Alan Fishman, the son of Shirley Goodman, discusses Goodman’s role in the early days of FIT. Goodman had worked on the World’s Fair with Grover Whalen, and was eventually introduced to the group of successful businessmen who were founding the institute out of the High School of the Needle Trades. Fishman describes his mother’s intense and lasting advocacy for the institute, though she came in without fashion industry experience. Fishman began working in the FIT mail room during his high school years. He recalls putting fliers together to announce that FIT was building a new building with the firm Deyoung & Moskowitz. Fishman then launches into a colorful description of the exchange trade fair with the U.S.S.R. in Moscow. He witnessed the infamous “Kitchen Debate” between Nixon and Krushchev and performed with a host of American models to showcase the American take on fashion. Following that summer, Fishman attended Cornell and graduated in 1966 with two years spent in Italy. He was briefly drafted, but exempted from service in Vietnam due to his family situation. He returned to FIT in 1966 as a part-time faculty member in the Fine Arts Department. Fishman discusses FIT’s international involvements and his placement at the Polimoda school in Florence, Italy for 7 years at the behest of Marvin Feldman. He describes FIT’s demographics in the 1960s and how those have changed in the years since. He then discusses other roles he has held at the school including time spent working with Deyoung & Moskowitz on the development of the FIT campus. He explains the Fine Arts Department’s role at FIT and the founding of the Artisan Space Gallery. Finally, Fishman notes his mother’s involvement with the “Inner Circle,” an elite group of leading women in the fashion industry.
In this interview with Dr. Alfred Sloan, Jr. he discusses his 1958 arrival at FIT following two years of teaching at Orange County Community College, another SUNY school. He was a veteran of World War II and had spent over ten years working in the fashion industry. Sloan discusses FIT’s first home at the Central High School of Needle Trades and their eventual move to the C building. Sloan lists various founders of the school and their roots on 7th avenue in the garment industry. He describes how the fashion buying and merchandising department has grown over the years thanks to strong industry support. Sloan then mentions Rosalind Snyder and the birth of the liberal arts department at FIT. He applauds the success of FIT’s curriculum and mentions that it has served as a model for other fashion schools across the world. Sloan notes that from the 1940s to the mid-1960s, FIT had a community service requirement for students. He mentions several department Chairs and FIT’s model of requiring professional studies in the first two years in contrast to traditional liberal arts colleges. He lists the courses he teaches and mentions student placement rates. Sloan then discusses the historical success of women at FIT; a characteristic of the school he finds particularly important. Sloan describes the results of an ongoing demographic survey his department asks students to complete and FIT’s international reputation. He finishes the interview with memories of the referendum on FIT’s name in the 1970s and a brief moment of fame on the now defunct FIT baseball team.
Allan Hershfield, who had been the president of FIT for 2.5 years at the time of this interview, elucidates the qualities that set the school apart from other higher education institutions by explaining the school’s direction and high placement percentages. He details close relationships with the industry via advisory councils such as the Fragrance Action Council and emphasizes the economic impact of the apparel industry on the city of New York. Hershfield talks a bit about the international nature of the workforce and describes a soon-to-be FIT design incubator. He also mentions the board of trustees and describes FIT’s advantageous status as both a SUNY school and community college. Hershfield then delves into the Educational Foundation and scholarships made possible by founders such as Morris Haft. He describes the bi-partisan legislative support FIT receives, and finally, discusses student projects and a particularly underestimated alum who became an extremely successful bridal designer.
This interview discusses Annette Green's contributions to The Fragrance Foundation. It begins with a discussion on the history of the company, Green's initial introduction and eventual rehabilitation of the foundation, and it's current position in the industry. Green discusses her involvement with starting the Cosmetic and Fragrance Program at FIT.
