Alumni Spotlight

Margee Minier

Margee Minier

Class Of 1975

Why FIT? From the moment my ears heard the words “Fashion Institute of Technology”, I was stopped in my tracks. I knew in my heart FIT would become my home. I was a mere 15 years old! I feel eternally grateful and connected to this special place which changed the course of my life and shaped who I am today. 

Major? Fashion Design with a specialization in Couture

After FIT? I have lived and worked in twenty countries as a designer, trend setter, translator and teacher. I worked in New York City as a fashion designer for Couture Houses and in Contemporary Missy Apparel for a couple of years before moving to Paris. In Paris I worked as a fashion journalist, wrote and illustrated International Fashion Trend Reports for the Wool Bureau and Saks Fifth Avenue. I got to meet designers like Yves Saint Laurent, Givenchy, and Ungaro to name a few. While living in Paris, I was sent to China to promote Paris fashion in Taiwan, Hong Kong, on the mainland and taught a course in Paris Couture Design at the Eliza Couture School of fashion design in Taiwan. I had a successful fashion boutique in Tahiti where my couture designs were sold exclusively. In 1986, upon the birth of my first son, Florian, I purchased a home in Northern Fairfield County, Connecticut. I converted the old horse barn on this property to my ‘Atelier Margétoile’ where I create wearable art, one of a kind collage bags, recreate wedding gowns from antique and vintage gowns, restore vintage garments, run an alteration and private client design business and opened my school of fashion design. Established in 1987, Margétoile School of Fashion Design has been offering beginning and intermediate level classes in fashion design to high school students for three decades. The school’s intimate setting promotes a gentle atmosphere of creative inspiration while private instruction is taught. The one on one, student/teacher rapport allows each student to blossom at their own pace. Students ages 12 – 18 learn the properties of Textiles and Fibers,  Construction Technology, Draping, Flat Patternmaking, how to manipulate a Sloper, how to analyze and develop a Croquis, Fashion Illustration, Rendering Techniques and learn how to create a Portfolio, from conception to completion. www.margetoile.com

What experiences led you to who you are today? My grandmother was a doll maker. I first sewed on her antique sewing machine when I was 7 years old. Her machine is still being used in my design room today! As a little girl, my mother taught me to sew on a non-electrified pedal machine. By the time I was 10 years old, I was already designing and sewing ‘Twiggy’ inspired polka dot and bold floral mini-skirts and mini-collections. My father was a French teacher and linguist speaking seven languages fluently and sent me numerous gifts from Paris when I was a young girl. This incited my yearning to work in the fashion industry in Paris. During my teen years, world events, attending peace marches against the Vietnam war, reading books such as Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Siddhartha, various teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, opened my heart to empathy towards humanity and greatly influenced who I am today.

Daily routine? I am blessed to have so much diversity in my passions and in my life. Today I find myself immersed in my teaching of fashion design and French, creating one of a kind wearable art, collage bags and whimsical fashion illustrations, charcoal portraits, embroidering, creating découpage’ art and magical jewelry pieces. I grow closer to nature and the feeling that we are all connected through the web of life the older I get, and find myself meditating daily in my garden and in the peace sanctuary I have created in the woods behind my home.

Any memorable event or professor you’d like to share about FIT? While at FIT, I was the president of the Astronomy Club. We had a 16 inch reflecting telescope on the roof of the main building (the only building besides Nagler Hall). Viewing the rings of Saturn and the moons of Jupiter, from the middle of New York City with my classmates felt like a magical, clandestine experience.

Where are you from? And how did this shape the person you are today? I am American, French and Italian. Being European and American has given me the gift of greater cultural understanding, a greater ability to see and appreciate the magnificence of all our world and most importantly, a more compassionate heart.  Living in Paris and Tahiti for much of my life, being immersed in and surrounded by such exquisite beauty, ignited the creativity in me. I became a voracious artist during those years. I attribute my Italian heritage along with learning about Medieval and Renaissance art, artists like Botticelli, in my art history classes at FIT, to be influential factors in my developing a love for the romantic and feminine which always shines through in my designs and art.

