In this interview Liz Claiborne sat down with Estelle Ellis to discuss all aspects of Liz Claiborne Inc. Aware that her label represents a promise between her brand and the customer, Claiborne insists on being a part of every aspect of the design process for each label, from the initial color choices (which Claiborne stresses as being of paramount importance) to the final sample edits. Claiborne reveals the difficulties she faces when working with the menswear and childrenswear departments. In explaining why the Liz Claiborne company hires so many interns, Claiborne makes a point to explain the importance of learning on the job.
This interview with Liz Claiborne discusses her experiences as she worked her way up as a designer. She describes her past work with designers and firms such as Ben Reig, Omar Kiam, Dave Schwartz, Juniorite, and the Rhea manufacturing company. Claiborne provides insight to the growth of her own company and all of the factors that go into the production of it.
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.
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.
This collection contains materials pertaining to Liz Claiborne including Claiboards which date between 1984 and 1996, business records on the textiles used by the company and a small selection of publications on textile science.