Students Redefine Sustainable Luxury Outerwear with The RealReal

Model poses in garments by the top three winners (from left): Nadia Phie, Benjamin Halunen, and Emily Cha.
The top three student winners with the coats they designed. From left, Nadia Phie (second place), Benjamin Halunen (first place), and Emily Cha (third place). Photography by Cobey Arner

Last fall, The RealReal, an online marketplace for authenticated resale luxury goods, partnered with FIT to offer Fashion Design students the opportunity to design and create a luxury, sustainable, upcycled coat from unsold items in The RealReal’s inventory. This collaboration is the first time the online consignment company has partnered with a higher education institution.

This challenge was created to promote sustainable practices in fashion and give new life to luxury clothing. Eight finalists were selected to design the coats; the industry judges were RealReal president and COO Rati Sahi Levesque, VIP stylist Erin Walsh, and model Pat Cleveland.

Benjamin Halunen, Fashion Design BFA ’24, was the first-prize winner of $3,000, with his Americana-inspired coat made from wool suiting, denim, cotton shirting, and Mongolian sheep’s fur, completely lined in taffeta. He is currently working on his senior thesis in sportswear and was the 2023 recipient of the CFDA x Crystal Bridges Heartland Scholar Award.

The $1,500 second place prize was awarded to Nadia Phie, Fashion Design BFA ’25, who was inspired by the 1950s for her vintage look. Her white coat was made from denim pants and jacket and white shirting and can be worn short or long.

Emily Cha, Fashion Design BFA ‘24, received $500 for third prize; her coat was inspired by her own monochromatic style. It was constructed from approximately 300 4-inch squares made from white blouses, pants, and dresses.

The coats were put up for sale on The RealReal’s site on Jan. 23, and by Jan. 29, all of them had sold. The student designers each received a commission from the sale.

Click on individual images of the participating students and their work, photographed on the FIT campus, to enlarge the photographs.

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