2019: Innovation In Sustainability

innovation in sustainability gala and conference

Sustainable Business and Design Conference: April 3 & 4, 2019
FIT Gala: April 3, 2019

At the heart of FIT’s mission is a commitment to sustainability and innovation. These two ideals are reflected in our academic programs, our physical environment, and our campus culture. Our faculty and students working together embrace innovative materials and invent alternative methodologies to make the world better for generations to come.

To celebrate our commitment to sustainability, for the first time the college brought together two of our signature events: FIT’s Annual Gala and the Sustainable Business and Design Conference. The gala honored three visionaries who are spearheading real change across industries, while the conference covered such topics as the workforce of the future and exciting innovations in biodesign.

Vogue article on FIT's 2019 Gala

» Read about the Gala on Newsroom 
» Read Vogue's coverage of FIT's Gala 
» Watch Videos of the Conference

Learn more about the Gala


Panels, Presentations, and Events   

Global Changemakers Paving the Way for Sustainability in the Beauty, Fashion, Hospitality, and Nonprofit Industries

Barbara De Laere Aveda is joined by brand partners and sustainability leaders Phillip Lim, Hannah Bronfman and Lauren Letta to discuss things they never thought to be possible in their industries, where luxury and sustainability meet and the idea that it is possible to be both successful and responsible in business.

Moderator: Barbara De Laere, Aveda

Hannah Bronfman, SH Hotels & Resorts
Phillip Lim, 3.1 Phillip Lim
Lauren Letta, charity: water

Biomaterials, Biomimicry, and Reversing Global Warming Through Education and Empowerment

Discover the intersection of science, technology, and design where Danielle aims to encourage a departure from conventional materials and production techniques in search of long-term, sustainable solutions. With an emphasis on biofabrication and biomimicry, much of her work upholds a fundamental value of nature and embodies a systems thinking approach that benefits all life on this planet.

Speaker: Danielle Trofe, Danielle Trofe Design

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Pioneering Women in Sustainability

Women are taking the lead in sustainability in various industries across the globe. Join this program to hear a conversation among some of these pioneers.

Moderator: Tabea Soriano, Product Guild

Nadja Swarovski, Swarovski
Evie Evangelou, Fashion 4 Development (F4D)
Lauren Bush Lauren, FEED

Kering 2025: Crafting Tomorrow's Luxury

Moderator: Lydia Dishman, Fast Company

Speaker: Michael Beutler, Kering

Conversation with Amber Valletta and Amy Johnson

Moderator: Vanessa Friedman, The New York Times

Amber Valletta, model, actress, Master & Muse
Amy Johnson, Master & Muse

Examples of Sustainability in the FIT Classroom

FIT faculty (professors in Photography, Textile/ Surface Design, English & Communication Studies, and Interior Design) discuss how they are incorporating sustainability inside and outside the classroom and studio.

Moderator: Marybeth Schmitt

FIT Faculty Members:
Keith Ellenbogen, Photography
Susanne Goetz, Textile/Surface Design
Grazyna Pilatowicz, Interior Design
Amy Lemmon, English and Communication Studies

Swarovski Waterschool Documentary

A film demonstrating the power of education, and how we can all be ambassadors for water conservation.


Panelists will discuss the movement to ensure that fashion is created from from safe and renewable materials, new business models increase their use, and old garments/textiles are turned into new. This would shift from a linear model leading to waste to a circular economy.

Moderator: Céline Semaan, Slow Factory and The Library

Kristy Caylor, For Days
Cynthia Power, Eileen Fisher Renew
Jessica Schreiber, FABSCRAP

Designing Living Things

Dr. Agapakis is a biologist, writer, and artist who will share the future potential of synthetic biology that she and her colleagues work on at Ginkgo Bioworks, an organism design company that designs microbes for sustainable innovation in food, agriculture, medicine, materials, and more.

