Retail pioneer, student mentor, and bestselling author Bob Fisch presents two $25K awards
to graduate students from Fashion Design and Global Fashion Management Programs

NEW YORK, May 18, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — On May 18, the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), a college of the State University of New York (SUNY), announced that two $25,000 awards for entrepreneurial excellence were presented to outstanding students in the Fashion Design MFA and Global Fashion Management MPS programs in its School of Graduate Studies. Robert (Bob) Fisch, founder and former chairman and CEO of rue21, award-winning author of the bestseller Get a Life: A Roadmap to Rule the World, and an FIT Foundation board member, established the awards to help advise and advance the careers of the students.

Fisch, widely recognized for his bold innovations in value-priced, fast fashion retailing, said, “I enjoy mentoring the FIT Fashion Design and Global Fashion Management graduate students to be bold and fearless in their careers and lives. It’s important to stand up for what you believe and not be afraid to take risks. It’s about intergenerational bonding and mutual mentoring. The FIT graduate students are innovative thinkers, with big ideas soaring toward their futures. My role in mentoring is to help them take their vision to fruition.”

“We are so grateful to Bob Fisch for recognizing the incredible talent of our master’s level students, and for creating the entrepreneurial awards and scholarship for our School of Graduate Studies,” said FIT President Joyce F. Brown. “The students who are fortunate enough to win this prestigious award continue to have the opportunity to be in touch with Bob and be mentored by him, and that advice means so much more than words can convey.”

“I’ve watched the students over the past year benefit immeasurably not only from Bob Fisch’s generosity of resources but also his generosity of time and mentorship,” said Dr. Brooke Carlson, interim dean of the School of Graduate Studies. “This scholarship is about so much more than dollars, and we remain grateful for Bob’s ongoing commitment to the students with whom he is working.”

The Class of 2023 recipients of the Bob Fisch Award for Entrepreneurial Excellence are:

  • Lindsey Mortensen, of Dallas, Mubarak Abliz, of Xinjiang, China, and Victoria Shchepakina, of Saratov, Russia, all Global Fashion Management, for POSSE, the “Innerwear as Outerwear” luxury lingerie brand created for sizes D cup and up.

“This is an idea we really believe in, and I struggled myself with this,” said Mortensen. “I can’t wait to help bring this to life, and I can’t wait for you all to see it.”

“We have a launch plan that we presented where we allocated certain costs toward product development and marketing, so we already have our initial solid plan,” said Shchepakina. “This funding will help us get started.”

“We had multiple one-on-ones where he was really able to help me with my career,” said Abliz of the mentorship he received from Fisch. “Meeting the Millennial Advisory Board was very inspiring, and [Bob Fisch] was able to give me really good advice. He was always able to help me stay grounded and help me actualize my plans for the long term.”

  • Valeria Watson, Fashion Design MFA, of Guadalajara, Mexico, creator of ValeriaWatson, a line of clothing that explores the blend of cultures between the United States and Mexico. She designs expressive, colorful, playful garments through handweaving and digital printing of childhood photographs, inviting all to join in the celebration.

“I have a business plan with the fabrics I need and the machines I need,” Watson said. “I went to Mexico and visited factories because I want to support local talent. With the money, I’m getting the materials and the machines, and I’m flying over to Mexico in a week to contact the factories and start production. I have a store in Williamsburg that’s willing to take in my first collection.”

Amanda Brown, one of last year’s winners with her company, Maid to Alter, underscored what it’s been like to receive support from the award. “Winning the award opened that door for us, but it was so much more than financial support,” Brown said. “The outpouring of support and recognition we have received from Bob Fisch and the FIT community has been life changing. Our GFM experience taught us there are so many ways to be an entrepreneur. We know we will face many more obstacles before running a successful company, but with the support of all the amazing people we have met in the last few years, we are excited about what’s next for Maid to Alter.”

