Special Occasion

Colette Barbieri
United States

From my early childhood, I found joy and pleasure in art. As I grew, I found myself being drawn to the art of fashion. I have a passion to create a distinctive quality in garments that produce a tasteful and refined beauty in design. Understanding how to balance between the avant-garde and merchandising success is one of my educational goals. I was influenced by my mother, who taught sewing and had a taste for fashion. I was always curious about how garments were made. After learning how to sew, I began to appreciate clothing from a different perspective. I was fascinated that a designer can have an idea, sketch it on paper, and make it come to life. My educational journey at FIT has given me the skills and confidence to work in the industry. During that journey, I came to understand my aesthetic and who I am as a designer.

Brenda Diamant
Bellmore, Long Island, NY

I have dreamed of becoming a fashion designer ever since I was 10 years old. My desire to design clothes began when I wanted to wear certain styles that were not available in my size. As I got older, my exposure to fashion and sewing grew, and I never wanted to do anything else. I decided to specialize in special occasion because no other area of fashion lights a spark in me more than evening gowns. I love everything about couture, from the intricate design, construction, and embroideries to the personalization of each dress. My designs are glamorous, flattering, and fun, and I always add something pretty, such as beading or something shiny. Couture is becoming a lost art in the fashion industry, and I want to help bring it back.

Emily Fernandez
Miami, FL

I knew I wanted to be a designer in the sixth grade. I always wanted to wear clothes I couldn’t find in stores, so I would beg my mom to drive me to vintage stores or I would make the clothes myself. I started researching schools and I knew right away that I wanted to go to FIT. I only applied to FIT and said, “It’s either this or nothing at all.” I got in and that was that. I’m in love with the idea of fashion as art. My goal is to become a designer whose garments inspire women to feel like they can conquer the world. The idea of exploring the beauty the world has to offer and turning it into your own creation is so precious to me. I couldn’t picture doing anything else in life, and I’m thankful to have found that out early on.

Miriam Hennig
Stratford, CT

I have always felt torn between two ways of thinking: an analytical, knowledge-hungry, liberal arts–oriented outlook and a creative, slightly rebellious, aesthetic mindset. Inspired by culture, people, literature, film, television, history, and art, I seek to translate my passions—to create something with all of the energy and understanding and excitement I experience through these different offerings of life. I design because it makes me happy and because I want to share, in my own way, what I so dearly love. Why squander or deny this bit of talent?

Elkania Ho
Jakarta, Indonesia

I specialize in evening wear, though I also have big passion for sportswear. I love combining different elements of sportswear with evening wear techniques in order to create interesting pieces. What makes me unique as a person and as a designer is I always want to push the boundaries. I want to create modern designs that inspire others and keep the fashion world exciting. My ultimate goal as a designer is to create designs that have ease and modernity that speak of time passing in a profound manner. (Hopefully someday it will happen.)

Jihyang Kim
Busan, South Korea

There is a saying in Korean: “Great clothes are like wings.” I was born in a newly developed country, volunteered in a third world country, and studied in a well-developed country. Having seen all this firsthand, I developed a new insight for clothing. In the developed world, clothes mean fashion. But in other parts of the world, clothes mean bare necessity. In yet other parts of the world, clothes mean industry and new economic opportunities. In any case, great clothes give everyone wings and a smile. Slowly I realized that clothes were not just about shopping, but clothes were really about happiness. As inhabitants of the world, we are all interconnected; and for that reason, I decided to study fashion, as I began to realize that now is the time for fashion to become socially and environmentally conscious.

Binna Lee
Seoul, South Korea

I was studying art when I was in high school. I realized that art has various fields, and I began being interested in fashion design. I studied fashion design for my associate degree in Korea. After that, I visited the sister school in New York as an exchange student. While in New York, I drew my expectations for the future. So now I am in FIT. As a designer, I want to connect past and future. I love costumes, and I was always sad that they could only be worn once, so I decided I would design wearable dresses for parties. I can tell you confidently that fashion design is my talent and my life.

