KAREN CURINTON RIPPY
Recently, the UNDERFASHION CLUB spoke with Karen Curinton Rippy of both PARSONS SCHOOL OF DESIGN and the FASHION INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY. We wanted to give our readers some insight into this talented Intimate Apparel teacher who is enabling her students to follow their passion for lingerie. Not only is Karen an Assistant Professor at PARSONS and Adjunct Assistant Professor at FIT, the Club is most familiar with her as Faculty Liaison for the Intimate Apparel Design contest showcasing the work of gifted FIT students at the annual FEMMY GALA.
Additionally, Karen teaches Lingerie Fundamentals at PARSONS where several Club members had the opportunity to meet the students and see their work. The May 17 design contest and members-only event featuring the work of PARSONS students can be seen on the UFC website.
UFC – TELL US ABOUT YOUR EARLY YEARS.
KR – My mother and father saw that I could sketch at a young age, and they sought out after school art classes for training. I attended the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and, in my junior year, selected an Illustration major. My teacher /counselor introduced me to WOMENS WEAR DAILY, a fantastic publication highlighting the fashion Industry. I thought it was magical and I knew at that time I wanted to be involved in Fashion Design. In my senior year I applied to The Fashion Institute of Technology! I attended FIT for 4 years and in my 3rd year took a Lingerie class. I was so impressed with the classification, design, fabric variety and an exquisite element called LACE, I wanted to pursue Intimate Apparel as a career. Once I graduated from FIT I began interning and working at BILL TICE. Additional companies I worked for over the years are N. Edelson and Sons, Gilead Lingerie, Dutchess Lingerie, AJ Schneierson, Martha Colon Lingerie, and Jack Murphy Loungewear.
UFC – HOW DID YOUR PARENTS INFLUENCE YOU?
KR – My parents always supported my career. In my early years, they attended my art exhibitions and sat at all of my fashion shows. Prior to getting a sewing machine I was sewing complete garments with needle and thread. My parents saw the dedication and time-consuming completion to my garments and bought me my first sewing machine (SINGER GENIE 1972,) which I still have. I’m grateful to my parents for their guidance, love and being so supportive.
UFC – YOU ARE IN THE UNIQUE POSITION OF BEING A PROFESSOR AT BOTH FIT AND PARSONS. TELL US ABOUT EACH SCHOOL AND HOW THEY DIFFER.
KR – I have been blessed to teach at two top Fashion Colleges. Both schools have wonderful studios, curriculum, resources, contests and opportunities for internships that prepare students for a career in the fashion or fashion related industries. Both have great campuses, and PARSONS has a brand new building that houses all of the fashion classes! FIT offers a design specialization tract for students starting in their 6th semester who will create a senior thesis based on their specialization tract, i.e., Sportswear, Knitwear Intimate Apparel, etc. At PARSONS, in addition to the BFA program there is an AAS program offered to students who have previous college degrees. I enjoy teaching students who are a bit older and more experienced with the college process, and who also appreciate a second opportunity to follow the career path they have desired in Fashion Design. I enjoy teaching a variety of classes at both schools and my mantra is that wherever I’m teaching, I am an advocate for my students in helping them get the best fashion education from me.
UFC – HOW DID YOU DECIDE TO GO INTO TEACHING?
KR – I was at an FIT Alumni event and the President of the College, Mr. Marvin Feldman approached me about teaching positions that would be available in the Fashion Design department. I didn’t think I would have the patience for teaching, but I decided to apply and now 26 years later I have had a great teaching experience at FIT and 12 years at PARSONS.
UFC – DO YOU HAVE A ROLE MODEL?
KR – The greatest influence in my life was my mother! She would say to me “Work hard to play hard!” She was a hard worker, maintaining 2 jobs, working at The New York Telephone Company and as a part time travel agent. She enjoyed taking glorious vacations around the world. She enjoyed trying “new things.” My love of music variety started with my mom and I was exposed to classical, jazz, ballads in addition to the current music of the time. She introduced cultural events like plays and museum visits and food was an “EXPERIENCE” with my mom. I remember being on a Caribbean cruise with her and, when we were in port, we walked almost a mile to get to the restaurant to taste the native delights. Best of all was my mom’s love of fashion! She taught me how to sew!! My mom enjoyed putting interesting fabrics and colors together. She was a very thoughtful dresser and dressed for every occasion. Overall, my mother taught me to live life, be open to new things, be creative, laugh and treat people kindly.
