Vice President of the Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries Sidney Bernstein discusses his childhood and educational development in New York City. The launch of his successful real estate career put him in proximity to myriad furriers in the city. Eventually this led him to become more and more involved with the fur industry. He discusses the origins of the Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industries and its work abroad at the Shenkar School in Israel. Bernstein initially became involved with the Fashion Institute of Technology as a real estate advisor. He describes the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.)?s rising reputation within the fashion industry and how the Institute has become an important asset, particularly for textiles. He briefly discusses scouting physical spaces to facilitate the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.)?s growth, and then explains how he came to found a scholarship for students there. He talks fondly of Thanksgivings spent with international scholarship recipients at his family home and delves a bit into his personal life. Bernstein then circles back to the fur industry and how, in many ways, it is returning to its roots as a family business. Bernstein was the longest serving member of the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.)'s Support Foundation. He passed away in 2004.
Articles and interview of Theodore Fred Kuper about the origins of the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.), conducted by the Oral History Research Office of Columbia University in 1969. "These reminiscences of Theodore Fred Kuper refer to the creation and development of the Fashion Institute of Technology, a Community College of the City of New York under the program of the University of the State of New York, together with the creation of the Educational Foundation for the Fashion Industry. The tape recording of these recollections was started on September 29, 1967 by Lionel White, Fashion Institute, serving as recorder for Columbia University Oral History Office and continued from time to time in California by Mr. Kuper until completion on August 15, 1969." Kuper describes the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.)'s roots in the immigrant-run garment industry. He details early leaders in its development, and how, under the leadership of personalities such as Shirley Goodman, they sought support and funding to expand the institution's reputation and place in New York City.
Columbia University Center for Oral History Research
President of FIT, Dr. Joyce F. Brown is interviewed by Karen Trivette on July 17th, 2019. They discuss Dr. Brown’s upbringing and how her past senior-level positions at the City University of New York prepared her for her role as President of FIT. She continues to discuss the difference between running a college community from running a corporation, and how she has placed four strategic planning initiatives in order to provide for the whole of the school.
This interview is with Jeannette Jarnow, the first chairperson of the Buying and Merchandising Department at the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.). Jarnow describes her professional ascent at the department store, Abraham & Straus, up to 1944; when she took a brief break due to her first pregnancy. Jarnow describes the path that led her to seek out a teaching post at the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.). Instead of offering Jarnow a professorial post, Rosalind Snyder invited her to found the Buying and Merchandising Department in 1956. Jarnow describes the challenges of starting a department including the extent of publicity efforts for the department as well as for the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.) itself, still struggling to make its name known in the Industry. As there were little to no instructional materials available, Jarnow assembled several books such as, “The Mathematics of Retail Merchandising,” and “Inside the Fashion Business,” that would come to be used by other educational institutions as well as by professional training programs. Jarnow briefly theorizes why the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.) was not as impacted by student unrest in the 1960s before launching into a depiction of the industry seminars her department held as a service to the Industry. She continues on to discuss the evolution of merchandising with the rise of chain stores, and the ways in which the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.) stays on top of industry trends. Finally Jarnow lists a host of successful alumni such as Sidney Biddle Barrow, the “Mayflower Madam,” who became famous for founding the most expensive call-girl operation in New York City.
Jeannette Jarnow, former Chair of the Fashion Buying and Merchandising Department (FBM), discusses the small and intimate nature of FIT when she joined in 1956. She discusses the founding of the school by Morris Haft, Virginia Pope, and a handful of fashion industry insiders. She then describes the birth of the FBM department thanks to an endowment by Bergdorf Goodman as well as close relationships with Lord & Taylor, Abraham and Strauss, and Bloomingdale's. Jarnow touches on influential people from each department store and then goes into the student demographic make-up of the 1950s. Jarnow describes the changes at FIT over her 38 year career such as the former dress code. She then describes fundraising events and field trips to wholesalers and retailers. Jarnow also remembers famous speakers coming to the school such as Yves Saint Laurent and Givenchy. She recalls that Virginia Pope used to take students to the opera and other public events to experience fashion and culture. Jarnow briefly touches on her time as Chair and describes the publication of her book, “Inside the Fashion Business.” Jarnow also emphasizes FIT’s international reach and the vast array of career options alumni have experienced. Finally, she mentions the Oral History of FIT taken by Mildred Finger which was housed in the library.