Monique Lowell
Staten Island, New York

Art has always been a part of who I am. From a young age, any artistic medium I could get my hands on became an outlet of my creativity. In time, my love of fashion design became my ultimate form of expression. It was greatly influenced by my travels and my life experiences. Conceptually, I find the evolution of my design process sparked by abstract ideas. Having the ability to think of an intangible inspiration allows me to open up my imagination to unlimited possibilities in design.

Yuzhen Li

When I was young, I had a dream of becoming a fashion designer. I was able to draw and to make garments, but I was not able to go to a fashion school. Thirty years passed and I am now a mother of two children. From teaching to working in the industry, from China to America, my career changed. My life changed. But my dream never changed. I came to FIT to find my dream. I was accepted into the program and I have been able to attend school full time while keeping my full-time industry job. Being a full-time worker, a full-time student, and a full-time mother is hard, but I fulfilled my dream. I am finally becoming a fashion designer. I want my children to proudly say, “My mom is not only a dressmaker, but a fashion designer.”

Brenda Massiel Mejia
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

I have risen above many hard challenges in my life, and I know that I will continue to master the future ones. My journey to become a fashion designer began at an early age. As a child, I can recall dressing up dolls back in my native country with interesting pieces of cloth and any cool things I found lying around. I took a lot of interest in designing especially for special occasions with the influence of television. Watching beautiful garments in films definitely captivated me. Therefore, becoming a designer became my mission. I design because I’m passionate about making garments that women will look and feel beautiful in. Some of the things that make me exceptional as a person are my compassion, flexibility, and hard work ethic. My feminine, elegant-yet-modern artistic approach distinguishes my designs.

Jonathan Miranda
Miami, FL

The industry has changed but I believe that fashion can still be intimate. I love to work with my hands and I am extremely meticulous about how things are put together. My favorite part about designing is the escape. For me, the story is just as important as the color, shape, and texture of a garment. The demand of “fast fashion” has killed the mystery behind why people wear what they wear. I like to dress someone because I know something about them that is inspiring, not because I have to follow a set of rules from the fashion gods or because the world is responding well to something at the moment. I reject the rules and allow my nerve and sense of humor to flow through my work.

Nicole Moore
Lincoln Park, NJ

I’ve always been passionate about art, and designing fashion has allowed me to express my creativity through style. I design by celebrating the past, reinventing vintage ideals for the modern lady. I like to focus on the feeling a woman gets when wearing one of my dresses. A beautiful dress should not only look good, it should help a woman externalize all of the best qualities she feels inside. I’m very fortunate to have the opportunity to focus on special occasion fashion because I think my designs translate well through the elegant fabrics, embellishments, and details that are found in evening wear. Designing beautiful dresses is what I am most passionate about and I’m excited to begin my career in the industry!

Jess Myers
Reading, PA

As a designer, I have gone through a fair amount of transition in my creative growth. It has been a struggle for me to be able to develop my true aesthetic because I have such an expansive mix of interests. Eventually I realized that my aesthetic is a personality. She has photographic memories and the tendency to be too honest. She’s the love of the ocean, and her too-large collection of books. She’s the hunger to run and not look back. She’s the Renaissance woman, the passion for understanding the world around her. She isn’t safe; she fights, risks, and loves. She isn’t about fashion, but fashion addresses her. This being inspires me, and defines me as an artist. Always learning, ever exploring, never ceasing.

Marisa Oddi
Washington Township, NJ

I did not know that I had an interest in fashion design until I reached high school. I had always loved art as a child and loved the concept of physically creating whatever was in my imagination. My friends and I would flip through magazines, admiring the celebrities that wore beautiful designer gowns on the red carpet. I was mesmerized and to me this was a new form of art I wanted to learn. I began private sewing classes with my teacher Mrs. Vericker and I fell in love with the world of fabrics. Years later I still continue to be inspired by beautiful fabrics, textures and prints. I design for a woman that is elegant, romantic and has an appreciation for detailed embellishments: a woman that I someday desire to be. I strive to never be monotonous and enjoy the exciting, creative, adrenaline-filled world that is the fashion industry.