If you could translate your style into a person, place or thing what would it be? The Pre-Raphaelite painter, John William Waterhouse 

What do you find that sparks creativity? My inspiration comes from the magical, the whimsical, the mystery of the universe and antiquity. The stars, the moon and the sun have always appeared in all that I create. I am in awe at the intricacies of hand-made lace and hand carved buttons from the 1800’s. In my Atelier Margétoile, I have vast collections from by-gone eras. Most of my inspiration today however comes from within, my deep belief that we are one and every culture has its beauty and something to offer our world. Nature, the birds, the serenity of the woods and ocean, the miracle in every flower that blooms from a miniscule seed and my hope that we may one day become a kind and peaceful world are above all aspects of life which inspire me to create.

What three things you can’t live without? Cherished friends and family around the world, my sewing machines, my peace garden…

Future projects you are working on? Creating my legacy, a culmination of my life’s work, is what I feel passionate about now. There are also numerous inspirational pieces, all one of a kind, hand-made, I feel compelled to create, pieces that I have had to wait for ‘simpler’ days in order to have the time to work on them. My life now is more about passing on my 50 years of accumulated knowledge to my students, including sewing techniques that are no longer taught, passed on from my grandmother’s generation to me, that I wish to pass on to my (hopefully one day!) grandchildren’s generation.

Advice to spring graduates? I am a featured designer and industry leader in Joanne Ciresi Barrett’s recently released book, Designing Your Fashion Portfolio from Concept to Presentation, Fairchild Books 2013. Here are a few extracts from my advice to graduating fashion design students: The young designer’s portfolio should have fresh, new ideas which are innovative and unique. The styles should be relevant to the contemporary woman of today and reflect the ability to design styles that will fit in and enhance the look of the firm interviewing them. The illustrations in the portfolio should show that the young designer has a good degree of understanding of patternmaking, draping and technical skills. This would be evident if the style lines are clearly sketched and in proportions which make sense and correspond to the dimensions of a woman’s body versus a wildly illustrated fantasy design. The young designer wants to show with his or her portfolio that he or she would be an ideal candidate for the position they are being interviewed for. During portfolio presentation when being interviewed, believe in your portfolio and show that you believe in yourself. Exude self confidence, don’t leave an impression that you are anxious to get the job. Portray the message that you are capable, talented and will be an asset to their firm. Research the firm before the interview. The interview should not be about you, it should be about what you can do for them. In addition, during the initial interview process, wait for a question to be asked before answering it, listen and tune into what they are seeking, rather than just talking about yourself. Show them that you can adapt your style to their ‘look’ and clientele. A young designer, even if he or she has put some of their fantasy ideas into their portfolio, should be careful not to give the impression that they want to change the world but rather that they can go with the flow of the firm, work cooperatively with others and fit in. A young designer’s portfolio should reflect the new woman of today. What I mean by that is – today we live in a fast-paced world – more competitive than ever before. I believe this fast pace should be reflected in a subtle way in a young designer’s portfolio. The illustrations should not look like the student labored over them. There should be smooth quick lines – although the designs are well thought out. They should look spontaneous, not bogged down with details and should show originality. The rendering should be simple and partial, these are not museum paintings or being prepared for an art gallery show.

Within a young designer’s portfolio there should be both variations on a theme, maybe portrayed in a multi-figure illustration or mini-collection, but also just as important some dramatic looks with opposites – a long and short skirt, - a wide and narrow pant, - both straight and full lines. There should be a variety of proportions. Lastly, when a young designer is showing his or her portfolio for a job interview, the opening pages should be of illustrations which reflect the look and style of the company before showing illustrations which depict fashion designs relating to other areas of the industry. If the firm is a sportswear company, begin with sportswear not lingerie !

Ultimately, a diverse portfolio will show the interviewer that the young designer is open and flexible and has the ability to create diversity in his or her collections from season to season.

 

 

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