buy any. “That was smart,” Bartlett said. “It was a

way to develop a customer at a young age.” With the new shop, which opened last September, Bartlett himself provides the personal touch. Over the years, he has designed for other companies, but he says there’s an advantage to selling your own work. “I can monitor what the customer wants. When you’re wholesaling, the retailers have to do that for you. This is more direct.”

restrictive silhouette. They’re clothes for a preppy guy with a dark side. Most of the merchandise wouldn’t seem too out of place at Brooks Brothers, a store with a trademark look Bartlett says he has always admired. That iconic sportswear store probably wouldn’t feature a threelegged dog on their T-shirts and shopping bags, but Tim is special. The dog was rescued by the North

Bartlett’s new line is subtler, less aggressive. The strategy has already paid off. Actor Kiefer Sutherland came in one day, and Bartlett has been selling him clothes ever since. His new line represents a slightly revised aesthetic: It’s subtler, less aggressive. “The guy I dress is looking for clothes that will bring out his essence. He’s not looking for a costume,” he says. Though you can still find snug-fitting leather pants here— and a tie with a barbed-wire motif—the designer now favors soft moleskin fabric and a less

Shore Animal League after being hit by a car on Christmas Eve 2002. The shelter amputated his right front leg and named him Tiny Tim. Bartlett adopted him soon after. The colors of the store’s décor were inspired by Tim’s silky coat. “In my next incarnation, I’ll be an animal advocate,” Bartlett says. For now, he’s still Bartlett, the same but not the same. At FIT, he says, the fact that “we were on the machines from day one” led to an epiphany. “I realized I could make something that I could

wear out that night—that fashion could be personal for me.” By learning to dress himself, he learned how to dress other men, too. Now he’s adapted this skill for a look more men can aspire to. After Dark is still a reference, but these days, the magazine’s covers wallpaper the storage closet. His essence hasn’t changed, just his approach. It’s a style that’s about to go mass-market. In January, Liz Claiborne announced that Bartlett would design its men’s sportswear line, to debut in spring 2009. Though he’s still researching the design, Bartlett says “the lines will differ in many ways, price being one of them, but the approach for both is similar.” Today, Liz; tomorrow, the UPS man. Bartlett told me he’d love to redesign the UPS uniform. “I love it because it’s got both form and authority. When I began my company in 1992, I was shipping from my apartment, and I got used to waiting all day for that guy in the chocolate brown outfit. To me, he’s a very sexy icon.”

www.fitnyc.edu/hue

21


Global Fashion Management is an international business program with fashion as its core

FIT’s Global Fashion Management program provides the unique opportunity to learn, firsthand, the contributions of three world cities to the business of fashion. The three-semester master of professional studies program is offered in collaboration with Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Institut Français de la Mode in Paris. Students spend two weeks at each site, delving into each city’s specialty—manufacturing and luxury brands, respectively. The rest of the time is spent at FIT in New York City, world center of marketing, where studies include international team management, culture and international business, challenges to profitability, and consumer behavior. The program was founded just over three years ago, in 2004, but graduates are already beginning to build innovative businesses.

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hue | spring 2008

Not Your Dad’s Plaid

Ali McCloud ’07 opens a unique eco-friendly boutique

Will Poho and Max Black ’06 crank up Canada style to create a new brand

Ali McCloud opened the eco-friendly Arcadia Boutique in Philadelphia’s old Northern Liberties section last October. Her business was based largely on her GFM capstone project, on launching an eco-friendly clothing line. The project included research on designers who produce clothes in a socially responsible and environmentally conscious manner, such as Loyale, Ecoganik, Del Forte, and Anna Cohen (a Seattle-based FIT alumna). McCloud now sells those lines at Arcadia. Arcadia offers more than clothes, though. McCloud is creating an experience where fashion, art, and community come together. Even some of the store’s accessories and jewelry have an ecotheme, including the Rust-Belt line, made of repurposed metals. The boutique is also a gallery that sells work by local artists. A portion of proceeds goes to a foundation that supports emerging artists and designers. McCloud’s plans include a “re-fashion program” to rework vintage clothing into contemporary pieces, and a studio for designers whose work will then be sold at Arcadia. Meanwhile, this past February, she launched an eco-friendly travel service offering hotels and transportation chosen for minimal environmental impact. “People seem excited about merging art and fashion,” McCloud says. “I found that Europeans value the artistic spirit of independent retailers and designers over mass-market brands and chains, and I want Arcadia to capture some of that spirit. Maybe my boutique can help remind consumers that unique and creative designers still exist in the U.S.” — Heather Bourbeau

“Can-glam,” Will Poho says, describing Moose Knuckles, his new clothing line. “Can” is short for Canada, Poho’s homeland, which is the inspiration for the Toronto-based brand. The collection gives Canada-style casual wear a sophisticated urban twist, and includes parkas, sweats, Ts, and that backwoods staple, the plaid shirt. “We’ll do plaid every season, but bring it up a few tiers as a luxury item, with expensive fabric and fine details.” Poho says. “We want to own the plaid shirt.” The brand is an outgrowth of the capstone project Poho developed with classmate Max Black. They chose a fading Canadian brand, infused it with Japanese street style, and devised a plan to launch it globally. Poho, the firm’s director of operations, is also the owner of Textile Cutting, Inc., the largest contract textile cutter in Canada. He started the company in 2002 and bought his own factory after graduating from FIT. He grew the business by expanding beyond apparel into cutting bulletproof vests, parachutes, and gas mask bags for military contractors like Lockheed Martin. Owning the factory means he can “afford to stay in the game long enough to create a successful collection,” he says. And he can manufacture the clothes himself. Poho has put in place the elements needed to launch a new brand. “[GFM] gave me a very ‘macro’ perspective on the global fashion environment—how everything fits together,” he says. He also has the right people. Instructor Jeannette Nostra, president of G-III Apparel Group, the largest outerwear licensing company in North America, serves as an advisor,

Illustration by Veronica Lawlor

R-E-S-P-E-C-T and Black moved to Toronto in December to join Moose Knuckles as creative director. Black is the team’s branding and marketing strategist. He still runs his own business, Blacktek, doing internet production and design for the NBA and a number of smaller companies. He’s also a branding consultant for the American Folk Art Museum in New York. Soaking up the local culture in Toronto helps Black add depth to the Moose Knuckles brand. Black, a New Yorker, finds some Canadian tastes a bit exotic. Hockey fights, for example. “Very violent, but they find humor in it,” he says. Both the humor and violence will find their way into the brand in, for instance, T-shirt graphics and promotions. One challenge the pair face in creating a new brand is coming to terms with their differences. For instance, Black is concerned that upscaleCanada-plaid might be too narrow a niche. (Though he admits, “We have gorgeous plaids.”) He cites a classic divide: business versus creative. “Will’s a salesperson and manufacturer; every decision is based on getting to a solution as easily as possible. But I think the more ‘drafts’ you do, the more refined it becomes, with more layers of reference.” Meanwhile, they’ve managed to create a brand that pleases them both. Black described the target market: “Ideally, somewhat high end, [the customer] being edgy but upscale men, 26-48, $125250,000 a year. But Moose Knuckles has an edge that I think could catch on with the urban or skater markets, especially in Europe or Japan. So, depending on what retailers we can convince to pick up our stuff, and perhaps what celebrity we can get our T-shirts on, might guide the market more than even we can. If Jay-Z is seen in our shirt and it becomes an urban brand, so be it.” They don’t have much money for marketing, but they’re enlisting their network of PR and events people. Moose Knuckles will be at Iceland Fashion Week ’09, invited by Black’s former roommate, the event’s organizer. Current plans are to launch the collection in fall 2008, in Canada at the high-end department store chain Holt Renfrew and in New York at Memes, Union, and Atrium. Poho’s eye is on Asia and Europe, but that’s for the future. “For now, we just have to get into stores, get some press and financing,” he says. “The idea is not to be funkycreative, but to make something that will sell.” — Linda Angrilli

