Slow Fashion October and Talking Textile Development & Marketing

It’s the first week of Slow Fashion October, and the theme is “Introductions”. I often feel like my participation in online projects like #sewphotohop or things like that would be over the top because I’m already over-sharing online basically 24/7, butΒ  it occurred to me that maybe this would be a good opportunity to introduce you guys to the program that I’m enrolled in at FIT in case anyone else might be interested. My interest in making turned into an interest in slow fashion, and from there, I was so intrigued with where and how textiles are made that I, a passionate non-academic, non-student type, got sucked back into school, something I NEVER wanted to do! But understanding textile processes and wanting to get involved in that world was a natural progression of my interest in slow fashion, so I thought there might be other people out there who have a similar interest.

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I am doing a one-year AAS degree in textile development and marketing. The one-year programs at FIT are for people who already have some college, or a degree in another area– you take the major requirements of the regular two-year degree, but none of the general ed requirements (no freshman writing seminar, yay!). They’re geared towards older students who work and are looking for a career change or trying to learn more skills for the field they’re in, and there are a few kids from other schools who are treating the program as a study abroad. Of course, there are some 18 year-olds mixed in, and almost nothing makes me feel my age like being around people who are 15 years younger!

When I was considering going back to school, I overlooked this program for quite some time because it falls under the business and technology school umbrella. Folks, I’m not a business type! I’m a Creative Person! I don’t want to sell things or make PowerPoint presentations! But once I really examined the program, I realized that it was basically everything I wanted to learn- the geeky, technical elements of what goes into creating great textiles. It’s not a design degree (although you get to do a little bit of that), but is instead focused on fibers, weaves, performance, and end use. The first year’s curriculum includes the following eight classes:

1.) Fundamentals of Textiles: This is an intro class to textiles, and it gives you a good basis of knowledge about fibers, production processes, finishing, and applications. I took this class a little over a year ago when I was first considering the program, and it totally hooked me! I would totally recommend it to anyone in the NY area who wants to know a bit more about how different fibers behave, what they are, and how they’re made. They offer it in evenings, and anyone can take it!

2.) Introduction to the Fashion Industry: This class is the basic over to fashion merchandising that all the fashion business management majors take. It covers each step of the process of how a designer’s sketch becomes a product and lands on shelves in retail stores. There’s a big focus on trend forecasting and lots of case studies of fads, trends, successes, and flops. I took this last year as an evening class as it’s also open to anyone, and I think just about everyone in my class was a non-degree student who just wanted to know more about how the fashion business works.

3.) The History of Textile Trade and Technology: This is an interesting one! It feels like a combination anthropology and art history class. We’re studying the way that different technologies for textile creation popped up independently all over the world, and the different forces that shaped and moved textile traditions from one part of the world to others (think: the Silk Road, the Crusades, Viking sea travel).

4.) Color Creation and Sustainable Applications: This is a hands’-on class that is surprisingly science-y. We study the science of color and light, and the various systems for measuring and describing color. A large part of our homework thus far has been painting- mixing different hues, shades, and values, and just generally getting comfortable understanding how different colors work together and how they’re created. We’ve been practicing pitching through exercises like bringing in a printed fabric, and digging through the massive departmental swatch library to create alternate colorways of the print using similar values, but different hues. It’s harder than it sounds! This class is a requirement for the Ethics & Sustainability minor, so my classmates are very interesting and cool.

5.) Fabrics for Interiors: This class is focused on home dec textiles, and the teacher is focused on helping us think through which textiles are best for different applications as well as considering the design and trend perspective, not just technical aspects. Interiors fabrics are so much more varied than I initially thought- when you think about it, they’re not just in houses and hotels, but also in restaurants, cars, boats, medical facilities, campers, well, almost anything!

6.) Apparel and Home Textile Products Manufacturing: This class details the processes by which finished products are designed, sourced, costed, and produced. It’s taught by a garment factory owner and is also really built around case studies and thinking about hypothetical and real-life situations.

7.) Excel for Business: spreadsheets. Lots of spreadsheets. The less said the better!

