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
Eleanor Fried, the first head of the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.)’s placement office, discusses her upbringing and the circumstances that led her to the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.) in 1947, shortly after its founding. She describes the early academic departments at the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.) and its demographics. Fried then details the institute’s successful management program and how the placement office went about developing close relationships with department stores and other employers in the Industry. Fried emphasizes the vocational maturity of many of the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.)’s two-year graduates, but explains that some students chose to go on to four-year degrees elsewhere. While the placement department was extremely successful in placing most students, it was severely understaffed; so Fried often ended up employing students to help with outreach. She explains how she stayed in contact with alumni and asked for their ongoing input regarding the school’s curriculum. Fried then describes the positive changes brought about by affirmative action, especially in regards to staffing her office. She finishes the interview by describing a book she published following her retirement as well as two she wrote while at the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.) including, “Is The Fashion Business Your Business?”
This is an interview with Dean Marion Brandriss, who retired from the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.) in 1973. Brandriss explains her work as an English teacher and how she came to work at the City High School of Needle Trades where she met Mortimer Ritter. Brandriss explains how Ritter hand-picked his favorite instructors to help him build what would become the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.). She discusses touring high schools in the spring of 1944 to recruit students for the inaugural class, and offering incentives such as a weekly scholarship to all prospective students. Brandiss started at the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.) as the Director of Admissions, but elucidates the vast scope of work she and the small team were expected to take on. Brandriss describes the student body demographics, transitioning settings, and evolving admissions policies of the Institute as it continued to grow. Brandriss then explains how departments were added and goes into depth on the particular success of the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.)?s Fashion Buying and Merchandising Department. Brandriss ends the interview with a recollection of Mortimer Ritter?s insistence on the Institute?s name, saying that he wanted it to resemble that of M.I.T. in sound and flavor.
This interview is with Norman Goodman, son of one of the original Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.) founders, Abe Goodman. Norman discusses his father’s emigration from Romania and subsequent start in the garment business at age 11. Abe’s ascension in the garment business was swift, and he established A. Goodman Company in 1932. Norman describes the company’s set-up, and his father’s decision to largely employ fellow immigrants. In the 1940s, Abe introduced his son to Dr. Mortimer Ritter. Norman explains his own decision to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.) in order to manage his father’s business. He describes his time at school and the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.)’s efforts to make a name for itself via a trade show set up by Arthur Tarsius. Norman graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.) in 1948, but eventually chose to move into real estate. By the 1960s, Abe Goodman had liquidated his garment manufacturing business but continued working with others in the industry such as Mollie Parnis.
Rosalind Snyder, Founder Dean Emeritus 1944-1963 of FIT, discusses the Institute’s inception at the Central High School of Needle Trades, it’s founding vision, and it’s progression to a college-level institution. Snyder describes the educational trajectory that led to her initial post as Assistant Director alongside Dr. Mortimer Ritter at the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.). She describes the early demographics of students and the evolution of the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.)’s curriculum and educational policy, detailing close relationships with the fashion industry itself. Snyder discusses the spirit of collaboration and creativity in the early days of the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.), listing founding educators and innovators who helped the Institute flourish. Snyder pays particular attention to the 1950s wherein the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.) found a home on 27th street and, in 1951, was authorized as a community college; cementing its status as an academic institution of note. Snyder retired from her post in 1963, but asserts her continued belief in the permanence of the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.)’s unique vision of creative exploration.
This is an interview with Marvin Feldman, the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.)’s longest-serving president, whose term ran from 1971 to 1992. The interview begins with a summary of Feldman’s military background and education, followed by his early work experience for the Ford Foundation and United States government agencies. He then explains his search for college presidencies in both the private and public sectors, and how he ended up at the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.). He describes the administration, faculty, and physical plant when he joined as president, and the Institute’s evolution from a two-year community college to an institution offering a four-year baccalaureate. Feldman then delves into the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.)’s interfacing with both the New York State government and various industry groups. He describes the hierarchy of the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.)’s administration and its management style. Feldman goes on to explain how departments grow and develop into viable courses and majors, and gives a detailed description of the Marketing program. He discusses the growth of international fashion merchandising, and then introduces two new Master’s programs. Finally, Feldman discusses the industry’s need for trained workers and how the Fashion Institute of Technology (New York, N.Y.) will function in the years ahead.
