Main photo features a textile collection designed by Sharae Hines, FTD ’17. Photo by Veritas Photography
In the Fashion and Textile Design (FTD) program at NC State’s Wilson College of Textiles, creative expression meets function and cutting-edge technology in an interdisciplinary environment. The intentionally intimate program (32-student maximum enrollment) is in its sixth year and has fully hit its stride, with graduates going on to careers with international companies, launching their own lines and even showing their designs at New York Fashion Week.
“FTD is about making things that people will enjoy and wear and use on a daily basis — it’s about making products that work,” said Textile and Apparel, Technology and Management (TATM) professor Dr. Trevor Little. “It’s about creativity and innovation and thinking of what is really needed by society.”
Fashion and Textile Design students choose a concentration in either Fashion Design or Textile Design, according to their interests and career goals. They graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree, which means that in addition to design studios and labs, students are required to complete some math and science courses. Chemistry classes help students understand dyes and fabric finishes, textile technology courses teach the formation of fibers and fabrics, math classes construct a foundation for higher-level thinking. In an industry driven by innovation, FTD alumni stand out from the crowd — they are polymaths comfortable with emerging technology; they are Renaissance men and women who can work with engineers and chemists and logisticians to predict what consumers want, to solve social and sustainability challenges, to design for the future.
“The Fashion and Textile Design program at NC State has taught me so much so far,” said FTD major Lindy Stark ‘20. “I have learned about things I previously never thought about, like the chemical makeup of polymers and fiber spinning processes. I have also learned to use software that is forefront in industry and design techniques that have improved my skill dramatically…The FTD program is helping to prepare me for my future career in many ways.”
Zoe Newman ‘19 will graduate this spring with a concentration in Textile Design; she said the program’s faculty and coursework have helped hone her design skills and trained her to use cutting-edge technology.
“I knew when I was applying to the NC State Wilson College of Textiles that I wanted to learn more about yarn, texture, colors and fabric,” she said. “I have been incredibly fulfilled by learning (these) subjects, and my design palette has been expanded and strengthened through some of the most well-known professors, equipment and computer software programs in the industry.”
TATM and the FTD program have strong ties to the textile industry; students have interned and/or alumni are working at Cotton Incorporated, Roxy, UnderArmour, Michael Kors, Spanx, Eileen Fisher, VF Corporation, Tommy Hilfiger, Oscar de la Renta, The Children’s Place, Marchesa, Glen Raven and many more.
“Textile Design graduates find positions designing fabrics for clothes, upholstery, bedding, drapery and other home fashions, outdoor and marine fabrics, commercial spaces like restaurants and hotels, and transportation markets such as automobiles and airplanes,” said TATM professor Dr. Traci Lamar. “Several graduates have taken positions working in knit garments, including seamless, designing and product development. Students have opportunities with textile software and equipment developers in training, consulting and developing products. Some graduates choose to work in related industries such as with interior design firms.”
Fashion Design graduates land positions designing garments for large companies and small startups, creating costumes for the stage and screen, making patterns, sewing bespoke suits and dresses, working as stylists and designing footwear and accessories, among others.
“The FTD program gave me structure but also the flexibility to explore ideas past the classroom,” said Lisbeth Arias ’15, founder of clothing company Descalza. “I had Descalza on my mind since my sophomore internship with Mayan women in Guatemala. When I came back to NC State, I used my studio and the skills I was learning to further develop the idea that I had. My studio projects were more than just assignments I turned in at the end of the semester — they were opportunities where I could explore an entrepreneurial idea with the help of technology, resources, my classmates, and my professors from the Wilson College of Textiles. It wasn’t until after graduation I realized I had a business.”
Fashion Design vs Textile Design: What’s the Difference?
“How do you distinguish between textile design and fashion design? Essentially, I think the big difference is that fashion designers work substantially in 3D, while textile designers work substantially in 2D,” said Little. “In the fashion design world, you’re working with this 3D thing we call a person. A textile designer might be working with carpet or wall coverings or chair coverings.”