Launched in 2021, the awards are an extension of the comprehensive Bob Fisch Graduate Student Award Program, which celebrates entrepreneurial excellence and intergenerational mentoring through an initial gift from Fisch of over $400,000. The program includes thesis project completion grants, scholarships for FIT’s Fashion Design MFA and Global Fashion Management MPS programs, year-round educational “fireside chats” led by Fisch, and extraordinary one-on-one and group mentoring sessions.

FIT’s Fashion Design MFA program, established in 2017, focuses on practice-based research. Unconventional in approach, the program welcomes students with non-fashion backgrounds as well as those with rich traditional undergraduate training in fashion design. The curriculum emphasizes research methodologies and pushes critical thinking that motivates innovation and invention in design, fit, cut, construction, silhouette, and materiality. The Global Fashion Management program emphasizes leadership, applied creativity, problem-solving, and analytical thinking along with effective writing and presentation skills. The curriculum includes courses in production management and supply chain, global marketing and fashion brand management, culture and international business, corporate finance, politics and world trade, business policy, global retail management, entrepreneurship, and leadership. 

To find out more, please visit FIT.

About FIT

A part of the State University of New York, FIT has been a leader in career education in art, design, business, and technology throughout its history. Providing over 8,000 students with an uncommon blend of hands-on, practical experience, theory, and a firm grounding in the liberal arts, the college offers a wide range of affordable programs that foster innovation and collaboration. Its distinctive curriculum is geared to today’s rapidly growing creative economy, including fields such as computer animation, toy design, production management, film and media, and cosmetics and fragrance marketing. Internationally renowned, FIT draws on its New York City location to provide a vibrant, creative community in which to learn. The college offers nearly 50 majors and grants AAS, BFA, BS, MA, MFA, and MPS degrees, preparing students for professional success and leadership in the new creative economy. Among notable alumni in fashion are Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Reem Acra, Brian Atwood, Dennis Basso, Francisco Costa, Norma Kamali, Nanette Lepore, Bibhu Mohapatra, Daniel Roseberry, Ralph Rucci, John Bartlett, Peter Do, and Michelle Smith. Other prominent graduates include Leslie Blodgett, creator of bareMinerals; international restaurant designer Tony Chi; and Nina Garcia, editor in chief, Elle.

About the FIT Foundation

As the primary fundraising arm for FIT, the FIT Foundation supports and celebrates fearless innovation, inclusivity, and unabashed creativity. Since 1944, the FIT Foundation has advanced the mission of the college and its strategic goals by preparing students to fuel the future of fashion, business, design, technology, and the arts. Serving as a bridge between donors and FIT’s schools, departments, and programs, the foundation strives to inspire and empower the vibrant community of FIT friends, students, alumni, faculty, and industry leaders. Through scholarship development, industry engagement, and programs and events with social impact, the foundation is dedicated to the following core mandates: igniting thought leadership, fostering ingenuity and exploration, and helping FIT lead the next generation of unconventional minds into the new creative economy. 

About Bob Fisch

Robert Fisch is recognized as a pioneering merchant for his bold and successful innovations in value-priced, fast fashion retailing, notably at rue21. Fisch is the founder and former chairman and CEO of rue21, and took the company from bankruptcy to a fast-track winning streak that included a hot-stock IPO, building a national network of 1,200 stores, and a billion-dollar plus value. Fisch’s proven management practices and motivational skills have resulted in a unique mutual-mentoring relationship with millennials in the workplace. He formed a millennial advisory board which also served as a consulting body for his 2019 book release, Fisch Tales: The Making of a Millennial Baby Boomer, and his current book, Get a Life: A Roadmap to Rule the World, which led him to becoming a featured Forbes published author. Fisch is currently president of RNF Group, a consulting company focused on the assessment and evaluation of retail and other business enterprises, as well as providing mentoring services to existing management of these companies.

SOURCE Fashion Institute of Technology

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