8.) CAD and Design Fundamentals for Printed Textiles: This one really scared me before I got into the classroom! But CAD in the fashion business just means any kind of computer-aided drafting (so, Photoshop and Illustrator), not AutoCAD, phew! We create print collections, starting with a concept, moving on to a digital storyboard, and finally making multiple prints and tiling them into repeats before presenting them for critiques. We presented our first collections this week, and it was an experience that was the kind of hard where you really have to push yourself, but you can feel yourself growing! It’s been a while since I’ve really felt like I was totally in over my head, but it’s been good, in a way, although there have definitely been moments that were so overwhelming that I was tearing up in the library!

The really great thing about the program is that all the classes are taught by people that work in the industry and are really passionate about what they’re teaching. There’s also a huge interest in sustainability, whether it’s about cleaner processes, respect for traditional techniques, or developing friendlier fibers. My professors have seen firsthand the environmental impact of fast fashion and the factory conditions that accompany it, so it’s been hugely enlightening. Also, the efforts of the department to become more environmentally friendly are really laudable and super interesting- for example, students in the program instituted a muslin recycling program to the school to compost and reuse the yards and yards and yards that the fashion design department goes through every semester! And there’s even a rooftop natural dye garden– how cool is that?? Both of those programs were recent winners of the Clinton Global Initiative University program, so hopefully they’ll be introduced in other fashion schools. More recycling, please!

If you have any questions about the program, feel free to reach out to me! In the meantime, are you participating in Slow Fashion October?

54 responses

  1. I didn’t know about Slotober – thanks so much for sharing. I’m definitely going to play along!
    Your course and school sound AMAZING! Wow, how cool that this has inspired you to ‘go deep’ with textiles. ❀

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  2. I love the concept of muslin recycling, wonder what they do with it? Sometimes I’ve been known to use it as weed matting in the garden,. Good luck with your studies luv, glad you’re enjoying it, sounds like you are officially a ‘Lifelong learner’!!

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  3. This program sounds amazing! I would totally go back to school for this if it was offered in my city.

    Now that you’ve got your feet wet, do you think you’ll start designing fabric? Or even use Spoonflower to produce some of your designs?

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    • Well, I’d never really considered that as I’m not an illustrator or designer, but I actually like a couple of the prints I’ve made so far so I may have a few yards made up. I don’t think anyone else would like them, though- I’m really not too good at drawing! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That all sounds SO COOL!!!! An interesting mix of artistic, business and science! Are you finding you like one aspect over the others?

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    • So far I’ve been enjoying digging into the historical stuff, and surprisingly, the print design class. I really thought I would hate that because I’m not very skilled at drawing and I’m REALLY not good at computer-aided design, but it’s been a fun challenge!

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  5. That class sounds deeply cool. I wish I could crawl into your head and go to class with you for a lot of that; I’ll just absorb it from the other coast over here.
    On another note, how can October be Slow Fashion Month? It’s certainly All Costume and No Fashion Month at my house (though the costumes are for a theater version of Frankenstein, not a trick or treat version). Nothing slow about it (yeah, also: no fashion, so perhaps….)

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  6. I found this really interesting! I am planning to attend F.I.T in the spring and I will be doing an AAS one year in fashion design, after that I plan to take the focus on textile/surface design for my Bachelors. I moved to new York just to study fashion and I’m excited to get started. Although at 26 I’m definitely going to feel strange with all the younger students too!. It Would be pretty cool to run into you one day lol.

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  7. So interesting, thanks for sharing! And I’m pretty impressed that FIT has that much focus on sustainability. The garden sounds amazing! I tend to think of fashion school as pushing people towards either fast fashion or high-end designer stuff. It’s lovely to know that students now are getting a more thoughtful perspective. Good luck with all your studies! I definitely wouldn’t relish going back to school at this point … unless maybe it was for something as interesting as this …

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    • There’s definitely a large emphasis on sustainability, both from the faculty and the students, which is really nice. I think in my program in particular it’s really important because it’s such a big issue facing the fashion industry and sourcing is really the root of it. It really feels like an exciting time to be involved in it- hopefully there will be some interesting developments in the field over the next few years!

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    • I will try to give regular updates! There are quite a lot of interesting things going on with the program and around it- lots of focus on natural dyes and friendlier fibers, so hopefully that will continue. I imagine you would really enjoy this program!