Robin Sackin, chair of Fashion Merchandising Management

“ To be successful in the fashion business, you have to be analytical, know what the customer wants, read financial reports, be a critical thinker and a team player. The Team Development Workshop is one of the last requirements for the FMM associate’s degree, and it’s one of those courses where students start out saying, ‘Ugh, why do I have to take this?’ At first, everyone thinks they’re a leader. But in this class some of them discover they’re not—they’re creative, they’re moderators, they’re finishers, and you need all those roles to get the project done. Everyone is held accountable to make sure the tasks are completed, and everyone suffers if a team member doesn’t come to class or do the work. The team can ‘fire’ that member. It happens rarely, but for those who have been fired, it’s a real life lesson. By the time students get to the Merchandising Strategies course—the bachelor’s program capstone project—they’re doing case studies on actual companies, and making presentations at firms like Abercrombie, Bergdorf Goodman, Liz Claiborne. Suddenly it dawns on them that executives are taking their ideas and suggestions seriously. That’s when students understand something important about themselves—they know what they’re talking about.”

www.fitnyc.edu/hue

insights from the classroom and beyond

Aof Tale Three Cities

WelCome to Arcadia

23


Global Fashion Management is an international business program with fashion as its core

FIT’s Global Fashion Management program provides the unique opportunity to learn, firsthand, the contributions of three world cities to the business of fashion. The three-semester master of professional studies program is offered in collaboration with Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Institut Français de la Mode in Paris. Students spend two weeks at each site, delving into each city’s specialty—manufacturing and luxury brands, respectively. The rest of the time is spent at FIT in New York City, world center of marketing, where studies include international team management, culture and international business, challenges to profitability, and consumer behavior. The program was founded just over three years ago, in 2004, but graduates are already beginning to build innovative businesses.

22

hue | spring 2008

Not Your Dad’s Plaid

Ali McCloud ’07 opens a unique eco-friendly boutique

Will Poho and Max Black ’06 crank up Canada style to create a new brand

Ali McCloud opened the eco-friendly Arcadia Boutique in Philadelphia’s old Northern Liberties section last October. Her business was based largely on her GFM capstone project, on launching an eco-friendly clothing line. The project included research on designers who produce clothes in a socially responsible and environmentally conscious manner, such as Loyale, Ecoganik, Del Forte, and Anna Cohen (a Seattle-based FIT alumna). McCloud now sells those lines at Arcadia. Arcadia offers more than clothes, though. McCloud is creating an experience where fashion, art, and community come together. Even some of the store’s accessories and jewelry have an ecotheme, including the Rust-Belt line, made of repurposed metals. The boutique is also a gallery that sells work by local artists. A portion of proceeds goes to a foundation that supports emerging artists and designers. McCloud’s plans include a “re-fashion program” to rework vintage clothing into contemporary pieces, and a studio for designers whose work will then be sold at Arcadia. Meanwhile, this past February, she launched an eco-friendly travel service offering hotels and transportation chosen for minimal environmental impact. “People seem excited about merging art and fashion,” McCloud says. “I found that Europeans value the artistic spirit of independent retailers and designers over mass-market brands and chains, and I want Arcadia to capture some of that spirit. Maybe my boutique can help remind consumers that unique and creative designers still exist in the U.S.” — Heather Bourbeau

“Can-glam,” Will Poho says, describing Moose Knuckles, his new clothing line. “Can” is short for Canada, Poho’s homeland, which is the inspiration for the Toronto-based brand. The collection gives Canada-style casual wear a sophisticated urban twist, and includes parkas, sweats, Ts, and that backwoods staple, the plaid shirt. “We’ll do plaid every season, but bring it up a few tiers as a luxury item, with expensive fabric and fine details.” Poho says. “We want to own the plaid shirt.” The brand is an outgrowth of the capstone project Poho developed with classmate Max Black. They chose a fading Canadian brand, infused it with Japanese street style, and devised a plan to launch it globally. Poho, the firm’s director of operations, is also the owner of Textile Cutting, Inc., the largest contract textile cutter in Canada. He started the company in 2002 and bought his own factory after graduating from FIT. He grew the business by expanding beyond apparel into cutting bulletproof vests, parachutes, and gas mask bags for military contractors like Lockheed Martin. Owning the factory means he can “afford to stay in the game long enough to create a successful collection,” he says. And he can manufacture the clothes himself. Poho has put in place the elements needed to launch a new brand. “[GFM] gave me a very ‘macro’ perspective on the global fashion environment—how everything fits together,” he says. He also has the right people. Instructor Jeannette Nostra, president of G-III Apparel Group, the largest outerwear licensing company in North America, serves as an advisor,

Illustration by Veronica Lawlor

R-E-S-P-E-C-T and Black moved to Toronto in December to join Moose Knuckles as creative director. Black is the team’s branding and marketing strategist. He still runs his own business, Blacktek, doing internet production and design for the NBA and a number of smaller companies. He’s also a branding consultant for the American Folk Art Museum in New York. Soaking up the local culture in Toronto helps Black add depth to the Moose Knuckles brand. Black, a New Yorker, finds some Canadian tastes a bit exotic. Hockey fights, for example. “Very violent, but they find humor in it,” he says. Both the humor and violence will find their way into the brand in, for instance, T-shirt graphics and promotions. One challenge the pair face in creating a new brand is coming to terms with their differences. For instance, Black is concerned that upscaleCanada-plaid might be too narrow a niche. (Though he admits, “We have gorgeous plaids.”) He cites a classic divide: business versus creative. “Will’s a salesperson and manufacturer; every decision is based on getting to a solution as easily as possible. But I think the more ‘drafts’ you do, the more refined it becomes, with more layers of reference.” Meanwhile, they’ve managed to create a brand that pleases them both. Black described the target market: “Ideally, somewhat high end, [the customer] being edgy but upscale men, 26-48, $125250,000 a year. But Moose Knuckles has an edge that I think could catch on with the urban or skater markets, especially in Europe or Japan. So, depending on what retailers we can convince to pick up our stuff, and perhaps what celebrity we can get our T-shirts on, might guide the market more than even we can. If Jay-Z is seen in our shirt and it becomes an urban brand, so be it.” They don’t have much money for marketing, but they’re enlisting their network of PR and events people. Moose Knuckles will be at Iceland Fashion Week ’09, invited by Black’s former roommate, the event’s organizer. Current plans are to launch the collection in fall 2008, in Canada at the high-end department store chain Holt Renfrew and in New York at Memes, Union, and Atrium. Poho’s eye is on Asia and Europe, but that’s for the future. “For now, we just have to get into stores, get some press and financing,” he says. “The idea is not to be funkycreative, but to make something that will sell.” — Linda Angrilli

Robin Sackin, chair of Fashion Merchandising Management

“ To be successful in the fashion business, you have to be analytical, know what the customer wants, read financial reports, be a critical thinker and a team player. The Team Development Workshop is one of the last requirements for the FMM associate’s degree, and it’s one of those courses where students start out saying, ‘Ugh, why do I have to take this?’ At first, everyone thinks they’re a leader. But in this class some of them discover they’re not—they’re creative, they’re moderators, they’re finishers, and you need all those roles to get the project done. Everyone is held accountable to make sure the tasks are completed, and everyone suffers if a team member doesn’t come to class or do the work. The team can ‘fire’ that member. It happens rarely, but for those who have been fired, it’s a real life lesson. By the time students get to the Merchandising Strategies course—the bachelor’s program capstone project—they’re doing case studies on actual companies, and making presentations at firms like Abercrombie, Bergdorf Goodman, Liz Claiborne. Suddenly it dawns on them that executives are taking their ideas and suggestions seriously. That’s when students understand something important about themselves—they know what they’re talking about.”