“Textile Design focuses on the creation of the materials from which products are made, so textile designers work with fabric design, development, coloration and production technologies in translating their creative visions into textile materials — as opposed to fashion design, which focuses on conversion of existing 2D materials to 3D product,” she said.
A fashion designer creates garments to be worn, carefully considering the drape of the fabric, an item of clothing’s intended function and how it will move with the body; a fashion designer fits bodies of varying shapes and sizes and abilities. A textile designer creates materials to be used in fashion design, in home textiles, in medical settings, in cars, airplanes and even spacecraft.
According to Little, both disciplines require market research, the ability to design for different markets, “an ability to shop across the spectrum and understand price points” and the customer, as well as social responsibility and sustainability.
Classes and Coursework
“I practice much of what I learned in college in my business today,” said Arias. “For example, pattern making, grading, illustrating — those are all skills I learned at COT and now I use them to run a clothing company. I have such an advantage that I’m able to design and create my own prototypes and samples and not have to outsource of any it. Most of the time entrepreneurs have the idea but aren’t able to execute them. I’m fortunate I can do both.”
Fashion Design students learn workroom practices, fashion illustration, draping, textile brand management and marketing, entrepreneurship and senior collection studio.
Textile Design students learn the knitting of fabrics, garments and products; color, surface design and fabric manipulation (embellishment, embroidery, pleating, etc.), yarn design and production, weaving, textile collection development, portfolio and textile presentation, according to Lamar.
Both concentrations learn design thinking, computer-aided design (CAD), design fundamentals, design skills and drawing, along with a range of multidisciplinary courses. At the end of their senior year, students display their work in the FTD Emerging Designers Showcase, a three-day exhibit with a runway show.
“The program goes in depth and has taught me how to become an independent designer and how to develop personal style,” said FTD major Hira Iqbal ‘20, also minoring in Textile Technology. “The program provides the tools and the technology to help prepare for future endeavors. Many hiring companies are looking for students who are up to date with what is going on in the industry, and so all of us in the FTD program have a better chance to get a job because we better meet the requirements.”
“There are lots of opportunities with the home furnishing sector, from High Point Furniture Market experiences to internships with companies,” said Lamar. “Many companies in the area, in New York, in LA and internationally hire interns. Textile design students have opportunities in the creation of apparel fabrics, as well as fabrics for home and transportation industries.”
Through internships, students are able to experience the ever-evolving textile industry firsthand.
“As a student, we get access to equipment and software that is top of the line in industry,” said Stark, who is planning to work in home textiles after graduation. “The Wilson College of Textiles also has excellent connections for students to get internships and gain experience. Between my sophomore and junior year I got an internship at Hunter Douglas, a global window covering company, by attending the career fair that Textiles hosted.”
Students find their summer and semester internships through ePack, the Career Fair, networking events and personal connections made within the Wilson College of Textiles and the FTD program.
“I have been working as an intern in the Product Development department at Cotton Incorporated for a little over a year now, focusing on knit design. My coursework has prepared me to understand the importance of the relationship between a design and the capabilities available on various machines — while also paying attention to consumer preferences and ultimately the end-use of a product. My time at my internship has proven that the Wilson College of Textiles and NC State University have provided the skills necessary for me to succeed in industry,” said Newman, who will go on to pursue her Master of Textiles at NC State — and perhaps her Ph.D. as well.
One alumna’s initiative and outside-the-box thinking led to life-changing international internships with life-changing results.
“I had several internships while I was an undergrad,” said Arias. “Some of them I created on my own and for some I went through an application process. For example, my internships in Panajachel, Guatemala and Salvador, Brazil were self-designed; I was interested in the textiles in those countries so I reached out to organizations (within the host countries) and we created internship opportunities together. Those experiences were a little on the unconventional side, but I feel that’s where I was challenged and grew the most. Other internships I did that were more on the traditional side were with Vera Wang in NYC and Amo Romeo in Florence, Italy. With those internships, there was more structure and I was able to experience how corporatations work. Gaining experience from both types of internships really helped me understand what I did and didn’t like and what type of work environment I best performed in.”
