Inside the DTech Lab, an engine of FIT’s future

Innovation is the lifeblood of FIT, and the FIT/Infor DTech Lab is one of the biggest drivers of that innovation. This public-private partnership with Infor, a global leader in business software, was established in June 2017 with a mission to engage faculty and students in solving industry problems using design, science, business, and technology. With Executive Director Michael Ferraro at the helm, DTech has undertaken nearly 30 projects with 35 faculty members and 115 paid student researchers from a range of majors. Industry partners include Tommy Hilfiger,IBM, Adidas, and the Girl Scouts. DTech operates as a design studio and think tank to innovate for industry, drawing from the college’s creative and intellectual capital and developing solutions in an educational context. This groundbreaking partnership has forged a talent pipeline through which students contribute to new products and services in numerous industries, work that often gets them hired at firms like PVH, IBM, and Lafayette 148 before they graduate. Here are five notable DTech projects.
Reimagining the Girl Scouts uniform: Throughout the Girl Scouts’ 107-year history, its uniforms have been based on two symbols of affiliation: the traditional sash and vest. In an effort to retain and boost membership, especially for older girls, a team of three FIT students developed a new uniform system comprising three collections (Everyday, Events, and Function) with jackets, tops, dresses, skirts, convertible pants, and even leggings, all designed to work together. The looks are fresh, modern, wearable, and, dare we say, cool. The uniforms will be unveiled in 2020.
Helping people with hereditary neuropathy: Affecting approximately 2.8 million people world-wide, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease causes weakness of the foot and lower leg muscles, which may result in frequent tripping or falls. As part of their work for the Hereditary Neuropathy Foundation, students designed accessories that are easier to put on, more comfortable, and more functional. They transformed leg braces into a fashionable accessory by designing stylish adaptive covers. The students considered easy closures, adjustable fit, breathable and sustainable materials, a range of styles for casual to formal wear, and the potential for brand licensing.
Developing a cutting-edge apparel brand: The college is partnering with OnPoint Manufacturing to launch FIT-branded lines of apparel and accessories. The brand will be designed, marketed, and merchandised by students and manufactured using OnPoint’s innovative fit personalization technologies and supply chain strategies. This avant-garde FIT label includes two collections of women’s wear—luxury and mid-market. Students are exploring sustainable on-demand manufacturing that can reduce waste and costly overruns. The first products may come as early as September.
Predicting the future of Tommy Hilfiger: Fifteen students from three majors teamed with IBM and Tommy Hilfiger in 2018 to explore how artificial intelligence can enhance design inspiration and improve manufacturing and marketing. The students were given access to IBM Research’s AI capabilities, including computer vision, natural language understanding, and deep learning techniques. Those tools were “trained” by feeding them 15,000 of Tommy Hilfiger’s product images, 600,000 publicly available runway images, and nearly 100,000 patterns from fabric sites. IBM researchers helped translate the data into information about silhouettes, colors, and novel prints that inspired student fashions that marry the Tommy Hilfiger brand with forward-looking design and retail concepts.
Simplifying tasks for those with Cerebral Palsy: The basic act of opening and closing a bag or wallet can be a challenge for someone with Cerebral Palsy, a group of disorders hindering movement, balance, and posture. Students in the School of Graduate Studies’ Fashion Design MFA program developed ingenious adaptable accessories—a messenger/tote bag, wallet, chest pack, and umbrella—for the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, using feedback from focus groups to guide the creative process. A product launch is tentatively planned for New York Fashion Week in September 2020.