They’re back. The five Fashion Institute of Technology finalists from the contest hosted by DSW were treated to a two-week trip to Ars Sutoria School in Milan. And after returning from their trip, which was sponsored by FFANY, the students attended a recent meet-and-greet with the trade show’s president and CEO, Joe Moore. “I was so impressed with the group,” said Moore, about Yina Bae, Sun Jeong Kang, Ahyoung Kwak, Rochelle Roque and Lucinda Sun. “At FFANY, we are always looking into [fun] projects to encourage young people to join the footwear industry, and we wanted to encourage these women.” Here, the five finalists sound off on their Milan experience.
Favorite part of the trip: I was very inspired by the Ars Sutoria faculty, how they were so eager to educate us about being the next generation of designers. They gave us a tour at shoe and last factories. It was a very intimate and informational trip, and I very [much] appreciated that they opened their doors to us.
Best lesson learned: Being in Milan and meeting so many great artisans has opened my eyes.
SUN JEONG KANG
Favorite part of the trip: I got to see the last factory, tannery places and a factory that actually makes my shoes. The opportunity to see [the factory workers] up close was an amazing experience.
Best lesson learned: It’s not all about the looks. Ars Sutoria doesn’t necessarily teach how to design a shoe in a beautiful way, but what they taught me was how to handle certain materials and the technical side.
Favorite part of the trip: Learning new pattern-making techniques that are more accurate and professional. The paper mockup is a great way to check the right fit and reduce the margin of error.
Best lesson learned: To think about the production of footwear. As a young designer, I pay more attention to how the shoes look than how the shoes are made. However, I learned that it is important to cooperate with the production team to make the process easier and faster.
Favorite part of the trip: It was inspiring to see footwear companies that produced fine products and still managed to keep their factory employees healthy, happy and progressive. [And] the innovation of Italian footwear machinery is like no other.
Best lesson learned: Footwear is passion. Managing time and cost, keeping a high standard of quality, finding ways to better improve product and cultivating relationships are key.
Favorite part of the trip: Traveling to factories, wearing our finished shoes and, of course, eating gelato at every meal.
Best lesson learned: For me, I realized that you can’t forget the little people. Designers are important, but it’s the people who make the patterns, who sew your uppers and who last your shoes that help make your dreams come true.