Representing the creative future

FIT MFA 2023: Pushing the Boundaries of Technology

Explore the final collections by this year’s Fashion Institute of Technology Fashion Design MFA students

On the opening evening of New York Fashion Week students from Fashion Institute of Technology’s (FIT) MFA program debuted their graduate collections against the backdrop of Downtown Manhattan’s iconic Spring Studios. Titled UNI / VERSAL – Uni meaning  “one,” and Versal: “entire” or “whole”-  this year’s company of 14 up-and-coming designers celebrated their individuality, creativity and cohesiveness. Taught by a collective of industry talent including threeASFOUR co-founder Gabi Asfour, FIT’s 2023 runway showcase was a testament to the diverse creativity, drive, and spirit of this next generation of fashion designers as they launch their careers and define the future of the industry.

“Teaching and leading this cohort of students has been an honor and joy,” shared Cathleen Sheehan, the chair and professor of FIT’s Fashion Design MFA Program, which is described on the school’s website as a ‘Creative Laboratory’ existing at the intersection of technology and inspiration. “From the start, they supported each other as a collective and yet worked hard individually to research, experiment, explore and create their narratives and collections.” She adds, “We all look forward to watching these emerging designers shine and make a positive impact on fashion’s future.”

UNI / VERSAL, was a symbolic ode to the communities we all find within the industry through the lens of cutting-edge design techniques, evident in the subjects explored by this year’s graduating cohort. Graduates embraced new technology and contemporary approaches to creation whilst evolving traditional techniques. We spoke to FIT’s 14 graduating MFA students to get the full story of their thesis collections and their time at the course.


Morgan Cardwell

Lamella, Morgan’s thesis collection, exposes the intrinsic connection between humans and the natural world as expressed through fractal patterns, natural imagery and topographic textiles, taking inspiration from the forms of flora, fungi and land contours. “My collection seeks to explore what makes us human – our emotions and our relationships: with nature, each other, and with ourselves. I use empathy, awe, and curiosity as a lens to reflect on this state of interconnection.” Using empathy, awe, and curiosity as a lens to reflect on a state of interconnection. Often working entirely by hand prior to starting her studies in New York, Morgan identifies FIT’s use of technology as a major component of her education, fascinated by the capabilities of new technology to refine and expedite her craft. A combination of fluid, organic contours paired with symphonic cohesion, Lamella combines beauty and elegance with an awareness of the ephemeral nature of fashion; creating a momentary pause in the chaos of modern life.

Lilach Porges

Taking inspiration from the merging points between fashion and technology DRESS_CODE is where software becomes art, translated into wearable pieces. Combining 3D printed looks created with sustainable materials made from 90% recycled fibres by a robotic arm, alternating between three formats: Random, Accurate and Large-Scale; “The collection explores the aesthetics of the abilities and limitations of this technology.” Says Lilach who explores parametric design techniques within her work and research into more sustainable production from the worlds of science, engineering, and fashion together to empower women. “The term “UNI / VERSAL” aptly encapsulates our class,” Lilach continues, whose background in architecture is evident in her eye for construction. “Comprising individual designers from diverse cultural backgrounds and possessing a rich tapestry of ideas and design concepts. We have steadfastly supported one another.” As a graduate, Liach is currently evolving the ideas explored in DRESS_CODE into a start-up, PROCODE_DRESS, which seeks to continue her research into robotic fashion as a means of reducing human-labour in the garment-making industry.

Anthony Oyer

For Anthony, his final collection was a chance to delve into his personal love for fashion history. Exploring traditional corsetry techniques and with each look inspired by a historical female leader and influential women in Anthony’s life, Regina is an ode to outward-facing femininity and power. “I wanted to rebrand corsetry; As a member of the LGBTQIA community, I have always wanted to transport myself into a fantasy world. ” Anthony, who describes his design identity as: Operatic, Kitsch and Savoir Faire, introduces his collection, “It doesn’t have to be a symbol of the past. I look at it as an armor. I’ve always looked at women as powerful and strong, my collection is hyper-feminine but extremely strong.” Unlike many other members of his cohort, Anthony abstained from fully embracing technology, instead actively exploring hand-work and manual techniques, “It adds a level of life to a piece when you know hands were working on it.”

Deborah Won

First graduating from her BFA at Parsons a decade ago, Deborah’s journey at FIT was unique not only due to the birth of her daughter Jane during her first semester but also down to her deep dive into aeronautics whilst researching her final collection. “Exploration has always been fundamental to human culture,” she states, ‘ and now on the dawn of commercial space travel, it’s poised to take on an entirely new dimension. As we venture beyond our home planet, the need for personal expression and adornment remains as essential as ever.” A departure from the stereotypical notion of rigid and geometric space attire, Arise is an intrinsic reflection of how life and style will evolve with the future and the ingenuity needed to adapt to the conditions of interplanetary travel. Through exhaustive interviews conducted with experts in the aerospace field to understand body mechanics and kinesthetic requirements, Deborah explores how garments transform and move whilst experiencing 0G space gravity, blooming and expanding outwards across the body, bringing femineity and beauty into the often overly-monochromatic world of aeronautics.