www.fitnyc.edu/hue

insights from the classroom and beyond

Aof Tale Three Cities

WelCome to Arcadia

23


Sphinx of Fashion

practices were rarely described accurately. She was born Germaine Emilie Krebs, and began calling herself Alix in the early ’30s; Grès is a sort of anagram of her husband’s first name, Serge. (Their brief marriage ended when he left for Tahiti and never returned.) Intrigue surrounded even Grès’s death, inexplicably hidden from the world by her only child, Anne. It was in the realm of craftsmanship that Grès made her most important contributions. A couturière in the traditional sense of the word, she did not sketch or leave the technical process to assistants. Every garment from her atelier was crafted by hand, by her. She rose early in the morning and worked well into the evening nearly every weekday of her life. A 1971 film shows her draping and manipulating fabric with great speed and dexterity. Grès was a master technician often compared to other great dressmaking innovators of the 20th century, such as Madeleine Vionnet (1876-1975) and Cristobal Balenciaga (1895-1972). Early in her career Grès created garments clearly based on Vionnet’s philosophy of draping to produce supple, body-revealing fashions with a minimum of cutting and sewing, but with less mathematical balance and precision. After Vionnet’s retirement in 1939, Grès continued to introduce innovations using her own, self-taught methods. She also embraced and refined elements of classical art and design. Grès entered the last phase of her working life, from 1960 to 1988, while Balenciaga was the most influential force in French fashion design.

But his garments appeared rigid and architectonic, while hers were soft and sculptural. During the 20 years between the close of Balenciaga’s house in 1968 and her retirement, Grès was the last working couturier from the golden age of French fashion design. The three most important stylistic and structural elements of Grès’s work were her classically inspired pleated gowns, usually made of matte silk jersey; her simple and geometric designs based on ethnic costume (non-Western art was a great inspiration to her); and the three-dimensional, sculptural quality that was her hallmark. Because Grès was not a fashion trendsetter in the obvious sense and did not create novel, thematic collections, her work is often considered to exist outside the realm of Perpetually changing swathed in a fashion. Yet turban, she lived Grès did follow general up to her design trends, nickname: the responding Sphinx of Fashion. with a consistent emphasis on the “natural” female form and a commitment to the craft of draping. Her business thrived in the 1950s and 1960s, and she was unanimously elected president of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture in 1972. By the mid-1980s, her house had fallen into decline and she retired quietly after the

The mysterious Madame Grès was a brilliant design innovator whose life and work still puzzle fashion connoisseurs

photographs by Irving Solero

hue | spring 2008

presentation of her spring/summer 1988 collection. She died in 1994. No figure in French couture used the elements of classicism so completely or so poetically as Madame Grès, who used this aesthetic in her creation of seemingly limitless construction variations on a theme. Often called the great “sculptress” of haute couture, Grès used the draping method to create her most dramatic designs, often consisting of puffed, molded, and three-dimensionally shaped elements that billowed and stood away from the body rather than falling next to it. Her sculpted garments are supple and pliable and have no reinforcement, such as an attached inner facing. These sensual fashions were cut to enhance the body without restricting its movement. Patricia Mears is deputy director of The Museum at FIT. Parts of this article were excerpted from her book, Madame Grès: Sphinx of Fashion (Yale University Press). It was published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name, on view at the museum through April 19, 2008.

<< F  rom far left, opposite page: Detail and full image of evening dress with balloon sleeves, navy silk paper taffeta, 1977; evening dress, off-white matte silk jersey, 1965; cape-coat, gray and yellow plaid wool and mohair, circa 1950; “Grecian” evening dress, celery matte silk jersey, 1945; evening dress, aubergine matte silk jersey, 1965.

by Patricia Mears

24

Courtesy Norman Parkinson Archive, London

A

lix grès is widely regarded as one of the most brilliant dressmakers of the 20th century. The venerated couturier created exquisite gowns and dressed many of the most stylish women of her time— movie stars like Marlene Dietrich, socialites from Millicent Rogers to Nan Kempner, European aristocracy, and even Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Her work is noted for its sculptural quality, and, more importantly, for her use of innovative construction techniques that allowed her clothing to transcend the fickleness of fashion. Connoisseurs recognize her hallmark, the “Grecian” gown, reminiscent of ancient sculpture, but the full extent of Madame Grès’s innovations is little understood. Both her life and her work remain mysterious. Perpetually swathed in a turban, she lived up to her nickname, the “Sphinx of Fashion.” If her work has been difficult to interpret, this is largely because her emphasis was on clothing construction, one of the most neglected areas in the study of dress. The duration of her career (nearly six decades, from the early 1930s to the late 1980s), the complexity of her métier, and her secretive private life are other reasons that her style remains obscure. Just as Grès handcrafted her original designs in complete solitude, so too did she create her persona. Unlike Chanel (who famously invented her own false history of an idyllic childhood), Grès created a public image of herself through omission. Her birth, upbringing, early career, marriage, love affairs, and business

www.fitnyc.edu/hue

25


Sphinx of Fashion

practices were rarely described accurately. She was born Germaine Emilie Krebs, and began calling herself Alix in the early ’30s; Grès is a sort of anagram of her husband’s first name, Serge. (Their brief marriage ended when he left for Tahiti and never returned.) Intrigue surrounded even Grès’s death, inexplicably hidden from the world by her only child, Anne. It was in the realm of craftsmanship that Grès made her most important contributions. A couturière in the traditional sense of the word, she did not sketch or leave the technical process to assistants. Every garment from her atelier was crafted by hand, by her. She rose early in the morning and worked well into the evening nearly every weekday of her life. A 1971 film shows her draping and manipulating fabric with great speed and dexterity. Grès was a master technician often compared to other great dressmaking innovators of the 20th century, such as Madeleine Vionnet (1876-1975) and Cristobal Balenciaga (1895-1972). Early in her career Grès created garments clearly based on Vionnet’s philosophy of draping to produce supple, body-revealing fashions with a minimum of cutting and sewing, but with less mathematical balance and precision. After Vionnet’s retirement in 1939, Grès continued to introduce innovations using her own, self-taught methods. She also embraced and refined elements of classical art and design. Grès entered the last phase of her working life, from 1960 to 1988, while Balenciaga was the most influential force in French fashion design.

But his garments appeared rigid and architectonic, while hers were soft and sculptural. During the 20 years between the close of Balenciaga’s house in 1968 and her retirement, Grès was the last working couturier from the golden age of French fashion design. The three most important stylistic and structural elements of Grès’s work were her classically inspired pleated gowns, usually made of matte silk jersey; her simple and geometric designs based on ethnic costume (non-Western art was a great inspiration to her); and the three-dimensional, sculptural quality that was her hallmark. Because Grès was not a fashion trendsetter in the obvious sense and did not create novel, thematic collections, her work is often considered to exist outside the realm of Perpetually changing swathed in a fashion. Yet turban, she lived Grès did follow general up to her design trends, nickname: the responding Sphinx of Fashion. with a consistent emphasis on the “natural” female form and a commitment to the craft of draping. Her business thrived in the 1950s and 1960s, and she was unanimously elected president of the Chambre Syndicale de la Couture in 1972. By the mid-1980s, her house had fallen into decline and she retired quietly after the

The mysterious Madame Grès was a brilliant design innovator whose life and work still puzzle fashion connoisseurs

photographs by Irving Solero

hue | spring 2008

presentation of her spring/summer 1988 collection. She died in 1994. No figure in French couture used the elements of classicism so completely or so poetically as Madame Grès, who used this aesthetic in her creation of seemingly limitless construction variations on a theme. Often called the great “sculptress” of haute couture, Grès used the draping method to create her most dramatic designs, often consisting of puffed, molded, and three-dimensionally shaped elements that billowed and stood away from the body rather than falling next to it. Her sculpted garments are supple and pliable and have no reinforcement, such as an attached inner facing. These sensual fashions were cut to enhance the body without restricting its movement. Patricia Mears is deputy director of The Museum at FIT. Parts of this article were excerpted from her book, Madame Grès: Sphinx of Fashion (Yale University Press). It was published in conjunction with an exhibition of the same name, on view at the museum through April 19, 2008.

