The KITH Sewing Lab ribbon cutting. Photo: Andy Poon, Queens College

How QC’s New Sewing Lab Donated by KITH Came to Be

5 mins read

On February 7th, a new laboratory for the Fashion and Design department at Queens College was brought to light, thanks to the Kith Kinnect Foundation. It hopes to provide aspiring designers with the perfect canvas to bring their imaginations to life.

Although the program has existed since the 1950s, it was under the BA Home Economics, a program that specialized in family consumer sciences. It was only a year ago when Professor Emily Ripley got the approval in April 2023 to make it a freestanding Bachelor of Arts Degree, called Fashion and Design.

In Fall of 2021, representatives from Kith came to campus to work on a collaboration with the college for a varsity collection featuring vintage varsity insignia. They visited the Special Collection and Archives at QC as they were looking for inspiration for the CUNY line.

They wanted a tour of the campus, so Lillian Zepeda set up a tour for them and it included a tour of the fashion program.

Professor Ripley, the director of the Fashion and Design program, shared that, “They then saw the old machines in our sewing lab, and later responded with a $25K grant for new equipment and for students serving in unpaid internships in fashion.”

Professor Ripley has been working here for more than 10 years, from which she mentions she has “fought” every year for this to happen. A cause for concern is that students are working with home-sewing machines at Queens College, which can differ from the industry standard machinery.

Alexis Puebla, a junior majoring in Fashion and Design and minoring in Graphic Design, spoke to The Knight News about the new lab.

“I think the new sewing lab is marvelous! It’s really everything we could’ve asked for and I love it,” Puebla said. “I love that we are now in a spacious room with high quality machinery that we will be asked to use in the industry, it no longer feels like we are behind standards.”

Although the program is very comprehensive, it provides students with a wide range of experiences at the undergraduate level. It offers studies in Fashion History and Material Culture studies related to dress and also Fashion Design classes. As well as having a Historic Fashion and Textiles Collection of Garment from the early 1800s to the 21st century, it is used to stage exhibitions, as a study collection, and for training students in archives.

Students are now able to work on Professional Juki sewing machines, which are industry standard. According to Professor Ripley, “It gives them state of the art equipment to work with in order to compete in the fashion field. You can’t compete if you are using decades-old equipment.”

It carries a huge impact for the students, as Puebla mentioned that he now makes sure to take as many design courses as possible this semester to experience the new sewing lab “in all its glory.”

He adds, “It is the best thing to have happened to the program” and that morale among students is “noticeably higher.”

As well as thanking the work and efforts of Professor Ripley, he mentioned that she truly fights for her student’s education, and without her, the program wouldn’t be anywhere near as successful as it is today “On behalf of my classmates, we thank her immensely,” he said.

Gratitude seems to be the word of the day as Professor Ripley also expressed her thanks to the Kith Kinnect Foundation.

“Thank you for helping bring our students into the twenty-first century in terms of preparation for both fashion studies and the fashion industry,” she said.

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