Annette Piecora joined FIT in 1977 as a clerical assistant under Gladys Marcus and Jean-Ellen Gibson, the chair of the social science department. Piecora would work in both the personnel department and faculty services department before finding a long-term position in the president’s office. Piecora mentions meeting her husband, Professor Steve Harrington of the social services department, through FIT. Piecora worked with Marvin Feldman and Allan Herschfield, and discusses how she began working for the Board of Trustees as assistant secretary of the college. Piecora expresses excitement for recent funding which would allow distance learning and talks of planning an upcoming 50th anniversary holiday party. She then lists many changes at FIT in faculty and student make-up and also mentions how its rapid growth and budget cuts have led to a loss of community in some senses. However, she credits the important work of the union in restoring gain-sharing relationships and holding the college together. Picora describes her work with the Student Faculty Cooperation which determines funding for various arms of Student Life. Finally, she remembers the dedication of the Marvin Feldman Center and goes on to discuss budget cuts and her own work on the union’s executive committee.
This is an interview with Doctors Joe Costelli and Barry Ginsberg of FIT. Costelli was the chair of the math and science department at the time of the interview and Ginsberg a retired professor emeritus. Ginsberg begins by describing his start at the institute in 1956 under former Department Chair Bill Leider. At the time there were approximately 20 faculty members and 200 students. He describes the tight-knit quality of FIT and weekend trips to the Hotel Grossinger. In tandem with his work as a math teacher, Ginsberg worked as the director of admissions alongside Marion Brandriss. He explains various internal leadership posts such as his time as the department chair and his time with the faculty committee. He goes on to detail the creation of rudimentary, and ultimately mandatory, arithmetic classes for pupils based on the prompting of Jeannette Jarnow. He then explains the selection process by committee of President Jarvie and his return to teaching, his “first love.” Costelli takes over the interview and describes his educational background in biology and subsequent start at FIT in 1975. Costelli explains the heavy involvement of the math and science department in the running of the school. He goes on to describe the middle states review and the writing of his textbook, Introductory Biology and Molecular Approach. He details the lineages of FIT’s liberal arts deans as well as the chairs of his department, and how the institute used industry input to evolve its coursework. Costelli remembers FIT being run as a tight ship with a hard-line dress code and also recalls the institute’s struggle to procure air conditioning from New York state. Finally, Costelli describes how the demographics of the school have changed and how they move ever deeper into computer-centered learning.
Psychology professor Barry Karp began at FIT in 1968 and was tenured in 1971. Shortly thereafter he became active in the FIT union. Around 1986 he became administrator of the Welfare Fund. Karp discusses changes in the department’s coursework and the introduction of classes such as the Psychology of Color. He talks about changes in the student body over his time at FIT and states that FIT has more non-traditional students than at its inception; many students are coming back to school instead of coming straight from high school and the college has gained international appeal. Karp remembers the familial atmosphere of FIT in the 1970s and shares a yearbook from 1969. He mentions FIT’s growing global perspective, and talks about the appeal of their art-oriented Saturday classes for high school students. Finally, Karp discusses his daughter’s time at FIT and how it has led to a successful career in packaging design.
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.
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.
Ellen Goldstein, the Chair of the Accessories Design and Millinery Department, started with FIT’s Fashion Design Department as a part-time instructor. In 1981, the school received a federal grant for industries affected by imports and was able to start an accessories department. With additional support from the industry, the department has taken off. Goldstein explains her beginnings as a tapestry weaver and how she got into handbag design. She then describes the demographics of her department’s diverse student body. She discusses how both the 1-year and 2-year program are feeding the accessories industry and how FIT’s millinery program has revitalized an industry thought to be dead.
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.
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.
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.
Helen Xenakis, the Internship Coordinator at FIT at the time of this interview, began as an adjunct professor in theFashion Buying and Merchandising Department (FBM) in 1988, following a 25-year career in buying. She talks about the inception of the internship program at FIT and its growth ten-fold. She sees the program as mutually beneficial for employers and students, which explains its exponential success. At the time of the interview, FIT had over 900 company sponsors including Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren, Made in America, major television networks, and New York-based start-ups. She discusses networking through alumni and what the internship process entails. Xenakis then describes a successful candidate for the internship program and how eligible students have a conversion rate of over 40% following the internship. She discusses the especial success of the program with international students and delves into the demographics of most interns. She mentions that she is optimistic about the future of the program and how grateful she is for her time at FIT. Finally, Xenakis discusses her education and buying career during which she worked for Kresge’s, Sears, and Bamberger’s before developing a fashion merchandising program at Rockland County BOCES, a vocational high school.