UFC – WHERE DO YOU GET YOUR DESIGN INSPIRATION?
KR – I enjoy being out and about, taking walks whether on the streets of NYC or along the sunny Caribbean beaches, hiking or biking. All of this allows me to think creatively.
UFC – WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE DESIGNER?
KR – I have many favorite designers, and on the top of my list is American designer HALSTON, the Iconic clothing designer of the 70’s. He was brilliant. His choice of fluid fabrics and colors in sexy and elegant silhouettes was HALSTON’S signature in my opinion. I also enjoyed the models he chose to wear his garments on the runway that brought his creations to life! I also would like to give mention to the MONSE line. I love the creative, strong and edgy, hip designs from 2017 CFDA winners Laura Kim and Fernando Garcia.
UFC –WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE QUOTE?
KR – “Dress shabbily and they remember the dress, dress impeccably and they remember the woman” – COCO CHANEL. I tell my students to design and execute beautiful clothing that will excite and exude confidence for the wearer.
UFC – WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR TEACHING STYLE?
KR – I want the students to be prepared and organized, and to work hard and have fun so I run my classroom as if the students are working in the industry. Begin the class on time and ready to work. I arrive early to organize my lectures and demos. Depending on the subject, I have a wide selection of visuals, garments and illustrative stimulation for the students to review. Music playing, laughter and humor are also a part of the teaching experience. Most of all, the students should have excellent technical skills, understand construction and produce saleable garments.
UFC – HOW DO YOU PERSONALLY IMPACT YOUR STUDENTS?
KR – I try to teach with passion, enthusiasm, precision, kindness, and humor. I challenge my students to always showcase their best work and to be proactive with their career paths. As a mentor, it is very important for me to motivate and give constructive feedback to my students. I tell them, “Think positive, be positive and positive things will happen!”
UFC –WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO THE GRADUATING SENIORS?
KR – Students should continue to research and learn after graduation, finding inspiration and being creative. Having an optimistic attitude is very dynamic. I tell my students that it’s okay to not be perfect, but they need to learn from their mistakes and to do their best. Surround yourself with positive and creative friends that you can grow with. Be kind and respectful to all people.
UFC -HOW HAS THE UNDERFASHION CLUB HELPED YOU AND YOUR STUDENTS?
KR – For the first time, earlier this year, I had the honor of mentoring the FIT students competing in the UFC sponsored Student Design Contest held in connection with the FEMMY GALA. I also had the privilege of my PARSONS Lingerie Fundamentals class taking part in the UFC sponsored MODERN ALLURE 2016 and MOSAIC VISIONS 2017 design contests held in the spring. It is a wonderful opportunity for the students to receive support from a Club that consists of people working in the Intimate Apparel industry. Club members have also taken time from their busy schedules to visit my classes, to join in the critiques or come as guest lecturers. UFC has been amazingly supportive providing resources, fabrics, laces and trims to aid the students with the execution of their creative designs. Last year UFC saw the need for the Parsons Lingerie Fundamentals class to have proper lingerie forms and, thanks to their financial support, this year 14 forms were delivered! Summer paid Internships were also sponsored by UFC and awarded to deserving student candidates from both FIT and PARSONS. The UNDERFASHION CLUB, INC. has partnered with the various fashion colleges and has been the link between Education and Industry. It’s fantastic for the students to be a part of this collaboration, with an organization that is supportive and nurturing, and helping the next group of creative and talented students find future employment within the Intimate Apparel Industry. Thank You UFC.
KAREN CURINTON RIPPY IN CLASS AT PARSONS WITH STUDENT,
LUCY NGOZI NZEI AND HER DESIGN
STUDENT DESIGNS AT PARSONS