This is an interview with FIT professor, architect, and designer Ron Lubman. He discusses his professional interior design experience and the future of design in relation to computers. Lubman was tapped to help found the Electronic Learning Facility, which educated students and faculty on the coming world of computers. He discusses how early demonstrations of computer-aided design were met with major opposition. Lubman goes on to discuss several courses he built on three dimensional space manipulation and how he instills in design students the ability and desire to illustrate technically. Lubman goes into how his coursework resembles Hollywood’s processes and touts Columbia’s “Paperless Studio” as the future of design practice. Lubman then discusses FIT students and how they can be overwhelmed by computer skills without proper motivation. Lubman was recruited to FIT after he gave a lecture on the future of computers in architecture and interior design. He talks about changes in the student body over time and finally discusses interior design faculty reactions to computer-aided design.
Jean Ellen Giblin, the Vice President of Academic Affairs at the time of this interview, explains how she came to FIT as an economics professor in 1970. She was later Chair of the Social Science Department as well as the curriculum committee. After a time, she was asked to work on the development of the new upper division program which had a marketing option in international trade. She talks fondly of that creative work and how it led her to become the acting Dean of the Business and Technology Department, and ultimately led to her role at the time of the interview. Giblin reflects on the intimate nature of FIT when she joined and how that has evolved due to the growth of the school and its development of a 4-year program. Industry pushed for the creation of a 4-year program, though FIT maintained an upside-down approach to education wherein specialties were taught before general liberal arts. Giblin discusses FIT’s approval by the Board of Education and SUNY, and then talks about the support provided by the Educational Foundation. She talks about how industry advisory boards keep each program relevant, and then launches into a discussion about FIT’s international and domestic student body and how it has evolved through the years. FIT has also evolved its own programs to serve a wider array of industries in the city. Giblin praises the wide-ranging work of unions at FIT. She then discusses statutory campuses and FIT’s graduate program launched by Bob Gutman. Finally, she talks about the inherent creativity of the faculty and discusses the future of the school.
Gibbs Murray, Chair of the Display and Exhibit Department at the time of this interview, talks about the origins of the program as a double degree in fashion display and photography in the 1960s. He discusses how the Display and Exhibit Department’s singular, comprehensive nature has led to exponential levels of enrollment in recent years, and mentions student exhibitions in conjunction with companies such as Chanel, Patrick Kelly, and Romeo Gigli. Murray details a close relationship with the National Association of Display Industries, and talks about how the advisory council gives valuable feedback to students. He discusses the student body and notable alumni from the program, emphasizing that FIT is uniquely situated for the study of visual merchandising. Murray then mentions industry seminars put on by the department and underscores the value of FIT’s 2-year vocational training. Murray ends the interview with his hopes for an art and design shop at the school.
This is an interview with Marc Rosenberg and Raoul Nacinovich of the Department of Physical Education and Dance. Rosenberg and Nacinovich met while teaching at DeWitt Clinton High School. Nacinovich was the basketball coach at FIT and would later become the athletic director of the school. The two discuss the familial feel of FIT in the 1960s and how much of that intimacy has been lost, perhaps due to the fact that the school is moving toward more part-time employees. They fondly remember activities such as an annual Thanksgiving scavenger hunt wherein Marvin Feldman was constantly interrupted by students darting into his office to ask questions. Then the two discuss the athletic program’s development and mention how many of their students go on to receive athletic scholarships at 4-year institutions. They talk about course offerings and athletic seasons, as well as the source of their funding. Rosenberg and Nacinovich talk about how they dealt with space constraints and the advantages of team travel. They then launch into a humorous story about Marvin Feldman’s encounter with a group of Hell’s Angels and his devotion to the athletic department. The two discuss student body changes over time and remember successful alumni. They finish the interview with another story on Feldman’s special connection to the department.
