FIT HELPS STUDENTS HIT THE TRAILS

Byline: Rosemary Feitelberg

NEW YORK — This spring, students at the Fashion Institute of Technology can take a closer look at the great outdoors and earn credit for it.
Following two years of research, the Manhattan school has set up a new certificate program, geared for outerwear and performance apparel design, encompassing gear for activities such as hiking, mountaineering, skiing, hunting and boating.
The program consists of six courses in accessories, outerwear design, performance apparel design, portfolio design, sewing techniques and textile technology offered over three to four semesters. In addition to outerwear and performance apparel, students will work on rainwear, industrial uniform outerwear and sports accessories.
One of the attendees at last week’s kickoff breakfast, Barbara Cavanagh, vice president of product development at Saks Fifth Avenue, noted that the outerwear industry is in desperate need of an infusion of fresh talent.
“This fall’s business is clearly the worst it’s been in 25 years,” Cavanagh said. “A lot of it has to do with the weather and a lot has to do with sleepy product that people have seen over and over again and don’t want to see again. This industry needs creativity desperately. We can’t encourage this enough.”
Without innovation, the standard coat department will not exist in five years, she warned.
Neide Cooley, president of the Outdoor Industry Wo-
men’s Council, was instrumental in helping develop the program. A 28-year veteran of Marmot, an outdoor label known for its highly technical features, and a key consultant in helping Salomon develop its directional performance apparel, Cooley said she has had great difficulty in the past five years trying to hire technically skilled designers. In addition, training promising young designers is too costly and time consuming.
Last year, the outdoor apparel business generated $5.5 billion in sales through specialty stores. Factoring in major chains like L.L. Bean and Lands’ End bolsters that figure to $18 billion, Cooley said.
More importantly, more consumers are looking for comfortable, versatile apparel they can wear from dawn to dark, she said.
FIT professor Francesca Sterlacci, the chief proponent behind the program’s development, thanked firms like G-III, Avirex, Andrew Marc and Calvin Klein for donating garments that students will cut up to examine and encouraged other manufacturers to do the same, as well as offer fabric swatches and trim. G-III donated the 25 Macintosh laptops that students will use.

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