Speaker: Dr. Christina Agapakis, Ginkgo Bioworks

This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Innovation and Sustainability Across the Industries

Hosted by: Joanne Arbuckle, FIT

Industry Representatives:
Veil Intimates, Meghan Marsden
Costa Brazil, Francisco Costa
Conservation International, Anastasia Khoo
STOLL, Jaime Bartholomai

Fashion 4 Development

Moderator: WWD Representative

Jeanine Ballone, Fashion 4 Development (F4D)
Evie Evangelou, Fashion 4 Development (F4D) 

Microplastics: Origins and Impact on Marine Mammals

This talk will discuss various aspects of microplastic pollution from synthetic and natural textile products and fibers with a special focus on the effects of microplastics on marine mammals.

Dr. Arthur Kopelman, FIT
Dr. Ajoy Sarkar, FIT  

Innovation with PVH

Speaker: Melanie Steiner, PVH

Sustaining a Sustainable Business

The challenges and triumphs of launching, growing and scaling a sustainable business.

Moderator: Caroline Palmer

Maxine Bedat, The New Standard Institute
Nicole Heim, Cienne
Karen Wood, Neu Nomads

Bio-fabrication and Materials of the Future

Moderator: Dr. Karen Pearson, FIT

Deborah Berger, Chargeurs
Dr. Theanne Schiros, FIT
Dr. Gary Halada, Stony Brook University  

Jobs of Tomorrow

Moderator: Chantal Fernandez, The Business of Fashion

Christopher Bevans, DYNE
Michael Ferraro, FIT
Christopher Wiley, Data Consultant 

Spotlight on Students in Sustainability Leadership

FIT students have been leading a number of sustainable initiatives on campus including composting, FIT Hives, and creating sustainability leadership positions in the residence halls. Come hear what they’ve been up to.

Moderator: Suzanne McGillicuddy, FIT

FIT Student Panelists:
Tessa Beltrano, Colleen Gruszecki, Emily Galvelis, Michele Sparrow

Featured Closing Speaker

Paul Dillinger, VP, Head of Global Design Innovation, Levi Strauss & Co.

As Vice President and Head of Global Design Innovation, Paul Dillinger is responsible for leading groundbreaking sustainable product and design initiatives at Levi Strauss & Co. During his closing he will challenge us to pay attention to the change that is needed and inspire us to design and make business decisions with “joy, purpose, and longevity” in mind.

Speakers and Presenters

Joyce F. Brown
Christina Agapakis
Joanne Arbuckle
Jeanine Ballone
Jaime Bartholomai
Maxine Bédat
Déborah Berger
Michael Beutler
Christopher Bevans
Hannah Bronfman
Lauren Bush Lauren
Kristy Caylor
Laurent Claquin
Francisco Costa
Barbara De Laere
Paul Dillinger
Lydia Dishman
Keith Ellenbogen
Evie Evangelou
Chantal Fernandez
Michael Ferraro
Vanessa Friedman
Susanne Goetz
Gary Halada
Nicole Heim
Brad Hoylman
Amy Johnson
Artie Kopelman
Anastasia Khoo
Amy Lemmon
Lauren Letta
Phillip Lim
Meghan Marsden
Suzanne McGillicuddy
Caroline Palmer
Karen Pearson
Grażyna Piłatowicz
Cynthia Power
Ajoy Sarkar
Theanne Schiros
Jessica Schreiber
Marybeth Schmitt
celine semaan
Tabea Soriano
Melanie Steiner
Nadja Swarovski
Danielle Trofe
Amber Valletta
Karen Wood
Christopher Wylie


The 2019 Conference and Gala have been supported by the generosity of our sponsors.

Ground Breaker

Aveda Logo

Change Agent

PVH logo


sponsor: kering

sponsor: ralph lauren

sponsor: swarovski

Grant Sponsor

National Endowment for the Arts

Friends and Supporters

sponsor: chargeurs

sponsor: kallen and lemelson

sponsor: peninsula

sponsor: centry 21