For most of her two-plus decades teaching Fashion Design at FIT, Associate Professor Lisa Donofrio ’86 has led a knitwear class in which students assemble sweaters and dresses from thrift-store castoffs. This isn’t just recycling, it’s upcycling: crafting a desirable product out of something essentially worthless. As consumers become aware of the environmental toll of our fast-fashion culture, sustainable thinking will become an essential skill for designers.
In fall 2016, Donofrio’s upcycling projects were the focus of Introduction to Knitwear Design, a mandatory course for all Fashion Design BFA students.
Each class chooses a theme, and every student creates an inspiration board and either two sweaters, a skirt and top, or a dress. In Donofrio’s two sections, the themes were “deep-sea creatures” and “Dada.” Check out some of the coolest designs.
Madeline Tilton sourced five sweaters from the recycle bin to make this brown felted sweater inspired by an angler fish.
For her “seaweed dress,” Grace Insogna attached long green fringes to the bodice and hand-embroidered reddish yarns down the side to create a coral effect. “It fits me and works with my hair,” she said.
Creating the coral-like ruffles was a painstaking process for Kristen Pratt.
Adam Aronowitz bought six sweaters at the Salvation Army to design this sparkly, colorful dress that recalls the bioluminescence of deep-sea creatures.
Juyeon Jin used a variety of textures and one small pop of color to fashion this daring dress, inspired by the Betta, or Siamese fighting fish.
This exotic, multifaceted dress originated from an astounding 12 sweaters and six skeins of yarn. “I had a massive amount of fun making this thing,” Kaitlyn Hoban says. “It played into every detail that could make my soul happy.”
Lauren Barkley nicknamed this Dada-themed dress “the beast,” for good reason. She used more than 10 sweaters, plus leather in the shape of shears and the brass plates from a demolished theater in Greenwich Village.
This dress by Margaret Chobanian is strange and Dadaesque but still wearable.