A Fashionable Partnership

Julia Fishman

Designer Francesca Liberatore brings real world experience to Marist fashion students on and off the runway

Francesca Liberatore speaks with Marist students

Francesca Liberatore runs a workshop for senior design students.

December 20, 2018—On a recent visit to Marist’s Poughkeepsie campus from her home in Italy, fashion designer Francesca Liberatore ran a workshop for Marist seniors studying fashion design. All eyes were on Liberatore as she discussed everything from sources of inspiration to developing original textiles. No doubt about it, the students were rapt.

“It was a unique experience for our class to receive that level of attention from an established designer,” said Leander Trotter ’19. He and his fellow senior design majors are in the midst of creating their own collections, which will be shown at the College’s Silver Needle Runway show next May.

Francesca Liberatore “Francesca looked at our process books and provided feedback,” Trotter noted. He also appreciated Liberatore’s key piece of advice: “Constructive criticism is good, but keep your own design point of view.”

Liberatore brings both her strong point of view and her infectious passion for design into the classroom. She has also welcomed Marist students behind the scenes to assist on her runway shows. Her relationship with the College has been extensive and is even featured in the book Francesca Liberatore, newly published by SilvanaEditoriale. The relationship is so positive because she’s enthusiastic about educating young designers. “I love working with students,” Liberatore said during her recent visit. “My work doesn’t allow for much interaction with other people; fashion design is largely an introspective process. I like to communicate, and students are fresh to the process, so I learn a lot from them.”

Caitlyn Cairme ’20 works on a garment. Scenes from Milan Fashion Week. 

Sonia Roy, Distinguished Professional Lecturer in the Fashion Program, gives Liberatore high praise as an educator. “She is solidly grounded in her experience as a designer and yet extremely personable, and the students appreciate that.”

Merchandising major Abigail McHale ’20 leaped at the opportunity to serve as the student volunteer coordinator for Liberatore’s Milan Fashion Week show while studying in Florence this fall. She matched students’ skillsets to the roles that needed filling—everything from dressing and hospitality to photography and social media. “One of the main things I took away from this experience was the differences between New York Fashion Week and Milan Fashion Week. It opened my eyes to a more worldly view of the fashion industry and made me realize the possibilities are endless,” said McHale. “Sometimes fashion students have doubts about their progression in the industry based on negative volunteer experiences, but it is people like Francesca who give these students hope and the will to keep working hard and doing what they love.”

The best part? “Francesca wanted the students who had volunteered all week, and who were not working backstage the day of show, to view her creations from the audience as guests,” McHale said. “The students who were given this opportunity were so appreciative to see a show that they had been a part of. Her kindness was inspiring and made the student volunteers feel like their roles actually mattered.”

“Working with students can be a challenge, but it provides new air for me,” said Liberatore. “Students give me a sense of what the next generation is interested in. It’s sociological for me as a designer; young people have a great point of view.”

Francesca Liberatore

Francesca Liberatore in her studio in Italy

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