<< F  rom far left, opposite page: Detail and full image of evening dress with balloon sleeves, navy silk paper taffeta, 1977; evening dress, off-white matte silk jersey, 1965; cape-coat, gray and yellow plaid wool and mohair, circa 1950; “Grecian” evening dress, celery matte silk jersey, 1945; evening dress, aubergine matte silk jersey, 1965.

by Patricia Mears

24

Courtesy Norman Parkinson Archive, London

A

lix grès is widely regarded as one of the most brilliant dressmakers of the 20th century. The venerated couturier created exquisite gowns and dressed many of the most stylish women of her time— movie stars like Marlene Dietrich, socialites from Millicent Rogers to Nan Kempner, European aristocracy, and even Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Her work is noted for its sculptural quality, and, more importantly, for her use of innovative construction techniques that allowed her clothing to transcend the fickleness of fashion. Connoisseurs recognize her hallmark, the “Grecian” gown, reminiscent of ancient sculpture, but the full extent of Madame Grès’s innovations is little understood. Both her life and her work remain mysterious. Perpetually swathed in a turban, she lived up to her nickname, the “Sphinx of Fashion.” If her work has been difficult to interpret, this is largely because her emphasis was on clothing construction, one of the most neglected areas in the study of dress. The duration of her career (nearly six decades, from the early 1930s to the late 1980s), the complexity of her métier, and her secretive private life are other reasons that her style remains obscure. Just as Grès handcrafted her original designs in complete solitude, so too did she create her persona. Unlike Chanel (who famously invented her own false history of an idyllic childhood), Grès created a public image of herself through omission. Her birth, upbringing, early career, marriage, love affairs, and business

www.fitnyc.edu/hue

25


Added Value

the multicolored world of kaffe fassett

“I do with my knitting the same thing I do with painting: arrange patterns and colors until they start screaming,” says Kaffe Fassett. The first living artist to have a solo show at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, Fassett has designed clothing for Missoni and costumes and sets for the Royal Shakespeare Company. He also makes mosaics, quilts, and needlepoint pieces. During a talk at FIT in November, he said a “joyous pastel oriental world” of color unifies his work. The California native began his career in 1964, when he moved to England. His stateside return visit was occasioned by publication of his eleventh book, Kaffe Knits Again. “His work has broad appeal,” says Karen Gentile, chair of Textile/Surface Design. “He’s very hands-on. We all design with

computers now, and they’re great; but he emphasizes the tactile experience of making things. It’s important to keep that alive.” At the FIT event, Several audience members could be spotted knitting before the lecture. Kaffe Fassett (rhymes with “safe asset”) learned to knit from a fellow passenger on a train trip from Scotland to London. His boyish enthusiasm is infectious. When an audience member asked about a particular stitching technique, he offered to come off the stage to demonstrate it. He is known for being exceptionally prolific, and he made fun of the way some craftspeople work: “They do one stitch, and then they think about it for an hour.” Ideas for his eclectic color combinations have come from stained stone walls, sacks of fertilizer, and layers of wallpaper revealed during a renovation. He said, “The myth in England is that no one is interested in color,” but sales of his sweaters with swooning pastel hues disprove it. The pieces in Kaffe Knits Again were photographed at Charleston, the Bloomsbury group’s country home in Sussex, where painted murals and brilliant tiles provided the backdrop. Only one place proved too stimulating: London’s Chelsea flower show. “That’s almost too much color, even for me,” he said.

Sir Francis Drake, during his fleet’s circumnavigation of the earth (1577-80).

— sandra sider, adjunct instructor, history of art and civilization, and author, handbook to life in renaissance europe

Barack Obama, a living visionary with substance, style, and charisma. His optimism for spreading hope inspires me to share my own creative passion. — Claibourn Hamilton, Graphic Design ’08

hue | spring 2008

—Jenna Leite, Fashion Merchandising Management ’07

I would like to be the person who with love can bring some joy and self esteem to anyone I touch in my life through my actions and through my work.

Marie Antoinette—the wigs, the bonbons, the laughs.

—Simon Doonan, creative director, Barneys New York

A backup girl in a hot rock act. A really iconic one...like Eric Clapton. —Joan Volpe, managing coordinator, Center for Professional Studies

Savior of Western civilization.

My father. In the little amount of time we spent together on this earth, I learned a lot about life. I give him credit for getting me this far and preparing me for the struggles I had to endure growing up. Now I miss him, and if I could be him it would repair that void. —Lloyd Jones, Menswear ’09

—Hieu Tran, Illustration ’09

Cleopatra, queen of the Nile—a ravishing beauty, a goddess, a courageous leader… she was Egypt’s last pharaoh. And remembered for her great hair and eye makeup. —Patty McGillin, training coordinator, Human Resources

— Alex Joseph

—Delica Reduque, executive associate, Human Resources and Labor Relations

Matthew Septimus

Foolish Virgins, 12 by 68 inches, is knitted with four-ply Rowan Scottish tweed yarn in 23 colors, including rust, winter navy, gray mist, heath, and lobster. Though Fassett’s designs are graphed out beforehand, he improvises with color as he works.

Betsey Johnson. I’d love to be inside that woman’s head and play in her bubble of colors and ideas.

—Norma Kamali, Fashion Illustration ’65

A person who has found balance in all areas of her life.

26

one question, many answers

We asked one question on campus and at fit events around town, to take the community’s pulse, as it were:

An even better version of myself.

—Tiffany Cole, Production Management: Fashion and Related Industries ’08

I want to be admired.

—Nikki Girion, Fashion Design ’08

Thandie Newton. If I knew what an angel looked like, I think she’d be it. She admitted celebrities are “trained” to ignore hunger. Her husband is a chef and he helped her learn to accept her body. —Julia Rhodes, secretary, Communications and External Relations

www.fitnyc.edu/hue

27


Added Value

the multicolored world of kaffe fassett

“I do with my knitting the same thing I do with painting: arrange patterns and colors until they start screaming,” says Kaffe Fassett. The first living artist to have a solo show at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, Fassett has designed clothing for Missoni and costumes and sets for the Royal Shakespeare Company. He also makes mosaics, quilts, and needlepoint pieces. During a talk at FIT in November, he said a “joyous pastel oriental world” of color unifies his work. The California native began his career in 1964, when he moved to England. His stateside return visit was occasioned by publication of his eleventh book, Kaffe Knits Again. “His work has broad appeal,” says Karen Gentile, chair of Textile/Surface Design. “He’s very hands-on. We all design with

computers now, and they’re great; but he emphasizes the tactile experience of making things. It’s important to keep that alive.” At the FIT event, Several audience members could be spotted knitting before the lecture. Kaffe Fassett (rhymes with “safe asset”) learned to knit from a fellow passenger on a train trip from Scotland to London. His boyish enthusiasm is infectious. When an audience member asked about a particular stitching technique, he offered to come off the stage to demonstrate it. He is known for being exceptionally prolific, and he made fun of the way some craftspeople work: “They do one stitch, and then they think about it for an hour.” Ideas for his eclectic color combinations have come from stained stone walls, sacks of fertilizer, and layers of wallpaper revealed during a renovation. He said, “The myth in England is that no one is interested in color,” but sales of his sweaters with swooning pastel hues disprove it. The pieces in Kaffe Knits Again were photographed at Charleston, the Bloomsbury group’s country home in Sussex, where painted murals and brilliant tiles provided the backdrop. Only one place proved too stimulating: London’s Chelsea flower show. “That’s almost too much color, even for me,” he said.