Judith Parkas, the Executive Vice President of FIT’s union, discusses her many roles at FIT. In addition to her union work, Parkas was a professor of Biology and Physical Anthropology as well as the project director of the Tech Prep Grant. Over the years, she helped develop and evolve FIT’s curriculum. She discusses the inception of the union and their early contentions with the Board of Trustees. There were also initial difficulties in unifying adjunct and full-time faculty, but Parkas emphasizes how the inclusivity of the union has been hugely beneficial in affecting change at the institution. She discusses how contracts have evolved to be more effective over time, especially thanks to Lou Stoller. She mentions affiliate unions such as the New York State United Teachers union and how FIT’s supportive working conditions have led to low turnover. Parkas talks about the school’s founding around the time of the G.I. Bill, and Shirley Goodman’s lasting legacy at FIT. While FIT’s deep connection with the city and the fashion industry has remained, the student body has become increasingly diverse and international over time. Parkas briefly discusses the differences between the Board of Trustees and the Educational Foundation. Parkas then discusses the development of a 4-year program at FIT, and goes on to describe the Tech Prep Grant that FIT procured from Cauley-Perkins. This program has allowed FIT to implement preparatory curriculum for mid-range high schoolers as well as secure summer employment. Parkas mentions distinguished alumni, and a couple fond memories of her own at FIT. She finishes the interview with a run down of her political involvement around the city.
Chair of the Marketing Department at the time of this interview, Eve Pollack explains the educational and professional trajectories that led her to a position at FIT in 1978. As her father was a textile converter, Eve found a career in buying haute couture to be a natural fit. She worked in the financial sector as well before being offered an adjunct position teaching a class called “Introduction to the Fashion Business,” at FIT. Pollack discusses the changes she has witnessed in both the student body and the industry itself. She explains her philosophy on the pedagogy of marketing and how Marvin Feldman came to appoint her head of the Fashion Buying and Merchandising Department (FBM). Pollack then discusses linkages to the marketing industry as well as connections with other schools who send her students. As faculty adviser to the Merchandise Management Society, Pollack has set up an affiliation with the American Marketing Association. Each year the association puts on a competition in New Orleans, and Pollack’s students have won several times. Pollack talks about the upper division of FIT’s Marketing Department and how it has come to be recognized as a viable business school. She emphasizes that the future of marketing education is general and addresses all aspects of the industry. Pollack mentions a close relationship with John Pomerantz, who was on the board at the time, and talks about utilizing professional connections to find exemplary adjunct professors. Finally, she discusses the state of marketing in fashion as international sourcing increases and closes with a run down of her current faculty and students.
This is an interview with three professors of the patternmaking department at FIT: Christine Pupillo, Leonard Trattner, and Harry Greenberg. At the time of the interview, Trattner was chair of the department. Greenberg started at FIT in 1947 and describes an incident that occurred during the Board of Education’s two-day exam, which was a prerequisite to patternmaking instruction. The three delve into FIT’s uniquely specialized program wherein students learn to make slopers. Trattner, a 9th generation textile worker, started as an FIT student in 1964. He discusses his upbringing and life-long connection to the garment industry. They talk about what the union has done for the industry at large and innovations of their department, including classes taught in foreign languages for international students. The three discuss the department’s highly successful VFI program which brings in students who have dropped out of high school or had minor encounters with law enforcement. Greenberg and Pupillo describe their experiences as first-generation immigrants, how that experience often relates to their students, and their own very early starts in the garment industry. As most faculty do, they remain involved in the industry to stay abreast of technological advancements. Greenberg talks about meeting his wife and how he came to be recruited for his initial position. The three discuss the minutiae of patternmaking and the skills their students take to the field. They then talk about changes in student demographics and their hopes for an upper division. Finally, they discuss the Irving Curtis Scholarship Fund and the Harry Greenberg Scholarship Fund, as well as the scholarship provided by Symphony Fabrics.
Marvin Rippy, a classroom technologist, basketball coach, and recreation supervisor at FIT, graduated from the school in 1967. Though he majored in Textile Administration and Sales, physical education was always his first love. Rippy discusses his start as the assistant basketball coach to Raoul Nacinovich in 1971 and how he took on the mantle of head coach in 1973. He discusses the competitive recruiting push that followed shortly thereafter. At the time of this interview, the team was competitive on a national scale, so Rippy had to expand his team of assistant coaches to meet the team’s needs. He mentions prominent alums who’ve been drafted by the NBA and received full-ride scholarships to 4-year universities, and talks about how they keep in touch with alumni via annual games. He notes that there have been many changes at FIT since he began teaching and laments that it feels less personal due to its growth. Rippy then talks about funding and the team’s national travel. For many students, it is their first time on a plane and Rippy emphasizes the positive impact travel can have on his students’ ambitions. He talks extensively of his respect for student athletes, and details the struggles that many of them have to go through to make ends meet. He wishes there was more administrative and faculty support and would love for FIT to create more scholarships to aid his students. The interview ends with further discussion of his own experience, running to and from FIT to avoid gang activity and how FIT basketball has created a positive and safe environment for so many.
