Each year, industry critics lend their expertise to our graduating student throughout their final semester as they prepare for the fashion show. Nine major designers are working with the students as mentors and critics by visiting classrooms throughout the semester to critique the students' work and ultimately, to select the most exceptional garment from each category for special citation.
Born in Chihuahua, Mexico, Victor Alfaro attended the University of Texas and FIT before starting his fashion career. He launched his eponymous label in 1991; four years later, he won the Council of Fashion Designers of America's Perry Ellis Award. In 2008, he introduced his Victor by Victor Alfaro brand, available exclusively at Bon-Ton stores.
Alfaros glamorous, sensual designs have been seen in publications such as Cosmopolitan, Glamour, and Vogue, and on celebrities such as Mariah Carey, Cindy Crawford, Nicole Kidman, Madonna, and Demi Moore, as well as notable women such as Queen Rania of Jordan and Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece.
While planning her wedding in 1985, Amsale Aberra discovered an untapped niche in the bridal market: elegant, understated gowns. So she placed a classified ad and began a custom-made dress business out of her New York City loft, offering a simple, refined aesthetic. Since then, Amsale, a native of Ethiopia and graduate of FIT, has become synonymous with the "forever modern" wedding dress.
In 2001, Aberra opened her Madison Avenue boutique, a 5,000-square-foot space showcasing her Amsale, Little White Dress, Christos, and Kenneth Pool collections. Her designs can also be found nationwide at retailers like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. Her creations have been worn by stars such as Halle Berry, Salma Hayek, Katherine Heigl, Heidi Klum, Julia Roberts, and Vanessa Williams, and featured on TV (Greys Anatomy), in films (27 Dresses), and in magazines.
Gaby Basora created the original Tucker blouse in 2005 and has since generated a growing collection with infinite possibilities. Basora, who has a background in styling, is known for her use of vibrant floral, animal and abstract prints.
The first blouse was sold to Barneys in 2006. Collaborations with Target and international interest soon followed, and Tucker can now be found in over 300 retailers worldwide. Tucker, which is proudly made in New York City in the same factory that sewed the first order, opened its first retail shop in the fall of 2011, on West Broadway in Soho NYC.
In 2011, Basora was elected to the CFDA, confirming Tuckers status as an established fashion brand.
In just over a decade, Wenlan Chia's Twinkle business has grown from a line of chunky sweaters and scarves to a manifold enterprise encompassing accessories, books, home furnishings, jewelry, and yarns. Chia introduced her colorful, complicated knits in 2000, and they soon won praise from the New York Times, Vogue, and Women's Wear Daily. Building on her success, she then launched Twinkle Jewels, offering both costume and fine jewelry. Twinkle Living, a whimsical and accessible home furnishings line, and Twinkle Yarn, a collection of high-end yarns, followed. In 2007, Chia began publishing books under Random Houses Potter Craft imprint; her titles include Twinkles Big City Knits, Twinkles Weekend Knits, Twinkles Town & Country Knits, and Twinkle Sews.
The Twinkle by Wenlan collections sell at more than 350 stores worldwide. Chia, a native of Taiwan, lives in New York City. She has been a CFDA member since 2006.
Josie Natori's design career began on a whim. She began her career in finance, working her way up to become Merrill Lynch's first female vice president of investment banking. But by 1977, she was looking for new challenges, and brought a hand-embroidered blouse from her native Philippines to a buyer at Bloomingdale's. The buyer suggested Natori turn it into a sleep shirt, and Natori's first intimate apparel collection was born. More than 30 years later, her company has grown to include several lingerie lines, a ready-to-wear collection, home products, fragrances, eyewear, and swimwear.
A member of the CFDA, Natori also sits on the boards of the Asian Cultural Council, the Orchestra of St. Lukes, the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Women in Need, and the Fashion and Design Council of the Philippines. In 1988, she received the Galleon Award, presented by Corazon Aquino, then President of the Philippines. In 2007, she received the Lakandula Award, considered the highest honor for a Filipino citizen, from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. She has also received Fashion Group Internationals Humanitarian Award.
Born in Jamaica, Dushane Noble came to New York as young boy with his mother, a hairstylist at the time. Growing up in Brooklyn on a tight budget and in search of stylish clothes, Noble eventually found a Brooklyn tailor to mentor him in the art of making and altering clothes, and what started as a solution to fitting in at school developed into a love and passion for creativity and aesthetics.
An FIT graduate, Noble worked for Oscar de la Renta, Peter Som, and Donna Karan before joining TSE in 2008. He was one of the brands lead designers until 2011, and is now the senior knitwear designer at Helmut Lang.
Growing up in Los Angeles, Alicia dreamed of becoming a fashion designer. After receiving her undergraduate degree in 2001, she moved to New York City to pursue her career and found work with high-end lingerie boutiques and Victorias Secrets design department. This led, in 2003, to an opportunity with the Carole Hochman Design Group, to help launch the intimate apparel line for her childhood hero, Betsey Johnson. Alicia is now the senior foundations designer for both Betsey Johnson Intimates and OnGossamer.
Michelle Smith's Milly collection has embodied youthful, luxurious style since 2001. An FIT alumna, Smith began her postgraduate career with an internship at Herms in Paris, which was followed by internships at Louis Vuitton, Torrente, and Christian Dior. She returned to New York three years later, and Milly by Michelle Smith was born. The collection is sold in specialty and department stores worldwide, including Bergdorf Goodman, Harrods, Neiman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Takashimaya, and worn by celebrities such as Victoria Beckham, Beyonce, Thandie Newton, and Gwyneth Paltrow.
In 2011, Milly marked its tenth anniversary with the opening of a flagship boutique on Madison Avenue, its first handbag collection, and for budding fashionistas, the Milly Minis children's wear line.
Diane Von Furstenberg
Diane von Furstenberg began her fashion career in 1972. Within two years, she had created her iconic wrap dress sales of which had topped one million by 1976, establishing von Furstenberg as a major talent and landing her on the cover of Newsweek. In 1997, after a hiatus, she reestablished her company, DVF, which is now sold in over 70 countries and has 44 freestanding shops. DVF offers four collections a year, accessories, a home collection, and a signature fragrance, DIANE.
In 2005, von Furstenberg received the Council of Fashion Designers of America's Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2006, she was elected CFDA president, an office she still holds. As president, she has dedicated herself to supporting emerging talent and helping to establish the Design Piracy Prohibition Act, which protects designers from counterfeits. She also sits on the board of Vital Voices, an organization supporting female leaders and entrepreneurs around the world. In 2010, with the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation, she established the DVF Awards, to honor and provide grants to women who have shown strength and courage in their commitment to their causes.