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Fashion Students (and Twins) Kristy and Katie Boiano
Find UC a Perfect Fit

Date: May 28, 2001
By: Mary Bridget Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos by: Lisa Britton
Images from New York courtesy of the Boianos
Archive: Profiles Archive

UC's fashion design program seems the perfect fit for third-year students (and twin sisters) Katie and Kristy Boiano of Mason and 1998 graduates of Mason High School.

the Boianos in Time Square during a co-op quarter

Because of the program, the 20-year-old sisters have both co-opped in New York City with design firms such as Tommy Hilfiger U.S.A. Inc. and Liz Claiborne Inc. With faculty and classmates, they've traveled to Italy to study fashion trends. Now, they've set their sights even higher. After additional co-ops and upcoming study and work in London, both plan to earn their UC degrees with the strongest of portfolios. Then they want to earn advanced degrees in business or design before starting their own design house. (They're already looking at advanced design programs in Milan.)

Definitely not bad for two design students who didn't even know how to sew when they entered the five-year fashion design program, part of UC's College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. Coming to UC is part of a family tradition as mom, Brigitte Boiano, works at the university, and every member of the family has taken classes here.

the Boianos at New York's Metropolitan Musuem of Art

Katie and Kristy readily admit they've grown tremendously in their years at UC, but it hasn't necessarily been easy. The workload as a design student in one of the top-ranked programs in the country is, well, designed to challenge even committed students and to weed out those who aren't dedicated. In addition, co-opping for premiere fashion firms, while exciting and educational beyond expectation, is also stressful when colleagues are counting on you to come through. (Co-op or cooperative education is the practice of alternating academic quarters with paid, professional work quarters that fit with your area of study. UC is the worldwide founder of co-op, starting the practice in 1906.)

"I can't believe our co-ops," said Katie. "I was at Tommy Hilfiger last quarter as an assistant designer for boys' outerwear, bottoms and swimwear. My supervisor was a graduate of Parsons [School of Design], and he couldn't believe our co-op program. He was very impressed. I've learned how very good our school is. I'll graduate with a year-and-a-half of experience when other schools don't even have co-op."

Katie and Kristy agree that their co-ops with Tommy Hilfiger (Kristy is currently on co-op with the firm in New York City) made a big impact. "My opinion really counted," recalled Katie, adding, "I could be honest when I thought something didn't look good. My supervisor and I would clash sometimes, but it was because he was listening to what I had to say and considering my views in thrashing out a marketable design."

Katie with dress she'll exhibit in June 1 fashion show

Katie adds that though the job isn't as glamorous as outsiders think, it feels great to make a real contribution. No, they don't spend the whole day with models. A routine day might include technical paperwork, communicating with overseas operations, fittings, sketching by hand and on the computer, etc. For instance, Kristy recalls an unusually fast-paced 10-hour day the second week of her current co-op.

"All the paperwork and specs for garments to be manufactured and come out next season were due on a Friday. There couldn't be any mistakes in the instructions to manufacturers. Mistakes cost. It was very hectic," explained Kristy who, in the same breath, said it was a priceless experience. "I'm two weeks into my co-op, and already, what I do counts. I'm not an intern. I'm part of the team. People depend on me for sketches and design work. They can't be redoing it. I'm not doing busy work, and I love it when I can say, 'I did it right'"

Katie and her mom, Brigitte Boiano drape a dress Katie is making for the June 1 show

Both say that their education at UC is helping them to "get it right" while on co-op. In turn, their co-op assignments and travel feed their creative efforts in the classroom studio. For instance, the UC program requires students to learn to hand sew even the most complex garments, create patterns, sketch by hand (as well as on the computer) and find their own models. Fundamentals of design are emphasized before advanced techniques and tasks are tackled.

On co-op, Kristy found that others schools don't require their students to make their own garments. "They send things out to be made," she says in semi-mock indignation. More seriously, she points out that knowing how a garment actually comes together has helped her in sketching and designing on the job. It teaches you, very fundamentally, where a seam will work, where stitching should go. We don't have to experiment on the job, she said.

Both students will show off their design efforts in Cincinnati as part of the school's 50th anniversary fashion show set for 8 p.m. Friday, June 1, at the Albert B. Sabin Convention Center. Both will show dresses even though, paradoxically, neither ever wears a dress.

dress by Katie at right, dress by Kristy at left

Katie will exhibit a whimsical dress of all white, created out of three different fabrics: raw silk, muslin and gauze. She may also show a bodywear design. Kristy will show a long dress of aqua Italian silk. The dress, sleeveless and without seams, wraps around the body in one piece and is held in place by hidden straps and hooks on the inner side of the garment. It bares the shoulders and exposes the back.

Anyone interested in seeing these and the showstoppers of about 100 other fashion design students should call (513) 588-0148 for tickets.

After the show, Katie and Kristy will add to their experience with another overseas trip. This fall, Kristy will head for the American International University in London for specialized study in menswear in addition to working in the fashion industry there. Katie will follow and study at the school during winter quarter 2002.

They look forward to the experience but not the ocean between them. While Kristy is currently in New York working, Katie is taking classes on the UC campus. It's the first time they've been apart for any period of time in all their 20 years. And though they call or instant message each other every day, it's still hard. "She's my constant best friend. We've always been together. I was nervous," confessed Kristy. "This is a really big step to be apart. Would I get depressed? Would it affect my work? I had no idea." But with the help of Oreo cookies and two fellow UC roommates also living and co-opping in New York, Kristy is currently making it there without her twin and best friend.

To meet other UC people, go to the profiles archive.

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