Sir Francis Drake, during his fleet’s circumnavigation of the earth (1577-80).

— sandra sider, adjunct instructor, history of art and civilization, and author, handbook to life in renaissance europe

Barack Obama, a living visionary with substance, style, and charisma. His optimism for spreading hope inspires me to share my own creative passion. — Claibourn Hamilton, Graphic Design ’08

hue | spring 2008

—Jenna Leite, Fashion Merchandising Management ’07

I would like to be the person who with love can bring some joy and self esteem to anyone I touch in my life through my actions and through my work.

Marie Antoinette—the wigs, the bonbons, the laughs.

—Simon Doonan, creative director, Barneys New York

A backup girl in a hot rock act. A really iconic one...like Eric Clapton. —Joan Volpe, managing coordinator, Center for Professional Studies

Savior of Western civilization.

My father. In the little amount of time we spent together on this earth, I learned a lot about life. I give him credit for getting me this far and preparing me for the struggles I had to endure growing up. Now I miss him, and if I could be him it would repair that void. —Lloyd Jones, Menswear ’09

—Hieu Tran, Illustration ’09

Cleopatra, queen of the Nile—a ravishing beauty, a goddess, a courageous leader… she was Egypt’s last pharaoh. And remembered for her great hair and eye makeup. —Patty McGillin, training coordinator, Human Resources

— Alex Joseph

—Delica Reduque, executive associate, Human Resources and Labor Relations

Matthew Septimus

Foolish Virgins, 12 by 68 inches, is knitted with four-ply Rowan Scottish tweed yarn in 23 colors, including rust, winter navy, gray mist, heath, and lobster. Though Fassett’s designs are graphed out beforehand, he improvises with color as he works.

Betsey Johnson. I’d love to be inside that woman’s head and play in her bubble of colors and ideas.

—Norma Kamali, Fashion Illustration ’65

A person who has found balance in all areas of her life.

26

one question, many answers

We asked one question on campus and at fit events around town, to take the community’s pulse, as it were:

An even better version of myself.

—Tiffany Cole, Production Management: Fashion and Related Industries ’08

I want to be admired.

—Nikki Girion, Fashion Design ’08

Thandie Newton. If I knew what an angel looked like, I think she’d be it. She admitted celebrities are “trained” to ignore hunger. Her husband is a chef and he helped her learn to accept her body. —Julia Rhodes, secretary, Communications and External Relations

www.fitnyc.edu/hue

27


1952

MISTER BAGEL

1983

1993

on the record

In 1977, when rick hartglass, textile administration and

maria perez whittingham, patternmaking technology,

owns two boutiques in Nyack, NY—Maria Luisa and ML Gifts and Accessories. Maria Luisa opened in 1987, and offers clothing, footwear, jewelry, and home accessories with an emphasis on local designers and handmade wares. Some handbags are made by Whittingham herself. ML—opened in 2006 just a few doors down—focuses on trendier accessories and gift items.

ari vega, fashion design ’84; patternmaking technology ’86;

Sarah Lewitinn, Advertising and Marketing Communications ’01

sales ’66 ,

opened his first Mister Bagel shop, in Portland,

frozen Lender’s in the store,” he says. “A bakery might produce a round roll with a hole. That was it.” The native Brooklynite helped change that, in a big way: There are now 13 Mister Bagels throughout Maine. But the product has changed, too. “I’m a traditionalist,” he says. “Today, they want a blueberry bagel with strawberry cream

news from your classmates

cheese and God knows what else!”

1996

1988

margaux baran caniato, advertising and communications,

is a Manhattan-based milliner and clothing designer whose original hats have appeared in Italian Elle and The New York Times. His atelier offers made-to-order creations; he’s working to get his hats into stores as well.

is manager of external designers for Target, helping contract talent like Isaac Mizrahi navigate the company’s design process. She ensures that the finished products express both the designer’s unique voice and Target’s brand while serving the company’s mission of affordable, well-designed apparel, accessories, and housewares. Caniato is based in New York City.

lawrence levens, fashion design,

Am I Devi, 1999, 63 by 48 inches, by Estelle Kessler Yarinsky ’52. estelle kessler yarinsky, textile design,

1990

showed 20

Albany Institute of History and Art’s exhibition, in her adopted hometown of Albany, NY. Fabrica, a one-person show, focused on little-known

Photo: John Ewing, Portland Press Herald

1967

contributions to their

illustration ,

families, faiths, communities,

and illustrator of The

or professions. Yarinsky

Dancer’s Book of Crafts

extensively researches her

(Homemade Creations

subjects’ lives, and stitches

2008), a how-to with

poetry fragments, quota-

knitting, jewelry- and

tions, and symbols into the

clothes-making, and art

works. Her work has been

is the author

projects for dancers (and

exhibited widely in Florida,

dancers’ parents) of all ages. Haskin, a lifelong dancer

Ohio, New York, Texas, and

herself, lives in Connecticut.

Washington, DC.

Illustration by Christina Haskin ’67.

1973

1966 mark suss , textile adminis -

bernadette costantino puleo ,

owns the Upper Deck Café,

tration and sales ,

is president of Retail and Executive Placement Associates, a Washington, DC-based recruiting and background-screening firm he founded in 1983. Suss has filled high-level positions in human resources, retail, and technology across the U.S., in Puerto Rico, and in St. Thomas. His clients include Bed Bath & Beyond, Circuit City, Fortunoff, Ralph Lauren, and Target.

advertising design ,

Harbor, ME. The former vice president for merchandising at Z-Tex, Inc., a fabrics supplier in Chicago, Brown decided on early retirement after 30-plus years in the business and relocated to Maine. The restaurant is in its eighth year, and recently won gold in a local chowder contest. In the early ’70s, Brown served as Alumni Association president.

is a freelance graphic designer based in Dix Hills, NY, working largely with images for children’s wear. She has created graphics for kids’ clothes made by Gerber, Li & Fung, and Haddad, to name a few.

Embroidery design by Bernadette Puleo ’73, for H.I.S. International.

hue | spring 2008

is the inventor of the Busy Buddy Tug-A-Jug, a dog toy made by Premier Pet since fall 2006. Inspired by her Boston terrier’s destructive tendencies, Kolesar’s toy is a hard-to-break plastic bottle whose bottom can be unscrewed to fill it with treats, and whose neck is partly stoppered with a knotted rope. By working the rope, dogs can tease out the food. The Tug-AJug sells online and in stores worldwide. Kolesar also teaches high school health education in Westfield, NJ. buying and merchandising ,

is owner and lead designer of KW Home—a combination interior design office and home furnishings store in Easthampton, MA. As a retailer, Woodruff offers an eclectic mix of bedding, fabric, furniture, lighting, and home accessories, all of which complement his contemporary-meetstraditional design aesthetic. He’s designed commercial and residential spaces River-rock rain shower, by Keith throughout the Northeast. Woodruff ’90. design ,

started her own record label, Stolen Transmission, in her

Pocket Karaoke), and former Spin magazine assistant editor—figured she’d be a natural. She was right: In early 2006, after a run of self-released, sold-out singles, Universal Music Group added Stolen Transmission to its Island/Def Jam division. Despite the bump to the big leagues, Lewitinn’s independent m.o. stayed the same: Scout, sign, and promote the bands she loved.

