Creating a Latinx Networking Event for the FIT Community

panelists from Latinx Networking event in 2024
From left: Edgar A. Garrido, Dana Flores, Grismar Bueno, Renata Quijano, Mellány Sánchez, and Aldo Araujo. Image courtesy of MFIT.

When Dana Flores, Advertising and Marketing Communications ’22, arrived at FIT, she had three specific goals in mind: to meet the college’s president, Dr. Joyce F. Brown; to work with The Museum at FIT (MFIT); and to help Latinx fashion gain more media representation. A proud Mexican American, Flores, who was born in Houston and raised in Chicago, had a bilingual and binational upbringing. This gave her a strong sense of cultural pride as well as the confidence to exist in society’s majority culture. During her time at FIT, Flores wanted to create a space where fellow Latinx students could connect, network, and thrive. It became her mission.

Her senior year, a business-writing assignment required Flores to develop a grant proposal. Inspired by the MFIT exhibition ¡Moda Hoy! Latin American and Latinx Fashion Design Today, Flores drafted a proposal for the museum to acquire more objects from Latin American designers for its permanent holdings, but Flores was asked to revise her plan to make it more specific. She then pitched an event that would forge a new partnership between MFIT and the Social Justice Center at FIT (SJC). The project received a thumbs-up.

Under the mentorship of Tanya Meléndez-Escalante, MFIT’s senior curator of education and public programs, Flores set to work on completing a real grant proposal and submitting it to the President’s Diversity Collective, a DEI initiative composed of representatives from 15 different areas of the college. As the process evolved, Nicole Finigan Ndzibah, the SJC executive director, was looped in, providing Flores with additional support and guidance.

“Both of them were so welcoming and supportive,” Flores says. “The passion, respect, and dedication they have for their own work has been really motivating for me throughout this process.”

Just before the submission, Flores had a chance to meet with President Brown during her open hours. “I thought it was important to meet with her and put the grant proposal on her radar and let her see my passion and enthusiasm,” Flores says.

The entire process took a year and half for Flores to complete, but her hard work paid off. She received the grant, and on April 11, the museum and the SJC collaboratively hosted the Latinx Networking Event. It kicked off with a lively panel discussion featuring five fashion professionals of Latin American heritage:

  • Aldo Araujo, marketing, communications, and digital strategist, Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA);
  • Grismar Bueno, senior director of global merchandising, Calvin Klein;
  • Edgar A. Garrido, co-founder of Tiempo de Zafra;
  • Renata Quijano, model and beauty editor, Univision’s digital lifestyle platform, Atentamente Victoria; and
  • Mellány Sánchez, creative director, curator, and wardrobe stylist, who served as the panel moderator.

The panel was followed by an intimate networking session where the audience connected with the panelists and asked questions while enjoying refreshments.

“My hope is that everyone who attended the event feels energized, empowered, and proud about their culture,” Flores says. She is currently working as an influencer marketing strategist at an international agency based in Mexico.

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