Dean Emeritus at the Department of Business and Technology at the time of this interview, Jack Rittenberg discusses his many roles while at FIT between the years of 1963 and 1992. He talks of the development of degrees within the baccalaureate program such as those in advertising and menswear, the latter being a degree that Rittenberg co-developed with Ted Roberts. He talks extensively about the school’s early existence in the C Building and the growth of the physical campus as FIT became more than a commuter school. Rittenberg remembers the building of the library and how space for the clothing collection allowed them to split from a storage arrangement with the Brooklyn Museum. Formerly a buyer for Bond Stores, Rittenberg has enjoyed showing FIT’s collections off to friends and visitors. Though Rittenberg was retired at the time of the interview, he was still teaching a spring merchandising course as well as industry seminars. He talks about strong relationships with alumni of the school and how retirement has allowed him to keep in touch with many of them through travel. Rittenberg talks about the faculty tendency to continue to work in the Industry so as to remain current. He also discusses the uniquely driven nature of the FIT student body. Rittenberg then goes into detail about the liberal arts program and gives a deep history of the founding and development of FIT from its roots as the Central High School of Needle Trades. He briefly discusses international students and changing demographics of the school and then launches into a discussion of the evolution of attitudes within the industry in regards to race and sex. The interview ends with a brief discussion of the decline of the fur industry.
Edith Sancroft, professor of health and physical education at the time of this interview, and former Dean of Liberal Arts, joined FIT in 1964. She immediately began a large expansion of the school's dance program and talks about the introduction of an intermediate level of dance for her more advanced students. Sancroft sees choreography and dance as a natural partner to fashion design; her students benefit from the knowledge that body movement has to offer. She pays homage to the 1960s as a period of great growth for FIT. With the formation of the union and the presence of the Civil Rights Movement, the curriculum offerings at FIT grew in variety and scale. During this period, she was also able to offer master classes in dance with guests such as Syvilla Fort, Charles Wiedman, and Mary Anthony. Sancroft talks about how her department has changed and its eventual separation from the Math and Science Department. She also discusses the growth in diversity within the student body. Sancroft laments the loss of intimacy at FIT and remembers its former familial nature. That being said, she gives a lot of credit to faculty members such as Mildred [last name unknown] who wrote a series of grants to support the creation of the educational skills program, an invaluable part of FIT’s curriculum.
Chair of the Manufacturing and Management Department at the time of this interview, Saul Smilowitz discusses his life at FIT. He began as a student, graduating in 1953, and returned to teach in 1965 and again in 1989 after a brief hiatus. He talks about FIT’s dress code in the 1950s and how the student body has evolved over the years. Smilowitz discusses the department’s difficulty in recruiting for middle management positions in the industry. He describes their upcoming evaluation by the American Apparel Manufacturers Association; only four colleges have been accepted by the AAMA, FIT being one of them. Smilowitz talks about how they train students for the manufacturing industry and how emphasis on swift, mass production has intensified. He mentions the various degree levels offered in his department, and their move from a factory-oriented focus to a liaison-oriented focus. Graduates of the department have high placement rates and have ended up in major manufacturers such as Liz Claiborne, Nike, and Anne Klein. He talks about how alumni come back to check in at premier industry seminars and events such as the Bobbin Show. Smilowitz then discusses ethnic changes at FIT and how many international students return home with a coveted degree. He details remedial and bridge classes that allow students to matriculate to the upper division, and then talks about how active faculty involvement and continuous evaluation of course offerings keep the department current. Smilowitz goes on to discuss issues in the industry such as sweatshops and how they educate their students on OSHA to avoid such abuses. He then talks about union support and the scholarships offered by the AAMA to FIT students. Finally, he expresses pride in the department’s ability to offer real world experience to students during their time at FIT.