If only this were the analog era. Beginning in 1999 with the emergence of Napster,

online leaks and free file shares have made the future of the music business look bleak. “It’s like being a mammal in the Ice Age,” Lewitinn says. In December 2007, Island/Def Jam announced layoffs. Ultragrrrl was out of a job.

Well, sort of. As of this writing, Stolen Transmission is in limbo, with the legal

wrangling over ownership still under way. Meantime, back in her apartment, Lewitinn continues to promote the label’s acts every way she can—building bands’ MySpace pages, making sure advertising posters get to tour venues, and striking deals with T-shirt

2001

2002

jaclyn wall borjes, fashion

paula scutella-jagos, advertis-

design ’98; production

ing and marketing communica-

management: apparel ’01,

keith woodruff, interior

lewitinn

grrrl, Lewitinn—a popular DJ, blogger, author (The Pocket DJ and the forthcoming

Keith Woodruff

jim brown , textile design ,

a seafood eatery in Boothbay

susan pakula kolesar , fashion

christina haskin , fashion

n 2004, sarah

Lower East Side apartment. Well known in New York City’s music scene as Ultra-

© Saved Images, courtesy of Premier Pet Products

women who made major

is a partner at Brennan Beer Gorman Monk / Interiors, in New York City. She has designed and directed projects for clients including Elizabeth Arden, Morgan Stanley, and Pfizer. Jakubowski is also active in the International Interior Design Association and the U.S. Green Building Council. amy astfalk jakubowski , interior design ,

of her large-scale fabric collages this past fall in the

28

has been elected vice president of the State University of New York Council of Business Faculty/Administrators. Vega is an assistant professor in FIT’s Production Management: Fashion and Related Industries Department. merchandising management ’93 ,

Brad Walsh

ME, the bagel was a bit exotic there. “You might find

marketing: fashion and related industries ’90 ; fashion

is

color coordinator for Komar, a sleepwear company (for Kohl’s, JCPenney, Vera Wang) with offices in New York City and Hong Kong. Borjes sends the clothes’ color standards, artwork, and fabric specs to Hong Kong, receiving the overseas manufacturers’ “strikeoffs” weeks later, which she checks against to ensure accuracy.

tions, is both event

coordinator for GOGO Worldwide Vacations and co-owner (with her husband) of Everlasting Events, a full-service events planning firm in Middletown, NY. The company puts on baby and bridal showers, family reunions, quinceañeras, weddings, and more.

merchandisers. Unfazed, she speaks of her situation with a dogged optimism familiar to any reader of her exclamation-point-intensive blog. “I’m pretty much loving it,” she says. “It’s a great time to change because, really, everyone’s changing.”

Lewitinn is well equipped to survive music’s bumpy transition to the digital era. For

one, she enjoys a can’t-buy reputation as a soothsayer and tireless campaigner. On her blog and while at Spin, she stumped hard for acts like Interpol, The Killers, and My Chemical Romance long before they became headliners, and this prescience won her glowing press everywhere from Paper to Vanity Fair. (This earned her plenty of animosity from fellow bloggers, enough that the Village Voice gave the Ultragrrrl backlash a cover story in March 2007.) For another, she’s a longtime internet devotee with a keen sense of the medium. Her blog is so often disarmingly frivolous and personal (posting family photos or video of herself executing clumsy, late-night cartwheels) that fervent plugs for Stolen Transmission bands or her DJ gigs read more like word-of-mouth testimony than marketing.

Best, she knows the value of a contact and has never burned a bridge. Lewitinn

worked “a bajillion” media internships in high school and college, netting friends at each stop. She interned for Michael Hirschorn at the now-defunct Inside.com, later joining him at both Spin and VH1, where he’s now an executive vice president. She met Rob Stevenson, the record-label veteran who brought Stolen Transmission to Island/Def Jam, at a cocktail party. True to form, when she recently met with former IDJ colleagues, Lewitinn bore no grudge. “It was hugs all around,” she says. “I asked everyone to buy me drinks. Like, ‘Who’s got the corporate card?’” —Greg Herbowy

www.fitnyc.edu/hue

29


1952

MISTER BAGEL

1983

1993

on the record

In 1977, when rick hartglass, textile administration and

maria perez whittingham, patternmaking technology,

owns two boutiques in Nyack, NY—Maria Luisa and ML Gifts and Accessories. Maria Luisa opened in 1987, and offers clothing, footwear, jewelry, and home accessories with an emphasis on local designers and handmade wares. Some handbags are made by Whittingham herself. ML—opened in 2006 just a few doors down—focuses on trendier accessories and gift items.

ari vega, fashion design ’84; patternmaking technology ’86;

Sarah Lewitinn, Advertising and Marketing Communications ’01

sales ’66 ,

opened his first Mister Bagel shop, in Portland,

frozen Lender’s in the store,” he says. “A bakery might produce a round roll with a hole. That was it.” The native Brooklynite helped change that, in a big way: There are now 13 Mister Bagels throughout Maine. But the product has changed, too. “I’m a traditionalist,” he says. “Today, they want a blueberry bagel with strawberry cream

news from your classmates

cheese and God knows what else!”

1996

1988

margaux baran caniato, advertising and communications,

is a Manhattan-based milliner and clothing designer whose original hats have appeared in Italian Elle and The New York Times. His atelier offers made-to-order creations; he’s working to get his hats into stores as well.

is manager of external designers for Target, helping contract talent like Isaac Mizrahi navigate the company’s design process. She ensures that the finished products express both the designer’s unique voice and Target’s brand while serving the company’s mission of affordable, well-designed apparel, accessories, and housewares. Caniato is based in New York City.

lawrence levens, fashion design,

Am I Devi, 1999, 63 by 48 inches, by Estelle Kessler Yarinsky ’52. estelle kessler yarinsky, textile design,

1990

showed 20

Albany Institute of History and Art’s exhibition, in her adopted hometown of Albany, NY. Fabrica, a one-person show, focused on little-known

Photo: John Ewing, Portland Press Herald

1967

contributions to their

illustration ,

families, faiths, communities,

and illustrator of The

or professions. Yarinsky

Dancer’s Book of Crafts

extensively researches her

(Homemade Creations

subjects’ lives, and stitches

2008), a how-to with

poetry fragments, quota-

knitting, jewelry- and

tions, and symbols into the

clothes-making, and art

works. Her work has been

is the author

projects for dancers (and

exhibited widely in Florida,

dancers’ parents) of all ages. Haskin, a lifelong dancer

Ohio, New York, Texas, and

herself, lives in Connecticut.

Washington, DC.

Illustration by Christina Haskin ’67.

1973

1966 mark suss , textile adminis -

bernadette costantino puleo ,

owns the Upper Deck Café,

tration and sales ,

is president of Retail and Executive Placement Associates, a Washington, DC-based recruiting and background-screening firm he founded in 1983. Suss has filled high-level positions in human resources, retail, and technology across the U.S., in Puerto Rico, and in St. Thomas. His clients include Bed Bath & Beyond, Circuit City, Fortunoff, Ralph Lauren, and Target.

advertising design ,

Harbor, ME. The former vice president for merchandising at Z-Tex, Inc., a fabrics supplier in Chicago, Brown decided on early retirement after 30-plus years in the business and relocated to Maine. The restaurant is in its eighth year, and recently won gold in a local chowder contest. In the early ’70s, Brown served as Alumni Association president.

is a freelance graphic designer based in Dix Hills, NY, working largely with images for children’s wear. She has created graphics for kids’ clothes made by Gerber, Li & Fung, and Haddad, to name a few.

