Mentoring Cornell Students

by Nancy Fire

Nancy Fire. Founder and Creative Director at Design Works International

Nancy Fire. Founder and Creative Director at Design Works International


After 25 years as Founder and Creative Director at Design Works International, I love that I still get inspired by my colleagues as well as our clients. I’m excited now as I get to add students to my list of aspirational influences.


On Dec 2nd I was asked to review the final semester projects from the Fashion Management Class at Cornell because I started off the semester in late August talking to the students about industry and how macro trends in the world effect the fashion and home industry.

Tasha Lewis PHD

Tasha Lewis PHD


It all began last year when I was introduced to Tasha Lewis, PH.D. and Assistant Professor of the College of Human Ecology at Cornell in the Department of Fiber Science & Apparel Design. Professor Lewis asked me if I would consider mentoring the class because of my experience in the design industry. I told her that it would be my honor to be inspired by young talent! The students work in teams of 4 or 6 and each student has a specific job to cover.


The class is divided into teams consisting of the following:

  • Merchandising Manager
  • Color, Print & Textile
  • Product Development and Design
  • Production & Sourcing
  • Buying, Planning and Distribution
  • Brand Marketing and Visualcornell

The Product Categories consist of:

  • Women’s Woven Blouses
  • Men’s Woven Bottoms
  • Women’s Woven Tops
  • Men’s Woven Tops
  • Women’s Knit Tops
  • Men’s Outerwear
  • Women’s Outerwear

Company Choices:

  • Forever 21
  • Gap
  • Nike
  • J. Crew
  • Victoria Secret

The magic of this project is that the students really need to think “outside of the box” and present an entire “Style Deck” consisting of the following:

Customer Profile

  • Concept Board Reflecting the “Four P’s” for their brand. (Place, Promotion, Product, and Price)
  • Competitor Analysis
  • SWOT Analysis-Strength Opportunities Weakness Threat
  • Color Story
  • Product Line Sheet
  • Environmental Score Sheet
  • GANTT Chart-Bar Charts
  • 6 Month Merchandise Plan
  • Cost Sheet
  • Pop-Up Concept
  • It was necessary for each team to incorporate home products into their product assortment because of the influence of LifeStyle Brands today.

During the entire class, 7 teams presented their aesthetic vision and in the end I was pretty impressed with the outcome.


I think for me as a person in industry what struck me was the thought process that each team was challenged to provide with all the details that really happen “in the real world”.

I like completion as a designer and director, and I felt that most of the teams projects were well thought out, some were more evolved than others. As a special bonus at the end, 2 young men who are NOT even fashion majors at Cornell, (one in the Hotel School and the other in the ILR), actually presented samples from a business that they started at the beginning of the semester designing shorts.

It was inspiring to see a group of their peers give them actual feedback on how to improve their product…talk about a “real life focus group”.

Design Works Intl. Guide to Fashion Week 2013



Fusion: Nautical



Fusion: Floral

From children’s wear, to accents for your child’s room,

a nice textile design can serve many purposes.


“Negative space” in textiles design

Negative space is probably the most difficult concept for non-designers to grasp. If you are designing a floral pattern, why worry about the space around the flowers? This might seem especially an unimportant consideration if the space around the motif is just flat ground. But, in actual fact, that’s when you need to think about it most of all, because it is going to create shapes that will either work with or fight with the shapes of the motifs themselves.

Continue reading

Fashion, textiles, and the psychology of color

We tend to think of colors as simply what we need to match together in an outfit or a room. But have you ever considered that there is more to color than just appearance?

Color is deeply psychological. First of all, color can create a “mood” or atmosphere, and it can express an emotion, or how we’re feeling. And, color can help us convey an idea or brand image. Mobile phone company Orange used… you guessed it… the color orange for its branding. But why? The tone of orange that the company adopted was a clean, modern color. You wouldn’t really find it in an antique painting, for example. It was close to the orange used frequently in 1960s textiles and fashion. So, it had both a feeling of modernity and of being familiar. Continue reading

Tiff, PSD, JPEG and more: Not all pixels are created equal

By James, Design Development.

Now, I’d like to try and make sense of the difference between a few different Raster Art image formats. All the art/images discussed here will fall into the Raster category. I’ll only talk about the most common even though there is quite a few that you may run across.

Common formats…

.TIFF or .TIF (originally standing for Tagged Image File Format) is a file format for storing images, is widely supported by  Raster manipulation applications, by publishing and page layout applications, by scanning, faxing, word processing, optical character recognition and other applications. This format has goodlossless compression options and allows for saving with layers. Continue reading

Illustrator or Photoshop: do you know the difference?

By James, Design Development.

In this discussion we will use the word “vector” when discussing Illustrator files and “raster”  when talking about Photoshop files.

A vector image is made up of paths, each with a mathematical formula (vector) that tells the path how it is shaped and what color it is bordered with or filled by. Logos, letterhead, and other graphic elements are typically best created as vectors; while photographs are best left for rasters. Adobe Illustrator is the most common vector drawing program. Continue reading