SHE PROMOTES INCLUSIVITY IN THE INDUSTRY
THE PANDEMIC PIVOT: SIX STUDENT STORIES
Name: Joi Berry
Major: Communication Design ’21
The Pivot: Berry had a challenging spring ’20 semester, but this fall she took on an ambitious role in a significant Brooklyn fashion event, and she’s planning to start her own business.
Last spring, you helped organize the Black in Time exhibition, a celebration of Black culture through fashion, featuring work by students, faculty, and alumni, in FIT’s Art and Design Gallery. What was it like?
I was super, super hands-on. I was the director of digital marketing and public relations of FIT’s Black Student Union (now I’m the president), which organized the exhibition, and I helped bring designer Dapper Dan and stylist Misa Hylton to campus. We also held a runway presentation I curated and coordinated called “Fashion Comes to Life.”
Why did you join the BSU? What does it mean for you personally?
I grew up in predominantly white spaces, so I was looking for a place where I could feel loved and included for the color of my skin. In the BSU, I instantly felt that. I didn’t need to conform to a stereotype or filter myself. There’s no sense of competition. We all want the best for each other.
And then COVID-19 hit.
When classes first moved online in March, I went home to Florida. Then FIT’s campus shut down, and all I had was a suitcase full of clothes and my laptop. This semester, it’s not horrible, but some things are just not as good online. We had to build a model in a software program that’s hard to teach well online.
Over the summer, you found a position with Fashion Week Brooklyn.
It started as an internship, but then I got promoted to Young Designers Coordinator. I sourced designers from all around New York. Some were alumni, some were friends, and some were just super talented. It was a virtual fashion show, filmed with drones at an indoor soccer field in Sunset Park in September. Everyone had to wear a mask.
During the pandemic, FIT forged a relationship with the National Society of Leadership and Success, which you qualified for. What’s the experience been like?
NSLS trains student leaders on a national level — there are scholarships and job listings, and virtual workshops on how to be a leader and how to be a team player. One was with Suze Orman, the financial advisor. When I was 7 or 8, my mom and I watched her on TV. People would ask her banking questions, and she’d say, “Denied! Next question!” I love her.
Are you planning to stay in New York after graduation?
It’s kind of the perfect time to kickstart personal projects, with so many apartments available without a broker’s fee or with two months rent free. I signed a lease for the next six months, so that’s very exciting. I’m really good at branding, marketing, and promotion, so I’m starting my own agency to promote inclusivity in the industry. If I want to be an entrepreneur, coordinate fashion shows, curate exhibitions, and go forward with my passion, it means staying here.