Embroidery design by Bernadette Puleo ’73, for H.I.S. International.

hue | spring 2008

is the inventor of the Busy Buddy Tug-A-Jug, a dog toy made by Premier Pet since fall 2006. Inspired by her Boston terrier’s destructive tendencies, Kolesar’s toy is a hard-to-break plastic bottle whose bottom can be unscrewed to fill it with treats, and whose neck is partly stoppered with a knotted rope. By working the rope, dogs can tease out the food. The Tug-AJug sells online and in stores worldwide. Kolesar also teaches high school health education in Westfield, NJ. buying and merchandising ,

is owner and lead designer of KW Home—a combination interior design office and home furnishings store in Easthampton, MA. As a retailer, Woodruff offers an eclectic mix of bedding, fabric, furniture, lighting, and home accessories, all of which complement his contemporary-meetstraditional design aesthetic. He’s designed commercial and residential spaces River-rock rain shower, by Keith throughout the Northeast. Woodruff ’90. design ,

started her own record label, Stolen Transmission, in her

Pocket Karaoke), and former Spin magazine assistant editor—figured she’d be a natural. She was right: In early 2006, after a run of self-released, sold-out singles, Universal Music Group added Stolen Transmission to its Island/Def Jam division. Despite the bump to the big leagues, Lewitinn’s independent m.o. stayed the same: Scout, sign, and promote the bands she loved.

If only this were the analog era. Beginning in 1999 with the emergence of Napster,

online leaks and free file shares have made the future of the music business look bleak. “It’s like being a mammal in the Ice Age,” Lewitinn says. In December 2007, Island/Def Jam announced layoffs. Ultragrrrl was out of a job.

Well, sort of. As of this writing, Stolen Transmission is in limbo, with the legal

wrangling over ownership still under way. Meantime, back in her apartment, Lewitinn continues to promote the label’s acts every way she can—building bands’ MySpace pages, making sure advertising posters get to tour venues, and striking deals with T-shirt

2001

2002

jaclyn wall borjes, fashion

paula scutella-jagos, advertis-

design ’98; production

ing and marketing communica-

management: apparel ’01,

keith woodruff, interior

lewitinn

grrrl, Lewitinn—a popular DJ, blogger, author (The Pocket DJ and the forthcoming

Keith Woodruff

jim brown , textile design ,

a seafood eatery in Boothbay

susan pakula kolesar , fashion

christina haskin , fashion

n 2004, sarah

Lower East Side apartment. Well known in New York City’s music scene as Ultra-

© Saved Images, courtesy of Premier Pet Products

women who made major

is a partner at Brennan Beer Gorman Monk / Interiors, in New York City. She has designed and directed projects for clients including Elizabeth Arden, Morgan Stanley, and Pfizer. Jakubowski is also active in the International Interior Design Association and the U.S. Green Building Council. amy astfalk jakubowski , interior design ,

of her large-scale fabric collages this past fall in the

28

has been elected vice president of the State University of New York Council of Business Faculty/Administrators. Vega is an assistant professor in FIT’s Production Management: Fashion and Related Industries Department. merchandising management ’93 ,

Brad Walsh

ME, the bagel was a bit exotic there. “You might find

marketing: fashion and related industries ’90 ; fashion

is

color coordinator for Komar, a sleepwear company (for Kohl’s, JCPenney, Vera Wang) with offices in New York City and Hong Kong. Borjes sends the clothes’ color standards, artwork, and fabric specs to Hong Kong, receiving the overseas manufacturers’ “strikeoffs” weeks later, which she checks against to ensure accuracy.

tions, is both event

coordinator for GOGO Worldwide Vacations and co-owner (with her husband) of Everlasting Events, a full-service events planning firm in Middletown, NY. The company puts on baby and bridal showers, family reunions, quinceañeras, weddings, and more.

merchandisers. Unfazed, she speaks of her situation with a dogged optimism familiar to any reader of her exclamation-point-intensive blog. “I’m pretty much loving it,” she says. “It’s a great time to change because, really, everyone’s changing.”

Lewitinn is well equipped to survive music’s bumpy transition to the digital era. For

one, she enjoys a can’t-buy reputation as a soothsayer and tireless campaigner. On her blog and while at Spin, she stumped hard for acts like Interpol, The Killers, and My Chemical Romance long before they became headliners, and this prescience won her glowing press everywhere from Paper to Vanity Fair. (This earned her plenty of animosity from fellow bloggers, enough that the Village Voice gave the Ultragrrrl backlash a cover story in March 2007.) For another, she’s a longtime internet devotee with a keen sense of the medium. Her blog is so often disarmingly frivolous and personal (posting family photos or video of herself executing clumsy, late-night cartwheels) that fervent plugs for Stolen Transmission bands or her DJ gigs read more like word-of-mouth testimony than marketing.

Best, she knows the value of a contact and has never burned a bridge. Lewitinn

worked “a bajillion” media internships in high school and college, netting friends at each stop. She interned for Michael Hirschorn at the now-defunct Inside.com, later joining him at both Spin and VH1, where he’s now an executive vice president. She met Rob Stevenson, the record-label veteran who brought Stolen Transmission to Island/Def Jam, at a cocktail party. True to form, when she recently met with former IDJ colleagues, Lewitinn bore no grudge. “It was hugs all around,” she says. “I asked everyone to buy me drinks. Like, ‘Who’s got the corporate card?’” —Greg Herbowy

www.fitnyc.edu/hue

29


2007

net profits

layla l’obatti , fashion design

Kgadi bags by Mokgadi Matlhako ’04.

s a student at FIT, mokgadi

matlhako

spent a

Kgadi is now on sale in all stadium stores, online,

and at the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue. Matlhako has just

Square Garden, after a free Knicks ticket from a

secured approval to sell in non-NBA-controlled stores,

SECOND LOOK

Colombia, where my parents come from, tiene mala fama— it has “bad fame.” People think it’s drug infested or full of shantytowns. You can’t find travel books about it. In 2004, I spent about three months there, making contacts for

Alex Bitar Advertising Design ’92

photography work. While I was there, I thought, “I want to get to know Colombia the way a native does.” I hired a guide and we drove down gravel roads to small towns. People were so open. We’d just pull up outside of onion or tobacco farms and say, “Hey, can we see what you’re doing?” I shot

Bob Nittoli

good chunk of her time at nearby Madison

(Intimate Apparel specialization), is a design assistant for D2 Brands, a New York City intimates company that has licenses with Nicole Miller and Tommy Hilfiger. In her second year at FIT, L’obatti founded Between the Sheets, a collective of students specializing in intimate apparel, with an annual show featuring models from the college’s Model Workshop. The last show, in spring 2006, featured 15 designers and was covered by WWD.

men making panela, a raw sugar made by boiling sugarcane

family friend touched off an unexpected, abiding hoops

and she regularly donates bags to be sold at auction to

obsession. There was only one problem: When it came to

benefit players’ charities. In January, she visited her

showing her team colors, the NBA had no merchandise

native South Africa, site of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, to

Now his father is teaching him to be one, too. Bullfighters

that appealed to her. “All they had for women,” Matlhako

explore creating soccer-themed bags for the event. For

have a lot of rituals, like reading a Biblical verse before a

remembers, “was men’s gear in smaller sizes.”

now, Kgadi is a one-woman show, but she says that may

soon change if business keeps growing at its present rate.

fight. When I’m taking pictures like these, I’m scrubbing

Enter Kgadi (hät-e), Matlhako’s line of NBA-themed

handbags. Born from a class assignment that grew into

her senior project, which then served as a prototype when

best customers; bags bearing the name of Suns point

she pitched the idea to the NBA, the bags mimic official

guard Steve Nash are reordered “literally every two

team jerseys, and feature popular players’ names and

days.” Her own loyalties, however, lie elsewhere. “I’m a

numbers. Made with the same fabric as the real deal, plus

hardcore [Allen] Iverson fan,” she says. “Huge.”

sources of inspiration

news from your classmates

Mokgadi Matlhako, Accessories Design ’04

juice, and a boy whose mother and father are both bullfighters.

my brain of the typical image of Colombia. It’s like I’m

Thus far, Phoenix fans have proved to be Matlhako’s

reinventing it for myself.

leather accents, they retail for $110-$150. They debuted in February 2007, during All-Star Weekend.