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  8. Wow this sounds so inspiring! I would kill to learn how to use that rooftop dye garden. If you get a chance to use it please do share! I wish that I was at a place financially where I could take courses for enjoyment (I took an international breads course for the first time last spring and loved it!), but it is sadly not in the cards at the moment. I hope you share more about your experiences πŸ™‚

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  9. This is so interesting! I would have looked over the course too, and honestly didn’t even think I’d finish reading the post, but I read with interest to the very end! So glad you’ve found your niche πŸ™‚

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  10. It’s amazing how much things can change in a short 15 years! I’m glad to hear that sustainability is being discussed and put into practice at FIT now. Goodness, I know I threw out my fair share of muslin! Of course, fast fashion wasn’t as out of control then as it was now. Not one Forever 21 existed in the city when I was in school. And H&M had just opened its first flagship in NYC my second year of school. We were pretty nuts for H&M actually, the styles were so cool and so cheap! If we only knew then what we know now.

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  11. So interesting! I admire you for going back to school for something you are so passionate about. Really looking forward to hearing more as you continue along your journey.

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  12. Sounds like you’ve found a phenomenal program! Each class sounds more interesting than the last and I’d even enjoy the spreadsheets one! 😁 I was just wondering about muslin waste in industry so hearing that there is work being done to divert it from landfills is great. I do hope you continue to share interesting insights as you go along!

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    • I hope that workrooms start to adopt muslin recycling programs, too- it’s processed so minimally that it’s not that difficult to repurpose it! I have to confess that, although I’m not enjoying the spreadsheets at all, it’s very good information to have and I’m sure I’ll be using it lots. πŸ˜€

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  13. Ah, you always have a great perspective and give me more to ponder. I love the sciencey stuff. I feel you with the not wanting to go back to school – I mean, I served my time, right? lol.

    Good for you for digging in and committing. We out here get the privilege of your inspiration.

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  14. So fascinating! If there were something similar here I would definitely do it. I’m very resistant to going back to school, but I think I might be able to handle one year, and of course this sounds so fascinating and right up my alley I would probably love it! Good luck!

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  15. Thanks for sharing your experiences at FIT. I started talking individual classes there a little over a year ago (this semester I’m in the first “Haute Couture” certificate class and having a blast) and am maybe, possibly, considering trying to do the night Fashion Design AAS degree. I have fear it will just be too hard with my day job. In any event, I love hearing about the school as I’ve gotten so much out of it. Your courses sound incredibly interesting. Do you guys get to go into the garden? I’d heard about it from my draping teacher (as I dumped my pounds of muslin in the bin) but also that it was ‘locked’. Would love to see it. All the best!

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    • Oh how fun! Have you had any classes with Kenneth King? I think he teaches some of the couture classes! You should consider taking some of the fashion design classes before you’re enrolled in the degree program- there are a certain number of credits you can do before you’re officially in the program. I took two of the classes for this program before I was in full-time so I could continue to work and stay on top of my homework.

      As far as the dye garden goes, I know they offer tours of it sometimes? They just had them a week or two ago during “Sustainability Week”, but I think it gets opened periodically.

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      • I’m hoping to take the KK couture class next semester. I’m going to meet with admissions about what I can take. They sort of told me if I was considering applying I needed to stop (I’ve taken Fashion Art I,Draping I in addition to all the sewing) – apparently you can get to a point where it’s hard to enroll but the HC classes aren’t a part of the degree so hopefully that’s okay. Who knows? I’ll see what they say. But you’re right; I’d love to get some things done beforehand so I’m not overwhelmed. I’ll keep my eyes open for the dye garden – I’m intrigued!

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  16. So interesting to hear about your classes!!

    Yes, the emphasis on sustainability is school-wide at FIT. For patternmaking and construction module of Intro to Knitwear Design, the students now use old sweaters to create their mockups. Also many of the yarns at the school were donated — unused yarns from designers and manufacturers.

    I’m just learning about Slow Fashion October now. I’m hoping it inspires me to sit down and mend a few items before the month is up. πŸ™‚

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  17. Your textile program sounds so wonderful!! Yay for everything sans the spreadsheet class! I love that the school is making such an effort towards sustainability also! Your mixed colors are lovely!

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  19. Well, I’m late to this party, but just noticed the post. I recently graduated from a SUNY college (and I’m old enough to be your mother!) and would have loved this course. Always loved textiles and fabrics!

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  20. Hi! Thank you for shedding more insight into the curriculum at FIT, I plan to pursue a Masters degree there after I work for a few years in fashion management! Glad to see that you are learning a lot πŸ™‚

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