FIT’s first Summer Institute digs deep into sustainable fashion


The pattern for the garment uses a rectangle of fabric with nothing left over.

They came from Eileen Fisher and Harley-Davidson, from the University of Kentucky, Purdue, and India’s National Institute of Fashion Technology. All told, more than 30 academics and industry professionals from four continents studied at FIT for a week in June, participating in the first annual Summer Institute on Sustainability in Fashion and Textiles. They learned about cutting-edge topics and techniques—zero waste, sustainable fibers, upcycling, 3D printing—crucial for shrinking the industry’s footprint.
“Sustainability is not a trend,” said Sass Brown, acting assistant dean for the School of Art and Design. “It’s a necessity.” Brown co-organized the seminar with Jeffrey Silberman, chair of FIT’s Textile Development and Marketing Department, and Nomi Kleinman and Susanne Goetz, both assistant professors of Textile/Surface Design. The interdisciplinary seminar included a panel about sustainable fibers, moderated by Silberman; an upcycling workshop led by designer Karina Kallio; and a variety of other sessions taught by FIT faculty.
Also, Timo Rissanen, a designer and Parsons professor whose new book, Zero Waste Fashion, comes out in the spring, led a workshop on zero-waste design, a practice that leaves no excess fabric after a pattern is cut. It requires that patternmaking be part
of the design process, and that designers start working on a garment before knowing exactly what it will look like.
At first he found zero-waste design limiting, but soon he shifted his perspective from “I have to use this scrap” to “What can this become?” He said, “All of a sudden it didn’t seem limiting at all.”