Special Occasion

Xi Chen


I grew up in China, studied in New Zealand for five years, learned Japanese and Korean, and finally arrived here in New York. This is me finding my place in the world and trying to pursue my dream. I love to express my thoughts through the design process, and I’m always thrilled to turn these ideas in my mind into real and beautiful garments. I want to explore every single little thing in my life and extract something inspiring. Fashion design to me is not just a career, but a lifelong enjoyment and goal. I’d love to keep my passion for design and create more wonderful pieces in the future.

Kimberly DiMarco

New York, New York

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been curious and inspired by everything around me. Growing up on the Lower East Side of New York City, I would often come across beautiful murals painted on walls in the East Village, or stumble into a vintage store of beautiful, delicate silk dresses. My love for fashion started at the age of five, when I would paint and doodle dresses on the walls of my apartment. It wasn’t until high school that I knew for certain I wanted to make clothes for a living and bought my very first sewing machine. I’ve always had a passion for my own style and have expressed myself through fashion ever since I was able to dress myself. I’d describe my design aesthetic as ethereal with a modern approach, which I believe developed from my memory of dressing up in my mom’s silk nightgowns and dresses.

Kurtis Fox

Las Vegas, Nevada

I grew up in Las Vegas and attended a performing arts high school studying costume design. I have always found inspiration in theater and the dramatic aesthetic that comes with designing for the stage. Having that upbringing, I applied it to the culture that comes with studying in New York. I’m a strong believer in the rich history of American design that continues with my graduating class of designers. Working in the archives at FIT gave me a strong understanding of the history of fashion that I apply to my work. I am inspired by vintage fashion and how it can be modernized and applied to today’s consumer requirements and tastes.

Alberto Frédéric-Gómez

Mérida, Spain

I come from a city in Spain called Mérida and moved to New York at a very young age. I do not know what inspired me to become a fashion designer, as the possible causes are endless… from my stubbornness when it came to getting dressed as a child or the impact my strangely very fashionable schoolteachers had on me. Who knows? What I do know is that I grew bored of seeing the same old “pretty dresses” and started experimenting on my own in my early teens. My inspiration is often drawn from dark places, and it is my intent to shed light on obscure themes and expose the beauty that is hidden by the stigmas created by society.

Jiyeon Lee

South Korea

My previous work involved film, moving images, and graphic design. One day, I wanted to try a new area for my future career and found one that I could pour my passion into. It was fashion. I love color, I love silhouettes, and I love every creative moment. I believe the words of Ralph Lauren: “Fashion is about something that comes from within you.” I just began sailing and I am looking forward to enjoying this long journey in fashion.

Meghan Maxson

Saint James, New York

When I was growing up, my parents always encouraged my siblings and me to be involved in the arts. They instilled in us the importance of art and culture, and we visited countless museums, concerts, and Broadway shows. I actually performed as an Irish step dancer all over the world. With these encouragements and experiences, I became fascinated by the clothing and textiles I saw, from the costumes the actors wore, to the clothing illustrated in works of art, to the clothes worn in different cultures. I grew to love fashion. My interest grew even more when I asked my parents to enroll me in pre‐college summer courses at FIT. From then on, with the love and support of my parents, fashion design has been my passion. I feel so blessed to be graduating from FIT with a degree in Fashion Design.

Brittany Netta

Watchung, New Jersey

Having a father who is an architect, I grew up surrounded by art, design, and careful thoughts put into proper construction. He inspired my passion for design, but rather than having an interest in architecture, I became intrigued by the process of constructing a garment. I have had the luxury of traveling through many parts of the world from a very young age. These experiences uniquely broadened my visual approach and perspective when designing something from concept to completion. I selected special occasion because it allows one to dramatically express a distinguished aura through live, moving art in a boldly characteristic way.

Casey O’Donnell

Colonia, New Jersey

Fashion design is not only a form of art, but a craft. It is the craftsmanship and construction behind garments that make me want to be a designer. My grandmother taught me to sew when I was very young and I haven’t stopped since. I have been sewing for as long as I can remember, and to this day it remains a constant source of inspiration in my life. I was drawn to fashion design because it is forever changing, presenting new and exciting challenges. I can’t wait to turn my passion into a career and to continue perfecting my craft.

Stephen Michael Oliver

Orlando, Florida

In 2011 I began the one-year AAS program at FIT, graduating that December. From there, I was granted assistant designer positions with brands including Hellessy and A Moi. I am currently the director of operations and assistant designer for Charles Warren New York and 2662 New York. With the support of colleagues I began the special occasion program in fall 2014. As a designer I strive to create beautiful and intelligent pieces of art that are not only aesthetically pleasing, but allow the wearer to feel confident and sexy. I want onlookers to ask, “Who are you wearing?” instead of “What are you wearing?” My aesthetic is a juxtaposition of Golden Age couture and modern silhouettes, using couture techniques and any number of high-tech, unique fabrications. I design to express my creative self. The way we present ourselves to the world is an outward expression of our internal selves.