Kaylie Haueisen

Enabling women to express their sexuality openly, GREEDIE DIRTIE BISEXUAL is an exploration into both Kaylie’s own bisexuality and societal attitudes around sexual orientation. “As a bisexual woman, people always assume that we’re just “too horny” rather than just valid human beings.” She introduces her collection, “[my collection]embraces a woman’s right to be a “slut” and explore her body on her terms.” Riffing on her deconstructive approach to design Kaylie finds beauty in the broken, taking broken, ripped or stained materials and dismantling them until they take on a new identity, “My Instagram haters call it trashion.” she adds “I love it!” Kaylie’s unconventional use of materials was also reflected in her approach to constructing her pieces, using heavy-duty machinery to construct her pieces consisting of stacked leather, metal chains and harnesses which formed the structure of her garments. “My work will always have a conversation to [an audience] which engages people beyond just looking at a piece. You have to inspect my garments to really know what’s going on; it’s something I have stayed consistent with my designs and personal aesthetic.”

Kuai Li

Originally studying industrial design, Kaui, whose pieces have already captivated an A-list audience: being seen on the VMA’s red carpet and on names including Kylie Jenner, describes her designs as playful human sculptures. Inspired by artists including Agostino Bonalumi, Christo & Jeanne-Claude, and Rebecca Horn, Independent Reality, Kaui’s final thesis collection, seeks to find the existence of meaning as an individual. Rethinking fashion through her signature sculptural lens, Kaui’s final 8-piece collection explores new identities from everyday items and spontaneous moments. “I believe I benefited from my former degree a lot.” She states, drawing on her past in industrial design, “When I started at FIT I used a lot of industrial materials and structures when designing. It was a fascinating process to mix fashion and industrial design in FIT’s laboratory.” Since graduating Kaui has focused on both building her brand, creating new designs and collaborating with talented people, whilst expanding her exploration into industrial design-led techniques and the possibilities of fashion as a form of art.

Luna Zining Ye

Quiet Power, Restraint, Hybridization and Metamorphosis Evolution is how Luna describes herself as a designer. Which is aptly reflected in her final collection entitled: Fancy Inside. Seeking to represent the friction of internal and external worlds this collection plays with the juxtaposition of fluidity and rigidity in form & textile whilst mixing traditional Eastern crafts with modern materials. “In Asian culture, restraint is a central theme. I began my collection from my curiosity about my grandmother’s generation and the social-cultural constructs of her era.” Says Luna, who was born in China before moving to New York, “Despite external suppression of individualism during that era, internal expression and freedom persisted.” Inspired by Origami folding techniques, Luna used metal-backed eyelets and book leaves as the primary way of constructing garments, finished with a sonic bonding machine to close each seam; there are no threads meaning each piece can be individually separated, adjusted, opened, closed or merged together.

Valeria Watson

Sabor a mí, Sabor a tí, meaning flavour of me, flavour or you, is a conversation on Mexico and the USA’s long-running mutual migration and the rich cross-cultural identity formed between the two nations. “This collection explores my own multicultural heritage as half-American and half-Mexican.” Valeria, who grew up in Guadalajara, introduces her work, which uses hand weaving, traditional Mexican craft and digital prints taken from childhood photographs. “I used this collection to tell my family’s migration history between the two countries and to record the stories that have been passed down through generations.” Textile development has played a significant part in both Valeria’s final work and throughout her time at FIT; using Mimaki printing technology to develop and print her textiles. Expressive, colourful and playful, Valeria’s garments are created to celebrate the bodies which carry them; using voluminous silhouettes, up-cycling and graphic forms which define Valeria’s design work. “If I do open my own brand I’d want to base myself in Mexico and the US,” She muses on her post-college plans, “I want to support local talent in Guadalajara. I want my brand to be sustainable and inclusive. I believe starting slow and small will be the key.”

Vasundhra Dhamija

Inspired by a multitude of subjects beyond the traditional realms of art and fashion, Vasundhra’s final collection Torus explores mathematical shapes through creative and innovative pattern-making. Inspired by the three-dimensional shape of the same name, which represents natural energy fields, Vasundhra explored the concepts of sacred geometry and the algorithmic nature of constructing toroidal shapes, enabled by cutting-edge 3-D modelling software CLO as a means of experimentation along with coding a random spiral generator, creating new spiral patterns which turned into the seamline of her finished garments, which are simultaneously fluid yet rigid, random yet precise, geometric yet irregular. “I always find [abstract concepts and fashion] to be correlated in some way or another,” says Vasundhra, who describes their design identity as an ‘Organized cacophony’, “My design philosophy is to take these subjects and organize them into something coherent so I can understand the universe a little better.”

