In 1978, Cliff Ensley ’69, ’70, G’71 had an idea to start his own business and just $2,500 to do it. He was used to taking on challenges—there was no stopping him. Growing up, he struggled with a learning disability—at…
‘It Was a Dream Come True’: Fashion Design Students Experience New York Fashion Week
Professor Jeffrey Mayer knows that his fashion design students face an intensely competitive career: “Our mantra is ‘If you’re not passionate, you’re not going to make it.’” That’s why Mayer was thrilled that two of his sophomore students had the chance to reaffirm their passion by attending Spring 2020 Fashion Week in New York City earlier this month. “Their eyes were just huge when they returned, their creativity was fired up, and their commitment was deepened,” says Mayer, professor of fashion, fashion history and textiles in the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ School of Design.
Thanks to an opportunity from Syracuse University’s Office of Trademark Licensing in collaboration with the Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC) and IMG, Emily Goldberg ’22 and Yianni Biniaris ’22 joined the fashion world for a truly unique and inspiring educational experience. They experienced a behind-the-scenes look at the fashion industry that included runway shows and networking opportunities with industry leaders.
“We are committed to delivering opportunities for future leaders in the industry to engage and learn from others that know what it takes to be successful,” says Leslie Russo, executive vice president of IMG Fashion Events.
Goldberg and Biniaris were selected from a pool of applicants all interested in a career in some facet of fashion design. “It was a dream come true,” says Goldberg, whose dream was launched as long ago as her memory of being dressed in fancy pink dresses. She loves styling, through mixing and matching fashion: “A person’s style contributes to their individuality; the way in which people choose to express themselves through clothes reflects their different moods, aspirations and interests. I think self-expression alone is what makes originality in fashion…not through what clothes they wear, but how they wear their clothes.”
For Goldberg, the Fashion Week experience opened up a new world of career possibilities beyond styling—possibilities that include her minor in retail management, from buying to show production, to guest and celebrity management, to event planning. “I came back to class from New York Fashion Week feeling very refreshed,” she says. “It reminded me to explore everything I can while a student and to take advantage of relationships because there’s a huge network of people who share this passion for fashion.”
“The fashion industry is all about connections,” Mayer says. “Syracuse University graduates—whether from the fashion design program, or Newhouse or Whitman—can be found throughout the industry. We have allies out there who can pull our students in.”
Biniaris started building that network, seizing opportunities during Fashion Week. The sophomore began creating uniquely designed handbags over the summer, first giving them as gifts to family and friends, and eventually beginning to sell them. He brought one of his favorites with him to New York Fashion Week and realized it would be a “novel” calling card. So following a presentation by one of his favorite designers, Misa Hylton, a fashion stylist behind some of the biggest names in R&B and hip-hop, Biniaris emptied his own bag, asked Goldberg to hold all his stuff (lip balm, sun glasses, etc.) and walked up to his idol, introduced himself, and offered her a gift of his bag. Hylton was immediately engaged, asking him about his design and keeping the bag by her side while posing for pictures with admiring fans. “My heart was beating so fast,” Biniaris says. “I wanted to figure out a way for her to remember me.”
For Biniaris, the Fashion Week experience was validation that hard work and determination pays off, and that’s what will be required for success as a designer. “If you’re going into an industry where it’s hard to be successful, you have to work harder than everyone else,” he says.
Biniaris started “designing” when he was 12 years old, doodling shoes and sneakers on notebook pages. He was obsessed, but he never showed anyone his creative designs. His parents were not into the creative arts, and, he kept his passion to himself. In fact, he recalls his grandmother telling him to stop looking down on the ground so much (he was actually studying people’s footwear). She told him to look up and appreciate that “the sky’s the limit.” Biniaris clearly took what he learned staring at the ground to see those limitless skies, after New York Fashion Week and beyond.