The Genteel
February 28, 2021


Student Claire Humen's shoe and bag designs. Photo courtesy of Claire Humen

Beyond Central Saint Martins: Read Part One

"Preparing students for professional excellence" - that is the mission of New York City's internationally recognised Fashion Institute of Technology, which was founded in 1944. Industry led and experience driven, FIT's practical and hands-on approach encourages students to learn by practicing in a fast paced environment fitting of the city that never sleeps.

The Place To Be

FIT is located deep in the heart of Manhattan's Chelsea neighbourhood, dominating an entire city block. Nestled alongside quirky boutiques and dynamic galleries, the backdrop proves a source of inspiration whilst ensuring FIT keeps apace of the constant changes in fashion, business, technology and design. Speaking with The Genteel, Blake Felty, a second year Accessories Design student, states with confidence, "If you are going to be in fashion in the states, New York is the place to be."

FIT student Matthew Demeo's designs.

Photo Courtesy of Matthew Demeo.

Notable Alumni

In a city renowned for its talented designers, FIT students have certainly managed to make their mark. Previous student Francisco Costa now designs for Calvin Klein womenswear. Klein himself also graduated from FIT. Nina Garcia, Editor-at-large at Marie Claire, and Edward Menicheschi, Vice President and publisher of Vanity Fair, also gained their educations here.

Professional Help

Industry professionals are not only produced by FIT - they work here as well. This is a factor that Professor Vasilios Christofilakos, teacher of Accessories Design and former Chairman of the Accessories Design Department, believes to be central to the school's success: "The strongest platform provided for [the students] are their teachers, industry professionals themselves who bring up to the minute news of what's going on in the industry and make it relevant to the course material...[they've] been there, done that and [are] still doing it."

Be Our Guest

Industry knowledge is further supplied through the medium of guest lecturers. From Calvin Klein to Michael Kors and Ruthie Davis, "those iconic individuals [who] inspired the students to pursue their education at FIT...come into the classroom or are invited to speak in the auditorium," Professor Christofilakos tells The Genteel.

The hands-on factor is of utmost importance [here]...the teachers are demonstrating and you are doing, simultaneously. It's important to know how to make the product, not just how to design it.

Meaningful Mentors

"Teachers at FIT become instant mentors [and] the mentoring never stops," Professor Christofilakos continues. "Even after graduation the student/teacher connection is still strong. After all, it's the teacher who usually introduces the students to the industry." For some students however, strong mentoring relationships have led to much more than introductions.

As the Creative Director and Co-Founder of Roberto Vasi, a contemporary men's footwear line, Professor Christofilakos and his business partner Robert Mingione hired their first employee following her graduation from FIT just last year.

Just Do It

Preparation for participation in the fashion industry pulses through the dynamic syllabuses at FIT. "The hands-on factor is of utmost importance [here]," explains Felty, "The teachers are demonstrating and you are doing, simultaneously. It's important to know how to make the product, not just how to design it."

 This practical expertise is then tested in the working world as students are invited to learn from internships in the industry. "I'm currently interning with one of my favourite brands, Opening Ceremony," Blake explains. "I get to see firsthand what goes on in the industry."

And the fashion industry is keen to discover what goes on at FIT. Students are encouraged to enter design competitions and industry professionals are invited to institute events in which the students' work is displayed. "The senior fashion shows and exhibitions allow the students to demonstrate...what they've learned at FIT," Professor Christofilakos explains. "[They] show finished samples along with art work in the same manner in which they would show a line in the industry, [yet] perhaps in a less commercial way because we let the different. Be competitive. Stand out."

Student Rachel Bohn's Designs.

Photo Courtesy of Rachel Bohn. 

The Beat Goes On

For Professor Christofilakos, it is these "raw, talented students" that ensure that "life at FIT is not like life in any other work place. It's a barter in the classroom - teachers bring information...and the students bring fresh perspectives...creative juices [flow] nonstop [and] numeric age isn't apparent; everyone [feeds] off everyone and it's amazing to be surrounded by such energy every day."

A hive of creativity, right in the heart of New York City, the atmosphere at FIT is difficult to put into words: "the level of creativity which is shared [among those at FIT] can't be explained" Christofilakos continues. "I think Sonny and Cher said it best, [at FIT] 'The Beat Goes On.'"

Related Article: Beyond Central Saint Martins

Related Article: An Education in Vogue



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