Coordinator for the Cosmetic and Fragrance Marketing Program at the time of this interview, Peg Smith joined FIT as a part-time professor in the Fashion Buying and Merchandising Department (FBM) in 1977. She came with a background in buying and merchandising for large companies such as Bloomingdale’s. Smith came on full-time in 1981 and, in 1988, was offered chairmanship of the burgeoning 4-year Bachelor of Science degree in Cosmetic and Fragrance Marketing. She discusses the history of the program. Dean Jack Rittenberg asked Hazel Bishop to found the program and she formulated the original curriculum which was primarily science-based. Smith details close working relationships with the Industry that have helped the program thrive, especially thanks to the efforts of Annette Green, who formed the Action Council for their department. Smith talks about the benefits of their mentorship program, which was the first at the college. She discusses various funding sources such as a luncheon during Fragrance Week wherein they netted $90,000 in scholarship money for their students in 1994. She also discusses the industry support that has allowed for the Gladys Marcus Library to purchase relevant materials as well as the funding brought in by the Action Council to build the Annette Green Fragrance Foundation Studio in 1994. She talks about changes in the curriculum over time and how she remains connected to the Industry to stay current. The department had recently added a fine arts course, a social science elective, and now requires French. Smith is hoping the department will be removed from their larger marketing umbrella so that they can continue their growth. Smith states that their industry has always been globally-minded, given that essential oils are sourced from all over the world. Each year they take their students on a summer study in the United Kingdom and France. Smith details their site visits at Estee Lauder, Revlon, Givenchy, Hermes, and L'Oreal as well as visits to family-owned essential oil houses in the south of France. Thanks to further grants, most of their students are able to go on this trip. Smith then talks about the demographics of her students and alumni placement. Finally, she discusses changes in the industry and the cosmetic industry’s need to diversify their market.
Elaine Stone, a professor in the Fashion Buying and Merchandising Department (FBM) at the time of this interview, also served as the coordinator of the Small Business Center and the director of the Center for Global Enterprise. She talks about her first encounters with FIT students while working at various department stores during the holiday season and her invitation to speak at the school. She was immediately taken with FIT and began teaching in 1975 after meeting Newt Godnick of the FBM department while they were buying for major department stores. She discusses the challenges of teaching and describes the close-knit nature of faculty/student relationships at FIT. She worked closely with the Taiwan Textile Federation while at FIT; and her deep international experience led her to help found FIT-affiliated programs such as the National Institute for Fashion Technology in India, Caricom in the Caribbean, Polimoda in Italy, and Shenkar College in Israel. She discusses the founding of the Small Business Center thanks to a faculty retreat put on by Marvin Feldman. With the support of Jeannette Jarnow, the FBM did a survey of alumni and found that 85% owned their own businesses, meaning there was a large gap in the department’s curriculum. What began with a class in business management became a huge cross-department program with federal grants supporting initiatives such as the Women Business Owner’s Association and the Export Assistance Service Extension. Stone describes how the center has also allowed for students to attain international internship experience and discusses linkages with national economic development associations. Stone penned three books during her time at FIT: Fashion Merchandising, Fashion Buying, and Exporting and Importing Fashion. She says a little more about her professional background and then finishes the interview with a ringing endorsement of FIT and her hopes for its future.
Associate Professor of Fashion Packaging and Advertising Design George Wybenga started at FIT in 1979. Each year the department accepts 25 students and Wybenga says they have a placement rate of 100%. He discusses the department’s coursework, including bridge courses, and details different types of packaging design. He talks about how the German green laws inspired FIT to focus on environmentally-minded design; each year the New York Department of Sanitation puts on a competition and FIT wins all the major environmental awards in packaging. He discusses other competitions such as one put on by the Tube Council of North America, and then he discusses a scholarship from Avon as well as various industry grants the department receives. Wybenga mentions that the International Toy Fair asked students to design posters and discusses freelance work. He then talks about how valuable the adjunct faculty is and the difficulty in recruiting teachers when they do not want to leave the business. Many alumni do end up hiring students from FIT. Wybenga says the department receives materials from industry players such as the National Paperbox Association, and then he launches into a discussion of student demographics. He thinks the international students have been a huge boon to the program, especially as packaging grows as a global industry; in the United States it is already the second largest industry after Agriculture. Finally he talks about how most students are the first of their families to join the industry and the continued growth of the program.