Poet Nicanor Parra taught Mathematics and was a Professor of Theoretical Physics.

Interview with a Fit Engineer

NAME:  Cindy F.

JOB TITLE:  Fit Engineer (In the fashion industry, the fit engineer creates the technical patterns from a designer’s sketch, such that the garment can go to manufacture.)

PROFESSION / INDUSTRY:  Clothing design and manufacturing

EDUCATION:   Certificate of Fashion Design, The Fashion Institute of Manufacturing and Design, Los Angeles, CA; M.F.A., San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA (1976); B.F.A. in Fine Arts, San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, CA (1974) 


What is your educational background, specific to your profession? 

Certificate of Fashion Design from The Fashion Insititute of Manufacturing and Design in Los Angeles, CA Also: Bachelor and Master’s of Fine Arts, San Francisco Art Institute. Priceless: years of making my own clothes!

What was your most valuable experience, that gave you the tools and insight to working in the garment/fashion industry?

My first job included interning with a gentleman who had learned old-fashioned dress-making and tailoring before transferring into ready-to-wear later in life. He knew couture, but was incredibly practical about using modern production methods, whatever made sense to the price point. He also helped me learn how to draft a tailored jacket from measurements alone, so that I can now do all patterns from scratch.

As a working professional, what changes have you seen in your industry that have significantly affected how you work?

For the most part, I see graduates not having the technical background in both patternmaking and garment construction that I first received in school and continued to seek out in the early years of employment. Speed and computer technology has been embraced to the point that many young people are afraid to actually drape a muslin or work on a paper pattern. And most want to be handed a base to start from without any idea of how to do that themselves. Consequently, most do not really understand the basic fundamentals of molding fabric around a body and the tools necessary to do so.

With regards to the new generation of pattern makers, what are the skill sets that you are seeing?

I see that they are skilled at anything involving computer or digital technology which is still very helpful and in fact necessary to getting the job done these days. Where some may have never been a very good sketch artist on paper, they may be very proficient in Illustrator. The new generation is not afraid of learning new programs and operating new devices, in fact, they love it!

What would your advice be to young professionals or to the institutions and instructors that are providing them with the education & “tools” to enter the garment/fashion industry?

First , I think the institutions providing the instruction should balance the hiring of older and highly experienced teachers with younger and perhaps more technology-savvy instructors. They each bring something different to the table, but the older generation has a craft to pass on that can not always be procurred any other way.

The other thing is to provide a broad spectrum of the industry being learned, so that there is exposure to more than one aspect of the job. Many people do not know exactly what they will do out of school so they should be prepared for several options. Also, one can interact better with other specialists in the field if there is some knowledge of what the other job entails. Lastly, I think there needs to be something said about a professional demeanor in the workplace, such as not texting under the table while in a meeting, or stepping away to take personal phone calls that are anything less than an emergency.  I and many of my colleagues take great pride in our work and enjoy what we do.  Naturally, I hope that the next generation will find gratification working in this industry, and at the same time recognize that it’s the attention, skill and effort that they put into their work that fosters that feeling of gratification and accomplishment.


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