This past spring, Francesca Bornancini was a senior Fashion Design student working on her thesis collection in sportswear, when she decided to participate in a capsule collection design contest hosted by Macy’s. As part of Macy’s social purpose platform, Mission Every One, which works to create a brighter future with bold representation for all, Bornancini submitted designs for a three-piece look that wowed the Macy’s judges and met their criteria for originality and commercial appeal. As the winner of the competition, she collaborated with Macy’s designers and executives on the production of her garments.
Last week, the now-graduated Bornancini saw her capsule collection on sale at the iconic Macy’s Herald Square flagship, as well as at Macy’s Aventura, outside of Miami, her hometown. The Macy’s display included a bio on Bornancini and custom FIT x Macy’s hangtags highlighting their partnership with FIT. Days before the launch, Bornancini spoke with Newsroom about her days as a student at FIT, her experience working with Macy’s for the launch, how it all came together, and her exciting new job.
Newsroom: What is your earliest memory of your interest in fashion?
Francesca Bornancini: In 2009, my cousin, Lucila, came to visit my family in Miami all the way from Argentina. She is 20 years older than me and I always looked up to her. She studied fashion design and has her own bridal design company in Argentina. When in Miami, she invited me to go fabric shopping with her and taught me how to sew and sketch designs. Ever since then my interest in fashion has grown year by year. I remember in second grade when we had to come dressed up to school as what we wanted to be when we grew up I put a measuring tape around my neck, a hot pink tank top, and a tiered skirt with different flower prints and said I proudly wanted to be a fashion designer.
How did growing up in Miami influence your fashion?
I didn’t realize until I moved to NYC how much Miami has influenced my design aesthetic. Miami’s tropical climate has inspired me to design resort-wear looks that have more relaxed and flowy silhouettes utilizing lightweight fabrics like linen and cotton for the warm weather.
What made you decide to attend FIT?
Other than FIT being one of the best and most well-known schools for fashion design, it is in the heart of fashion, NYC, where everything works as inspiration. From the streets to the people, to the architecture, to the museums, and even my local park, I was able to be involved in this city and able to expand and challenge my creativity and knowledge of fashion every day. Also, FIT offered a very rigorous curriculum that I knew would push me to find my own design aesthetic and would prepare me to enter the fashion industry.
What was your experience like at FIT? Did you have a favorite class or a favorite professor?
I loved my experience at FIT. Being able to be immersed with a group of students that come from all over the world and are passionate about art and design kept me inspired and competitive and it challenged me to be a better designer every day. My favorite class was my senior thesis class with Professor Nicole Benefield. I had her for four semesters in a row and I chose her every semester, not only because she supports her students in every way and gives the best critiques but also because she is super talented and understands how the fashion industry is always evolving and is not stuck in the old ways of working in fashion.
Professor Benefield always challenged me and understood my aesthetic so she help me bring my ideas to life. I also found her very inspiring because she worked many years in the industry and now owns her own brand. I believe Professor Benefield left a great impact on me and really mentored me to become the designer I am today.
Were you involved in any student clubs or activities?
No, I wasn’t involved in any clubs, but FIT helped me get involved and be a volunteer in New York Fashion Week to help out several designers backstage and dress the models before their runway shows.
Did you complete any internships while at FIT?
I had several internships during my time at FIT, but the one that really opened my eyes to the fast-paced fashion industry was at Love Shack Fancy. I was able to learn about the whole production process of a collection, from trend research to sketching, to making CADs and tech packs, to manufacturing, to getting samples and fitting them for the final product.
Did you have any jobs while at FIT?
During my senior year at FIT, I had a part-time job working with the CEO of Phat Buddha. I helped her with inventory, sample products, and delivering orders.
What made you decide to enter the Macy’s Capsule Collection Contest?
A few of my friends encouraged me to enter because they said I had an eye for fashion trends and for designing sellable/commercial looks and they truly believed I had a chance at winning. I had never participated in a competition, so I wanted to challenge myself to do something out of my comfort zone. I also saw this as a great opportunity for exposure in the fashion industry, so I gave it a shot.
Were you involved in the production of the garment? Did you get to weigh in on fabrics, for instance?
From the beginning of the competition, I was involved in the production of the garment. Macy’s gave me a variety of knit fabrics to choose from for my designs. When I got to the top 5 in the competition, I was invited to visit the local vendor in Long Island City to see the place and people who would be producing my look, it was crazy to see how fast everyone worked. I also had the opportunity to visit Macy’s design offices and meet the design team and be involved in the fitting process of my look.
What are some valuable lessons you learned working with Macy’s for the launch of your design?
I’ve learned that a lot of effort—not just from me—was put into this project. I believe that teamwork really does make the dream work. My look has been able to come to life with the help of the amazing team of people at Macy’s and my professors. My Macy’s mentor, Talia Blyer, has helped me through the whole process, the Macy’s tech team had to communicate with the manufacturers and do fittings of the samples, etc.
What have you been up to since graduation?
I am excited to share that I just got a job with Macy’s as an assistant designer for one of their private label brands, Bar III. I am in the process of moving back to New York City since I start the position soon.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
After five years of having worked for a company and growing with them and having a clear perspective of how a fashion brand works, I hope to be able to launch my own eco-friendly resort wear brand in Miami, including swimwear, summer dresses, and loungewear.
Read more about Francesca’s experiences at Fashionista.com where she took part in their “Fashion School Diaries” series.