Liene Quinn
Riga, Latvia

My design career started at the age of 5 when I rocked my mother’s sewing machine box like it was a cradle. At 8, I began drawing clothes and writing prices on them. At 10, I sewed my first skirt. As a teenager, I graduated from the secondary school specializing in design and art in Latvia. Then I was ready for my biggest adventure: to go to the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York where I did not know anyone and spoke little of the native language. On this journey, I discovered how much I love to work with fabric, to solve design problems, and to focus on the details and construction. I feel very passionate about design, keeping the highest standards in the execution of my work, always being open to new things and to new knowledge, and remaining loving and appreciative of everything that I have.

Anastacia Rodriguez
Astoria, Queens, NY

I became a fashion designer because I love it. It is a part of me, and members of my family have always been involved in the fashion industry. At the age of 7, I had concepts of fashion sense. At the age of 14, I went to Fashion Industries High School where I was named best designer of my graduating class, with an award for menswear designs. I became a designer because I have always loved being creative with fabrics and special occasion applications. My unique sense of design involves costume-inspired garments. They are often very involved and my goal is for the customer to feel their best in my designs.

Sabina Sagadiyeva

I have been creating since I could hold a crayon. At age 7, I took oil painting classes at a local art studio where I learned composition skills and oil painting techniques. I studied in Milan, Italy, through FIT at Politecnico di Milano. I had the opportunity to work in design for two of the industry’s most influential designers, Oscar De La Renta and Carolina Herrera, where I gained invaluable experience. I am inspired by shape, architecture, and color. My technical knowledge of a garment’s proper fit and design combines with my innate creative abilities, and results in effortless and wearable creations that reflect the kind of woman I am: strong, sexy, fun, and fearless.

Joelle Samaha
New Jersey

Passion is an underlying factor for success. To most people, fashion is a shallow and superficial industry. However, as in most creative industries, it is where people shine the brightest. Designing truly brings me joy and happiness. I think it is very important to women that they feel comfortable in their own skins, and I believe that it has a lot to do with what they are wearing. Contributing to this is a great incentive in pursuing this career path. The most rewarding part is to see my designs come to life, from the beginning stages of designing to constructing the final piece. My meticulous and creative nature makes design an ideal match for me; it is the perfect outlet for my creativity.

Stephanie Thornton
Rochester, NY

I am the child of the two most inspirational people out there. I was raised to put everything into what I do—to be passionate, to be confident, to be brave. This is the way I design. It was been instilled in me that I can do anything I want if I work hard and believe in myself. I have always been inspired by other cultures and the opportunity to learn. Being a naturally curious person has taught me to enjoy challenges and to keep moving forward. I love adventure. I am a perceptive and driven go-getter who has a passion for trend research and analysis. Researching color, textiles, and photography has continuously been a strong part of my process. Bringing innovation and sustainability to the design industry has always been a goal of mine. I hope to impress many, impact most, and inspire all.

Anthony M. Tubolino
Long Island, NY

I never had an epiphany about becoming a fashion designer. As cliché as it sounds, I’ve never wanted to be anything else. Most of my childhood was spent at a desk, pencil and paper in hand, sketching for hours every day. I design because without it, I would feel empty inside. Every fiber of my being is absolutely invigorated by conceptualizing each facet of design and taking my vision from a two-dimensional sketch to a three-dimensional wearable piece of art. The overall execution and problem-solving involved in design fuels the fire that feeds my soul. I design for strong, confident, sexy women in a way that is uniquely mine.

FIT, State University of New York

©2021 Fashion Institute of Technology