FTD students have a study abroad-friendly semester built into their junior years, and those who take advantage of the opportunity find the world opens up to them in myriad ways.
“The program has provided me with many opportunities to be successful after graduation,” said FTD student Livi Prestifilippo ‘20. “Through the Wilson College of Textiles, I was given the opportunity to spend a month in Shanghai at Donghua University studying Chinese culture and fashion this past summer.”
Overseas study doesn’t just look good on a resume — it helps students understand the textile business on a global level, bolsters confidence and occasions international relationships.
“Textile Design students have diverse opportunities to study abroad in locations such as the NC State campus in Prague, RMIT in Australia, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Manchester Metropolitan University in the United Kingdom, and Lorenzo de’ Medici in Italy,” said Lamar.
“These study abroad ambassadors are not only benefiting from the education abroad; they are taking the Wilson College of Textiles abroad,” said Little. FTD study abroad students are our international representatives — exchanging ideas and sparking creativity all over the world.
Many students also go on to pursue graduate degrees and certificates under the TATM umbrella here at the Wilson College of Textiles, including a Master of Textiles and a Master of Science in Textiles, and graduate certificates in Textile Brand Management and Marketing, Consumer Textile Product Design and Development, and Textile Supply Chain Management. The Wilson College of Textiles also offers some online textiles courses at both the undergraduate and master’s level.
Career Snapshot: Jenna DeCandio, Shima Seiki knit programmer
“I work at Shima Seiki in the production department as a knit programmer. We receive techpacks (designer-created documents instructing the manufacturer how to construct the product) from customers, create programs and knit the products. We do a lot of prototyping and sampling in house with a multitude of machines in the New Jersey office. While the customer typically has an understanding of knitting in general, when it comes to WholeGarment, they often get lost in the program. That is where my job comes in; we take their ideas and make them a reality. No day at Shima Seiki as a knit programmer is ever the same. I often spend time working on multiple projects at once which could all be at different stages of development. My job entails a lot of problem solving, which I find really enjoyable because I am constantly learning new things.”
One FTD Alumna’s Experience
“NC State’s Fashion and Textile Design program with a Textile Design concentration provided me with a foundation of knowledge of the entire textile design industry,” said Jenna DeCandio, who graduated in 2017 with a degree in FTD (TD concentration) and currently works at Shima Seiki U.S.A. as a knit programmer. “We learn about print, knit and woven designs all throughout the four years of the program. For the knitting industry, (the Wilson College of Textiles) is really special in the fact that all the labs have top of the line, industry grade machinery…this is where I first learned about Shima Seiki. There is an entire class devoted to learning the Shima Seiki software and how to create WholeGarment pieces. The knowledge I learned in that class sparked my interest so much that I knew I would love to have a career utilizing these specialty machines.”
During her studies, DeCandio interned in research and development at Ralph Lauren (focusing on color) and worked in fabric production at Saertex U.S.A. She had the opportunity to study abroad twice, taking business classes at Reutlingen University in Germany and furthering her textile and apparel education at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University.
“In high school, I took multiple sewing/home decor classes that I really enjoyed. My teacher at the time recommended that I look into NC State Wilson College of Textiles. I did and instantly fell in love. When I was applying for programs here, FTD was a very new program and the skills taught in the courses excited me. I loved how I was taught design while still learning the science and reasoning behind it. Once I arrived in the program, I grew to love and appreciate the faculty, their overwhelming knowledge and vast connections to industry. Any professor at the Wilson College of Textiles will — and wants to — help you grow, learn and push your abilities to the limit. Having that support system behind you that wants you to succeed is truly the best part about coming to NC State — and I am so thankful that I did.”
Written by Cameron Walker