FIT to Offer MFA in Fashion Design

NEW YORK — The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in Manhattan plans to offer a Master of Fine Arts degree program in Fashion Design beginning in the fall 2017 semester. A program of the School of Graduate Studies, it is the first MFA in Fashion Design within the State of University of New York system, of which FIT is a part, and incorporates elements that distinguish it from similar graduate programs in the United States and Europe.

FIT’s Fashion Design MFA centers on practice-based research and is open to students with varied experience in creative areas ranging from apparel design to fields such as architecture, engineering, and software development. The curriculum for this two-year, full-time program is founded on the steady development of an original concept proposed by each student at the time of application. As students pursue the degree, they will explore their individual design concepts in the context of history/future, theory, philosophy, and practice within a structured and richly mentored environment. The curriculum will focus on research methodologies and critical thinking skills that support innovation and invention in design, fit, cut, construction, silhouette, and materiality. The program’s goal is to lead students through the process of translating inspiration into malleable design ingredients and solutions.

Each student will investigate and evolve their thesis over the four semesters, charting an individual course through core concepts which, addressed sequentially, will create a distinct path of discovery. The core concepts are:

  • Play: Working with faculty mentors, each student will explore the possibilities of their thesis with freedom, openness, and intent to take it in unexpected directions.
  • Focus: Each student will have a specially selected industry partner who will advise on sharpening and clarifying the idea, creating initial prototypes, and defining the market.
  • Edit: Based on the best ideas, strongest samples, and fortuitous “accidents” from previous thesis phases, students will develop, design, and prototype their collections.
  • Conclude: Each student will present a collection of at least 12 looks or an equivalent, along with a paper explaining their thesis process. They will defend their thesis to a select panel of industry experts. Collections will be shown to investors, industry leaders, and other important audiences through an exhibition, a publication, and a presentation, providing a highly visible platform to showcase the work.

This thesis process will be supported by coursework, experiential research, and mentoring by faculty and industry experts. Each student’s final body of work will be viable for production.

Tuition for graduate students at FIT is currently $5,435 per semester for NY State residents and $11,105 for out-of-state residents.

“The relentless pace of fashion can hinder innovation, so here the design process will slow down to allow experimentation and reflection, and ultimately, a different way of looking at it,” said Jonathan KYLE Farmer, creator, professor, and chair of the program. “Students will come to us with an idea that they feel could one day make an impact on the fashion world. The program will help guide each student in realizing their vision—designing fashion into the future.”

The 60-credit program includes courses such as The Fashion Activist, which will encourage new thinking around sustainability and design ethics; business courses that will offer practical knowledge and insight into existing industry models; and the course craft:OLOGY, which will inspire each student’s design fluency and creative confidence through the lens of time in reference to craft and technology. The FIT community at large will be invited to attend and observe open critiques, open studios and work-in-progress exhibitions. Students will also have access to the vast resources of FIT’s Gladys Marcus Library and Special Collections, and direct access to The Museum at FIT and its collections. There will be two international field experiences, designed as Making Seminars. One will explore past, present, and future ideas and practices around how clothes fit, with students making clothes for diverse body types. The other will investigate the relationship between fashion’s local and global production systems, adopting ideas and processes explored in farming and agriculture.

“The creative is the technical is the creative. You can’t separate them,” explained Farmer. “The more you understand how something works or how it has been done before, the more you can manipulate it, change it, and take it to a new place. Clothes are only ever going to be the names they have already been given, that inherited understanding of what a shirt is, what a coat is, and so on. What evolves garments is how they are made, what they are made from, and how they fit the body. Technology is what moves design forward. It then is the designer’s job to inject the emotion, the meaning, and the soul into the clothes. This is what transforms clothes into fashion.”

Jonathan KYLE Farmer is a practicing designer who has taught internationally, including at Parsons School of Design and the University of East London. He holds an MA in fashion women’s wear from London’s Royal College of Art.

“The School of Graduate Studies at FIT is thrilled to add this essential degree program to its portfolio,” said Dean Mary Davis, who has led the school since 2012. “We are excited to give highly talented and creative individuals from around the globe the tools and support they need to reinvent the field of fashion design, and, as a public institution, we’re proud to make this program accessible, affordable, and available to a wide array of students. We can’t wait to see the change this new generation of leaders will bring to our campus, our city, and the world.”

The program is targeted to:

  • Fashion students graduating with a BFA in fashion design;
  • Individuals within the creative arts and design fields;
  • Individuals with a BA who have worked in the creative industries;
  • Individuals with an interest in designing for a specialized category.