Wild enthusiasm and sage advice mark commencement 2014

grads5If you’re ready to conspire with the universe, make some noise!” exhorted David Hamilton, the president of the FIT Student Association, at the college’s 69th commencement exercises, on May 22. In response, the crowd of graduating students and their families let out an immense whoop. Hamilton, Advertising and Marketing Communications ’14, drew inspiration for his speech from Paulo Coelho’s spiritual allegory The Alchemist, but closed with an old-fashioned coup de théâtre: He proposed to his girlfriend, Binta Diallo. (She accepted.)grads4

speaker2It was merely one sensational moment in a day packed with them, as approximately 1,600 graduates of 46 programs received AAS, BFA, BS, MA, MFA, and MPS degrees. Inside Javits Center North, the mood was jubilant, as fantastically decked-out mortarboards and magnificent footwear competed for the unofficial title of most resplendent accessory. This year, the students heard their names announced as they crossed the stage to be congratulated by President Joyce F. Brown and the deans of their schools. John J. Pomerantz, trustee emeritus of FIT’s Board of Trustees and former chair of the FIT Foundation, received a lifetime achievement award, celebrating his 55-year association with the college and his storied career. Liz Peek, chair of the Board of Trustees, spoke about how creative people need to occasionally “turn off the noise” from technology.

grads2At the morning ceremony, for Business and Technology and Liberal Arts graduates, Bobbi Brown, founder and chief creative officer of the wildly successful firm Bobbi Brown Cosmetics, was the speaker and honorary degree recipient. She described the early years of her career, including one of her first jobs as a waitress.

grads3“I learned a lot of math—I could calculate 20 percent of any number,” she said. She counseled the students to “be nice,” and recalled an early collaboration with renowned photographer Bruce Weber. Though she was anxious on the day of the shoot, he welcomed her to his studio with a compliment. “I’ll never forget his kindness, and how he made a real difference in my experience,” she said.

The FIT 2014 Commencement ceremonies at the Javits CenterIn the afternoon, for the schools of Art and Design and Graduate Studies, shoe designer extraordinaire Christian Louboutin, speaker and honorary degree recipient, advised students not to take advice. For example, he said, he’d received two recommendations: “One, never sleep where you work; two, don’t work with friends—they’ll be your enemies.” Yet he slept in his studio for eight years, and he started his company with friends.  (They still work together.)

grads6 copyIn her address, President Brown counseled students to resist the pursuit of fame and invoked photographer Vivian Maier. Now considered a noteworthy street photographer, Maier never published any of the 100,000 photographs she took in her lifetime; her work was only discovered after her death. “Everyone wants to be famous,” Dr. Brown said. “Thanks to the magic of smartphones, we broadcast every minute, every iota of our lives to the world. …. I do not want to suggest that you strive for obscurity. However, as you go on your journey, I hope you fall in love with the process.” It was the perfect sentiment for the day, being both elegantly phrased, and eminently tweetable.


SOLE MAN: A Conversation With Christian Louboutin

The FIT 2014 Commencement ceremonies at the Javits CenterWhen talking about heels, how high is too high?
Nothing. Nothing is too high. Maybe it depends on the person, but for me? No.
What’s your first memory of heels?
Vertigo, with Kim Novak. Also that Jacques Tourneur film—what is it? Cat People. There’s a certain music in the way that woman walks.
Have you ever worn your own high heels?
No. Maybe just for one second to try the balance of the heel.
What’s the most important pair of shoes in history?
Cinderella’s shoe. It’s an object of consummation between two people, but it also means virginity. Plus, no one can agree whether it’s made of crystal or fur!
Who would you most like to put in your shoes today?
Two people. On Queen Elizabeth II? A flat. And the pope: 9-inch heels!

Natural Woman: A Conversation With Bobbi Brown

The FIT 2014 Commencement ceremonies at the Javits CenterWhat’s the secret to writing a great commencement speech?
To not try to be anything different than what I am. I wrote and rewrote it ten times.
What’s your decision process for new products?
First, quality. It’s also important that they make a difference and that the colors are pretty.
Where do you find color inspiration?
Faces, of course, but I also find a lot of inspiration in cement. I look at the sides of buildings to look at the different grays. I’m a crazed color thinker. I calm myself at night with color—I’ll think of a beige blanket or ocean blue water. That Caribbean blue is instant happiness for me.
Who is your makeup icon?
That would have to be Estée Lauder. She was an original entrepreneur. She created things that didn’t exist. And she did her own social media—she believed in word of mouth.
If you were stuck on a desert island and could only bring one product, what would it be?
Definitely sunscreen. I have a cream that’s SPF 35. Is there a mirror on this island?
You’re on Twitter and Instagram, you have a blog, and you were recently named editor in chief of Yahoo Beauty. How do you keep social media from taking over your life?
It’s part of the culture now. Instead of parents fighting it, they should embrace it and teach their kids how to use it responsibly. It’s the same thing with drinking. Now that I have a job at Yahoo, I’m in the tech industry, so when my husband tells me to get off the computer, I tell him I’m working! But I’m also grateful when I get on an airplane and there’s no Wi-Fi.
What’s missing from the beauty market?
The truth. It’s really important to tell women the truth.