FIT grads should turn heads at Outdoor Retailer

Our industry has been accused of being boring, unsexy, conservative and not in step with the mainstream fashion industry that often usurps our functional ideas and does them one better with design flair. That could begin changing thanks to the efforts of Francesca Sterlacci, the chair of the Fashion Design Department for the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City.
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Our industry has been accused of being boring, unsexy, conservative and not in step with the mainstream fashion industry that often usurps our functional ideas and does them one better with design flair. That could begin changing thanks to the efforts of Francesca Sterlacci, the chair of the Fashion Design Department for the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City.

Working closely with Neide Cooley, former head of apparel and design at Marmot, and now a liaison between FIT and the outdoor and snowsports industries, Sterlacci developed a curriculum two years ago that includes classes on technical textiles, outerwear design, performance apparel design, graphic design and more, and is known officially as the Outerwear and Performance Apparel Design Program. The entire focus of the curriculum is to address the demand and need for new designers with technical training entering into the outdoor and snowsports industries.

The first graduates from the program have just completed their studies so, in an effort to kick off the ideas with a bang while exploring the boundaries of innovation in snowsports apparel design, the students of the Outerwear and Performance Apparel Design Program were asked to submit drawings and prototypes as a final part of their course work to be entered into a judged contest, co-sponsored by Outdoor Retailer.

"The design projects are spectacular," commented Michele Bryant, professor of design at FIT and one of the coordinators of the contest. "I am really pleased with the quality of the projects submitted."

The outdoor sport apparel design winners of the FIT student design contest will be on exhibit in the lobby of the Salt Palace Convention Center during Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2004.

Many of the FIT graduates will also be attending OR with their portfolios. Cooley tells SNEWS that many will be carrying cell phones in the hopes that outdoor industry companies interested in their design ideas will contact them for a chat while at OR -- phone numbers are printed on each portfolio.

The overall winner of the contest will be announced at 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 30, at the OR Industry Party "Snowfunk" -- being held at the Union Pacific Depot in the Gateway Plaza.

Founded in 1944 to serve the needs of New York's garment industry, FIT has grown from a tiny school housed on two floors of the High School for Needle Trades into a college that is internationally celebrated for preparing students for careers in fashion, art, design, business and technology. According to FIT, the college's 40,000 graduates, who include the likes of Calvin Klein and David Chu, "form the backbone of the American fashion and related industries."

SNEWS View: We guarantee that the designs will be edgy, provocative, and leave many saying, "no way will anyone actually make that," and that's the point. Many of the designs probably wouldn't fly, but where there is imagination and passion, there's a future. Face it gang, as talented as our current design pool is functionally, and in some cases, fashionably, ours is an industry that celebrates recycling, and that includes designers. Fresh ideas often flow from one company to another only as designers move around. When a real innovative idea actually does hit a company, folks are often stunned at how good the concept was. We know, we hear the backroom chat all the time, and see the evolution of recycled product ideas every trade show. Thanks to FIT, perhaps we'll start seeing some provocative, risky designs that work -- designs that could force us out of the conservative funk we've been trapped in for far too long. Haysun Hahn of FutureMode is right -- we're not sexy! But we could be and there's nothing wrong with that. Worse though than not being sexy, we can't even fall back on the retro train because, as Hahn puts it, our industry has never left the retro age to begin with. Please, someone from FIT, anyone -- slap us upside the head with some new ideas.

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