Xinyue Maggie Tao

Deeply rooted in couture fashion techniques, Maggie’s final collection, Carnival Of Apocalypse, examines an individual’s philosophical decay during global turmoil. “My intention is to delve into the depths of human nature, philosophy, and beyond the realm of material existence through artistic creations.” Maggie creates timeless pieces which transcend the limitations of culture, utilizing captivating narratives and boosted by her own flair for dramatic storytelling. “Technology has pushed fashion into another stage,” she expands on the ‘creative laboratory’ aspect of the MFA course at FIT, “I have employed technology in various ways:  utilizing digital tools for research, design software for creating prototypes and online resources for accessing academic materials.” The couture aspect of her design practice is something she strives to continue in the future, “Although opportunities for couture in this industry may be scarce, I aspire to be the one who perseveres them”

Yitong Liu

Emboldened by her personal passion for social justice, and her background in professional free diving Yitong takes inspiration from sports science and augmented shapes to form what she calls ‘Provocative Minimalism’. The Urban Diver, is an exploration of precision, creating garments which not only showcase the abilities of endurance performance textiles but capture the emotions of the times in which we live. “Ultimately, my goal is to create garments which functionally express a new take on active living.” Yitong introduces her collection, which both caters to the needs of professional free divers whilst blurring the lines between athletic and formal garments. “This collection is a love letter to my lifelong passion for free diving, the ocean, and my wish to unite the spirit of athleticism with my love of fashion.” Yitong delved into the abilities of Virtual and Augmented reality technology, exploring new and immersive ways to visualize garments whilst enhancing the storytelling behind her designs. “In essence, technology bridged my creative vision and its realization. It has enriched my design process, improved efficiency, and allowed me to push the boundaries of innovation in the world of fashion.”

Zhendong Wen

Originally from Shanghai, Zhendong describes his time at FIT as being part of “a close-knit family of collaborators with a robust sense of community who freely share knowledge without reservation.” Which arguably formed the roots of his final thesis collection. Entitled Metamorphosis, Zhendong was inspired by the enduring relationship between technology and human evolution, “my aesthetic is best described as refined, elegant and modest,” he adds, “my mother is the muse of my work, my designs are tailored for individuals with a wealth of experience.”  Metamorphosis explores curved forms evoking the form of someone hunched over their phone or laptop, adapting the human body to accommodate our increased reliance and focus on technological devices; several garments evoking cocoon-like silhouettes developed via the use of CLO-3D mirroring the changes we undergo through our interactions with screens; ironically developed entirety via screens, through the use of VR to create a 1:1 scale enabling real-time editing and rapid prototype creation.

Ziyue Tang

Marking her time at FIT as a period of exploration and experimentation into new techniques and concepts, which encouraged her to step out of her comfort zone, trying a multitude of new things both inside and outside the classrooms. Drawing inspiration from the poignant memory of seeing a butterfly land on her grandmother’s coffin during her funeral, a woman to whom Ziyue was incredibly close. “This encounter triggered contemplation about the concept of samsara, a continuous cycle of death and rebirth.” The philosophy of ‘Samsara’ has subsequently become a defining part of Ziyue’s own design identity and informs her interest in natural, eco-friendly materials and fully embracing technology’s versatile nature as a means of innovation. “My collection seeks to convey the positive perspective that death represents a new beginning.” She continues “It explores the idea that, like the butterfly’s transformation, there is a beauty in the continuity of life beyond death. Through my designs, I aim to capture the essence of this profound belief, celebrating the notion that each end is, in fact, a fresh start.”

Youna Jin

Originally trained in jewellery design and metalwork, Youna’s time at FIT allowed her to sharpen and clarify her ideas in an unexpected way. Exploring her design identity as a way of conveying a deeper meaning, ‘Soft Discomfort’ Youna’s final collection, is a sophisticated take on the ironic nature of unisex fashion. “While the term “unisex” emerged to combat gender norms […] it frequently takes on the structure of making women masculine and men feminine. I think this tendency perpetuates fixed gender images rather than promoting individual body images.” Devoted to highlighting the human form outside of traditional notions of androgyny, using progressive pattern cutting in addition to Virtual Reality and 3D sketching software to organically display and enhance unique body images, creating sleek forms which draw the audiences eye to unseen forms and shapes of the ungendered body.