QUALITY CONTROL
A beloved former professor brings her housewares expertise to cyberspace

Some people never slow down. They seem driven by a depthless well of pep, flair, and lust for life. Pat Breen is one of those people.

Her career in the fashion business culminated in 20 years as a professor of Fashion Buying and Merchandising at FIT. Since retiring 15 years ago, she has been sharing her knowledge of product quality on the web.

Breen’s career began in 1958 in her hometown of Buffalo, NY, as a buyer in the gift gallery of L.L. Berger, a high-end department store. She moved to New York in 1970 to work in buying and product development for Morris Moskowitz, a fine leather accessories maker; with her eye for trends and style, she helped bring a youthful spark to the classic brand. She taught evening and weekend classes at FIT in the mid-’70s, and in 1977, she began full time as an assistant professor.

One of her favorite classes was Merchandising Accessories, which gave designers business tools.

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“It was a three-hour class, and we’d sit there for six hours,” she recalls. “And still those kids were eager for more.”

A sabbatical in 1986 saw her dashing up and down the Eastern Seaboard, visiting factories to study how products were made. “So many people think if you pay more, you get a better product,”
she says. “That’s simply not true.”

Nowadays, as hard product information gives way to flashy advertising and inflated claims, she believes this knowledge is more valuable than ever.

“Nothing is labeled anymore, and when it is, you can’t trust it,” she says. “It’s frightful. And sales help knows nothing.”

But quality still does exist, and Breen’s website, Judge for Yourself (dearfriend.buzz), a comprehensive resource for information about a range of home products, helps shoppers suss out good value in materials and craftsmanship. “I never want to tell people what to buy,” she says. “I want to give them thorough information to help them judge for themselves.”

Featured Photo: Breen, second from right, teaching in 1978.