2003

2005

began her eponymous jewelry line in 2005. Wendy Culpepper, LLC, operates from offices in New York City and Port St. Lucie, FL, offering nature and architectureinspired designs ranging from $400 to $3,000. Culpepper is now completing her first men’s collection, and a charity collection called Ignite Change.

julia brownstein , fashion merchandising management,

wendy culpepper, jewelry design,

is a buyer for Browns Shoes, her family’s Montreal-based, 36-store, Canadian retail chain. Brownstein specializes in women’s shoes—everything from Prada to Keds.

hue | spring 2008

© Sierra Designs

2006 phoebe stapleton , fashion

is product developer and designer for Sierra Designs, an outdoor Glenn Turner sporting goods company Flower of Life rings, by Wendy Culpepper ’03. headquartered in Louisville, CO. The company’s sarah schmitt, fashion merchandising management, is a senior sole full-time designer, she account executive at the Boston-based Cone, Inc., a brand helps create the look and strategy and communications company. Schmitt manages improve the functionality three client accounts, overseeing their marketing campaigns. of Sierra’s apparel, sleeping One recent campaign, for Nestlé Waters’ Contrex mineral bags, tents, and more. water, involved bridal designs for Kleinfeld, and enabled her to reconnect with FIT.

30

A gown by Layla L’obatti ’07, from 2007’s Between the Sheets.

design ,

What inspires you? Email the editors at hue@fitnyc.edu Sketches for Sierra Design’s fall 2008 White Out (top) and Snow Angel jackets, by Phoebe Stapleton ’06.

Alex Bitar is a freelance photographer specializing in beauty and travel. His clients include Aéropostale, Fortunoff, NOS Energy Drink, and Polo Ralph Lauren. He took this photo in Ráquira, in northern Colombia. alexbitar.com

www.fitnyc.edu/hue

31


2007

net profits

layla l’obatti , fashion design

Kgadi bags by Mokgadi Matlhako ’04.

s a student at FIT, mokgadi

matlhako

spent a

Kgadi is now on sale in all stadium stores, online,

and at the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue. Matlhako has just

Square Garden, after a free Knicks ticket from a

secured approval to sell in non-NBA-controlled stores,

SECOND LOOK

Colombia, where my parents come from, tiene mala fama— it has “bad fame.” People think it’s drug infested or full of shantytowns. You can’t find travel books about it. In 2004, I spent about three months there, making contacts for

Alex Bitar Advertising Design ’92

photography work. While I was there, I thought, “I want to get to know Colombia the way a native does.” I hired a guide and we drove down gravel roads to small towns. People were so open. We’d just pull up outside of onion or tobacco farms and say, “Hey, can we see what you’re doing?” I shot

Bob Nittoli

good chunk of her time at nearby Madison

(Intimate Apparel specialization), is a design assistant for D2 Brands, a New York City intimates company that has licenses with Nicole Miller and Tommy Hilfiger. In her second year at FIT, L’obatti founded Between the Sheets, a collective of students specializing in intimate apparel, with an annual show featuring models from the college’s Model Workshop. The last show, in spring 2006, featured 15 designers and was covered by WWD.

men making panela, a raw sugar made by boiling sugarcane

family friend touched off an unexpected, abiding hoops

and she regularly donates bags to be sold at auction to

obsession. There was only one problem: When it came to

benefit players’ charities. In January, she visited her

showing her team colors, the NBA had no merchandise

native South Africa, site of the 2010 Fifa World Cup, to

Now his father is teaching him to be one, too. Bullfighters

that appealed to her. “All they had for women,” Matlhako

explore creating soccer-themed bags for the event. For

have a lot of rituals, like reading a Biblical verse before a

remembers, “was men’s gear in smaller sizes.”

now, Kgadi is a one-woman show, but she says that may

soon change if business keeps growing at its present rate.

fight. When I’m taking pictures like these, I’m scrubbing

Enter Kgadi (hät-e), Matlhako’s line of NBA-themed

handbags. Born from a class assignment that grew into

her senior project, which then served as a prototype when

best customers; bags bearing the name of Suns point

she pitched the idea to the NBA, the bags mimic official

guard Steve Nash are reordered “literally every two

team jerseys, and feature popular players’ names and

days.” Her own loyalties, however, lie elsewhere. “I’m a

numbers. Made with the same fabric as the real deal, plus

hardcore [Allen] Iverson fan,” she says. “Huge.”

sources of inspiration

news from your classmates

Mokgadi Matlhako, Accessories Design ’04

juice, and a boy whose mother and father are both bullfighters.

my brain of the typical image of Colombia. It’s like I’m

Thus far, Phoenix fans have proved to be Matlhako’s

reinventing it for myself.

leather accents, they retail for $110-$150. They debuted in February 2007, during All-Star Weekend.

2003

2005

began her eponymous jewelry line in 2005. Wendy Culpepper, LLC, operates from offices in New York City and Port St. Lucie, FL, offering nature and architectureinspired designs ranging from $400 to $3,000. Culpepper is now completing her first men’s collection, and a charity collection called Ignite Change.

julia brownstein , fashion merchandising management,

wendy culpepper, jewelry design,

is a buyer for Browns Shoes, her family’s Montreal-based, 36-store, Canadian retail chain. Brownstein specializes in women’s shoes—everything from Prada to Keds.

hue | spring 2008

© Sierra Designs

2006 phoebe stapleton , fashion

is product developer and designer for Sierra Designs, an outdoor Glenn Turner sporting goods company Flower of Life rings, by Wendy Culpepper ’03. headquartered in Louisville, CO. The company’s sarah schmitt, fashion merchandising management, is a senior sole full-time designer, she account executive at the Boston-based Cone, Inc., a brand helps create the look and strategy and communications company. Schmitt manages improve the functionality three client accounts, overseeing their marketing campaigns. of Sierra’s apparel, sleeping One recent campaign, for Nestlé Waters’ Contrex mineral bags, tents, and more. water, involved bridal designs for Kleinfeld, and enabled her to reconnect with FIT.

30

A gown by Layla L’obatti ’07, from 2007’s Between the Sheets.

design ,

What inspires you? Email the editors at hue@fitnyc.edu Sketches for Sierra Design’s fall 2008 White Out (top) and Snow Angel jackets, by Phoebe Stapleton ’06.

Alex Bitar is a freelance photographer specializing in beauty and travel. His clients include Aéropostale, Fortunoff, NOS Energy Drink, and Polo Ralph Lauren. He took this photo in Ráquira, in northern Colombia. alexbitar.com

www.fitnyc.edu/hue

31


Environmental Savings for Hue Issue 2 (20,000 copies)

334.62 trees preserved/planted 275.57 lbs waterborne waste not created 40,538 gallons wastewater flow saved 4,485 lbs solid waste not generated 13,298.79 lbs net greenhouse gases prevented 67,598,800 BTUs energy not consumed Printed by Monroe Litho Inc. Monroe Litho is certified as a Chain-of-Custody supplier by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and as an EPA Green Power Partner operating on 100% renewable, nonpolluting windpower. Printed on Monadnock Astrolite PC 100 FSC-certified, 100% post consumer waste reclaimed/recycled, made with 100% renewable energy; manufactured carbon neutral and chlorine free; certified ISO 14001:2004 Environmental Management System. Please recycle or share this magazine.

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Hue Spring 2008  

volume 1 | number 2

Hue Spring 2008  

volume 1 | number 2