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, but 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.
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?