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.
Arthur Jablow reflecting on his father-in-law, Maurice Rentner. There is a most interesting section in the Oral Memoirs of Maurice Rentner, (his father-in-law) which provides considerable insight into other facets of the ready-to-wear business.
This interview discusses Barbara D'Arcy's experiences working at Bloomingdale's as the designer of the model rooms from 1958 to 1973. A large part of the conversation focuses on D'Arcy's professional relationship with Marvin Traub, Chief Excecutive of Bloomingdale's and his role in the development of the aesthetic identity of Bloomingdale's. D'Arcy also discusses her transition from model room designer to her role as head of store design.
Carl Levine describes his early years in the home furnishings business working for his small family business before talking about his start at Bloomingdale's. The Sr. VP of Home Furnishings at the time of this interview, Levine traces the major developments of the Home Furnishings department at Bloomingdale's throughout his 30 years at the department store. Describing the department as "having trouble" when he arrived in 1955, Levine speaks at length about Bloomingdale's decision to manufacture exclusive product overseas with a special attention towards accurate period reproductions. He then talks about working with Barbara D'arcy, the creator of Bloomingdale's innovative model rooms in the 1960s. Levine, who studied furniture and crafts and design at Syracuse University as well as the NY School of Interior Design, addresses the role of education in grooming a successful executive, especially in regards to understanding the history of fashion and design. In talking about Bloomingdale's CEO Marvin S. Traub, Levine describes his strong family life, his essential role as a diplomat in the creation of the country promotions, and his tireless determination and sense of humor. Finally, Levine addresses the concept of the "Bloomingdale's customer", taking into account the increasing number of Bloomingdale's stores across various regions.
This conversation has three main components: first, Tomchin discusses his work in the home furnishings department, consolidating the department into one cohesive collection under the guidance of a fashion director, similar to the structure of the clothing departments. This allowed the department to present more fully developed design ideas to the customer, encouraging the customer to work as her own decorator, just as the fashion departments allowed her to be her own stylist. Next, Tomchin speaks at length about Bloomingdale's emphasis on exclusivity of product, whether through the development of Bloomingdale's own signature products, through the introduction of new international products through the country promotions, or through the collaborative efforts between Bloomingdale's and manufacturers to create products that would be of special interest to the Bloomingdale's customer. This convseration focuses heavily on the importance of the educated buyer in understanding other cultures and being able to translate the excitement of products to the customer. Finally, Tomchin speaks to the major contributions and milestones of Bloomingdale's CEO Marvin S. Traub, who opened 5 new Bloomingdale's stores during the first 8 years of Tomchin's tenure with the department store. Traub is described as having a parental sense of care and interest in the store and as having a level of respect for the customer that translated into thoughtful selection and exhibition of products.
This interview covers broad subjects including women in the retail industry, family work balance, and the evolving role of the department store. The majority of the conversation concerns Bloomingdale's CEO at the time, Marvin S. Traub, with whom Barbara Bass worked closely. Bass talk about Traub's strong relationship with his wife, his high energy, his excellent listening skills, and his long-range style of thinking. Bass describes Traub as being pragmatic, and credits this as the reason why women and men are given equal opportunities in Bloomingdale's. Bass doesn't provide much information about her own job, only to describe her role as that of a "liason between the store line and the merchandising organizations." Though this was a time when there was speculation about the future downfall of department stores, Bass is positive in her statement that department stores will remain relavant as long as they continue to evolve with the customer. While Bass observes trends at this time to be less fast and severe than in the past, she does talk about Bloomingdale's as the birth place and death place of new trends. She then describes Bloomingdale's customer to be upscale, educated, "young-thinking", and traditionally dressed.