Alayne Paolucci

Holmdel, New Jersey

When I was a young girl, I would dress and style my dolls for hours. Instead of using coloring books, I would draw sketches of clothing with crayons in notebooks. One night, my mother let me choose any outfit I wanted to wear. My ensemble consisted of a velvet dress, a black feather boa, and blue snakeskin high heels. That is when my family knew that I had a creative spirit and was destined for a career in fashion. I have aspired to be a designer all of my life and FIT has made my dream come true. My design style is very classic and feminine with a touch of sparkle and fun. As Lady Gaga once said, “I’m just trying to change the world, one sequin at a time.”

Hailey Randell

Warwick, New York

I have known since I was young that I wanted a career in fashion. When I was 16 years old, I started taking Summer Live programs at FIT and loved it. I can definitely say that without those classes I would have had a much harder time making it into this school. I, of course, am interested in evening wear, but also would love to work with a ready-to-wear or sportswear brand. My years at FIT have been extremely difficult, but I’ve enjoyed them.

Michelle Sarcona

Highland Mills, NY

Passion is the base of designing. Design has always been a part of my life. Inspiration was everywhere, whether I was staring in awe at my grandfather’s paintings or experiencing the environment. As a little girl, I would create simple sketches from ideas that came to mind, which I quickly needed to put on paper. Coming from a family full of creativity has allowed me to explore my strengths. That need to design still engulfs me today. I love working with soft, elegant fabrics and creating classic and unique pieces. Bridal and evening wear have always had a special place in my heart. The idea of having my customer wear my design for a special day is rewarding and fulfilling. My whole heart and soul go into each design, surprising me with each piece I make. I have dreamed of being where I am today and look forward to my bright future.

Rebecca Sassano

Northport, New York

I was always interested in fashion, even as a little girl. I was fortunate enough to have a fantastic fashion program at my high school, which is where I fell in love with special occasion fashions. That started me on my path to FIT. There’s something special about finding an inspiration and just running with it. The excitement, joy, and the feeling of not being able to stop until you have your completed design–that’s a feeling I want to have every day of my career. To be able to work in a field I have true passion for is not something I take for granted. My one goal as a designer is to make my customer feel beautiful and unique whenever she wears one of my designs.

Jenny Seo

Carmel, Indiana

My parents emigrated from South Korea to America, where I was born and raised in Indiana. They have always been supportive of me in my career path and have worked hard my whole life so that I can be free to create. I knew I wanted to design and create clothing from a young age. My mom made beautiful dresses for me when I was little and they were my favorite in my closet. Her creativity and passion has been a big influence in my pursuit of fashion design. I love the entire design process from start to finish, but I especially like to play around with texture, fabric manipulation, and haute couture embellishments and incorporate them into my designs.

Stephanie Strzalka

Wingdale, New York

I’ve been really fortunate to have had the opportunity to turn my passion into reality. I like being part of every aspect of bringing fashion to life. To be inspired, to develop concepts, to source materials, to drape, to pattern a garment, to sew, and to complete a collection is gratifying. I aspire to create garments that complement the natural body. My objective is to design an irreplaceable experience for the person wearing my garments. I feel lucky that I get to create something that’s an extension of myself to make someone feel good. I’m grateful to have gained so many skills and a wealth of knowledge at FIT because it has truly shaped the designer I am today. FIT will always be an essential component to my success.

Eaky Tang

Hong Kong

It was a long journey to deciding fashion design as my major. When I considered my future career, it was like discovering myself. I found out that I love exploring new things and educating myself. Fashion design provides me with a fast-paced environment that gives me the chance to learn and grow. It requires me to keep up with the trends and get the latest news, techniques, and information. It also satisfies my other desire, which is to make something unique and have my own product. I am always inspired by the creativity of manga, art pieces, and books, and I have an urge to make something that has the same strong impact on anyone who sees my work. The most important thing in fashion design is the connection between creator and audience, especially when the audience becomes inspired.

Kelly Tucker

Howard County, Maryland, and Ermelo, Netherlands

Being in the business of fashion is not very common where I come from but it was the path I chose to take. With a father who served 22 years in the Air Force and a Dutch mother who moved from her country for love, my parents taught me that hard work, determination, and following your passions are what get you the farthest in life. Although I was in uncharted territory, it was clear from the start I had their support. They are ultimately the ones who raised me to believe in what you do and do it the best you possibly can. I am excited to see where this path takes me as a professional and am thankful for the seemingly endless amount of support my parents have bestowed upon me.

Merry Wu

Queens, New York

As a young child, I wished for something different than what my mother bought for me. Soon I discovered Asian fashion magazines that focused on romantic silhouettes detailed with lace and delicate beading. It was feminine, whimsical, and fantastical, almost like a dream coming alive. I fell in love. I started designing sketches and learned to sew so that I could begin to bring these creations to life. Being at FIT really solidified my love for the intense process that goes into making a beautiful gown and my appreciation for attention to detail, like hand embroidery or stitches. My creativity is focused on making each garment into a fairy tale come true, created by my imagination, mood, and details, for the customer to experience. Nothing makes me happier as a designer than to make art that makes the customer feel beautiful.

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