Chair of the Textile Development and Marketing Department Ingrid Johnson discusses developments in textile studies since her start at FIT in 1981. Johnson notes that course work has evolved from a more science-oriented approach to one that favors reverse-engineering textiles to fit end-use applications. She then illustrates the end-use applications of various fibers. Johnson describes her work as a home furnishing fabric developer before being recruited by Arthur Price to join FIT, and goes on to discuss successful alumni placement at companies such as Liz Claiborne, J. Crew, and Patagonia. Johnson notes the complexity of international sourcing and product development, and then describes the invention of EcoSpun, a recycled polyester textile, patented by alumni of the program. She discusses close connections with the industry and professional organizations such as the Textile Distributors Association. Finally, she describes the demographics of FIT’s student body and how the school attracts students with its international reputation.
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.
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.
Carol Poll interviews Nancy Grossman, Philip Milio, and Lynn Glazer about their work in the Student Life office at FIT. Glazer, the program coordinator, began at the office in 1969 in a clerical capacity. Grossman, the director of Student Life, began in 1973 when it was known as the Student Activities office. Grossman discusses their 1975 move to 242 W. 27th Street, a shared building with the counseling office. Grossman then discusses early programming such as a disco night at a student pub called “Binsky’s,” named after labor leader David Dubinsky. Philip Milio joined the office as a student in 1971. After matriculating at FIT thanks to a portfolio of photos taken during his service in Vietnam, Milio became involved in student government, ultimately becoming their President. Milio discusses his internship under Grossman and the founding of FIT’s craft center, which began with a pottery wheel and darkroom and eventually hosting classes on belly dancing and ethnic cooking among other activities. The group discusses the benefits of programming for students, especially as diversity has increased at the school. Many students find a home for their identity while others have discovered a true passion and redirected their careers. The group then introduces the annual leadership retreat, begun in 1971. Faculty advisers are required to take an 8-week training course before leading the students on retreat, and the program has been so successful that Student Life paired with the Sociology Department to develop a course based on the same tenants. Grossman discusses barriers to teaching for “non-classroom faculty,” and then they launch into an in-depth discussion on student government at FIT. They then describe the birth of “Icon,” FIT’s literary magazine. Launched in 1977 as “There’s a Future in Plastics,” the magazine has expanded beyond literature to include student artwork. The group discusses FIT’s first talent show in the early 1970s and then shares special memories such as a list of couples who met at FIT and the dramatic demise of FIT’s dress code. Finally, they talk about how the relationship between the union and student government has grown and how grateful they are for the community at Student Life.
This is an interview with four executive members of the Union of United College Employees (UCE) at FIT: Joseph Garofalo, Judy Wood, Juliette Romano, and Arthur Levinson. The four begin by explaining their backgrounds and initial involvement with FIT in the 1960s and 1970s. They discuss how difficult it was to get promotions under the administration of Lawrence Bethel, and how the union had to fight for many rights such as faculty status for “non-classroom faculty.” They also discuss the crowded state of the FIT offices before 1976 and the steadying role the union played in such chaos. The four then describe their connections to the NYC labor movement and close relationships with the Central Labor Council and the Municipal Labor Coalition. State and federal connections also played an important role, and Judy Wood describes her active political involvement with councilman Ed Sullivan. The group then mentions their parent organization, the AFL-CIO, and further union connections with the United Federation of Teachers. They take a moment to remember a strike at Radio City Music Hall, and how they convinced a union to pause the strike to facilitate an FIT graduation, kick-starting a long friendship. The group pays homage to Marvin Feldman, an FIT president they found especially supportive. They mention an upcoming negotiation and go one to detail how union negotiations with the school and city work. Finally, the four describe the union’s relationship to students and the creation of the George Levinson Scholarship Fund in fond memory of his legacy.
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.