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New York’s FIT comes to Korea : Fashion school, located in Songdo, is its first Asia global campus

Dec 28,2017
FIT President Joyce Brown explains the institute’s decision to place an international campus in South Korea during her recent interview with JoongAng Ilbo. [FIT]
NEW YORK - The Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) launched its first Asia global campus branch in Korea, becoming the school’s third international campus worldwide after creating two campuses in Italy.

“I think there’s something about the sensibility of Korean students that I guess really emanates from the culture and the experience,” said Joyce Brown, president of the institute in New York.

The internationally recognized fashion school, which birthed fashion icons Michael Kors and Calvin Klein, opened the school in Songdo, a new “smart city” located in Incheon. The location provides increasing opportunities, as the city strives to be the next international business center for Northeast Asia with its high technology and eco-friendly designs.

The school opened in September and admitted 50 students into its first-year class. Officially known as FIT at SUNY Korea, the program provides the same courses as those in New York and is taught in English by FIT faculty.

Brown explained the institute’s reasons for choosing to build the Asia campus in Korea - instead of the larger, bustling fashion industry in China - during a recent interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, at her office in New York.

“I think that there is a different kind of focus in Korea [than China],” explained Brown. “It’s sort of cultural. It’s part of the DNA. The mixture of… its film, its media, its art, its fashion, all gets expressed as a global kind of statement. And of course, the affinity the Korean students seem to have for FIT, it just seemed like a natural kind of partnership.”

About 10 percent of FIT’s student population is international, but of that number, roughly 30 percent are students from Korea, according to Brown.

The president expressed her hopes to expand the global nature of FIT’s curricula and provide an opportunity for students who cannot afford the luxury of studying abroad in New York for all four years of college.

“I thought there was a thread that went through all of their work,” Brown said of the designs of Korean students as she recounted her recent visit to the Songdo campus. “It was quite impressive.”

During her visit, she was able to hear how one student’s goals became feasible through the program.

“One young lady I met,” recalled Brown, “she’s studying fashion design in Korea and then she wants to go to Italy to study, and then she’ll come here [New York]. She has sort of a worldview, that I think probably will stand her in good stead to be in the fashion world.”

Though the campus is in Korea, Brown explained that attendance is not limited to Koreans and that the school also has Americans as well as students from other parts of Asia and Europe.

Fashion students around the globe have an option of starting their study in South Korea for two years and completing their bachelor’s degree in New York, or traveling to Florence, the site of FIT’s second international campus, for one year and finishing their undergraduate studies in New York.

“When I look at some of the designs,” said Brown regarding Korean designers, “it’s kind of casual, free flowing - everybody has their own signature - but there’s an element that flows through that I think is fluid and casual and tailored, but it expresses kind of this same mixture of ease, of living life with ease.”

Appointed in 1998, Brown is the institute’s sixth president, as well as the first woman and first African-American president. She earned her doctorate and master’s degree in counseling psychology from New York University and also received a certificate from the Institute for Educational Management at Harvard University. Currently, she is also a director of the Ralph Lauren Corporation.

BY SHIM JAE-WOO, LAURA SONG [song.hankyul@joongang.co.kr]