Remember the name Chaya Hoffman, as one day she hopes to be known in the world of fashion design with the likes of Versace, Dior and Chanel. Hoffman studied at Bruriah High School and Michlalah, and recently graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology. After graduating with an associate degree from FIT she reapplied for the two-year bachelor’s program and chose to major in fashion design of “special occasion” dresses. From the pool of 200 applicants she was one of 20 who were selected.
In her field, designers must learn the ins and outs of creating fashion, from the selection of fabric and the intricacies of sewing the proper linings, to undergarments and the techniques necessary to construct the perfect look and design. Her initial year of the program involved creating drawings and sketches and applying the teachings of her professors to the completion of one-of-a-kind garments. The classes at FIT taught Hoffman about creating coats, couture wear, intimate apparel, knitwear, sportswear and activewear. Her very first special occasion project was to design a wedding gown.
As a young child Hoffman grew up drawing on anything she could get her hands on. She drew on the walls, on books and on tables, and when it got to be too much for her parents to bear they would take away her markers as a punishment. She also loved dressing up in her mother’s hats, heels and shoes. The more sparkle and feathers, the more Hoffman was attracted to the material.
Upon completing her studies at Michlalah, the choice of where to continue her education was a daunting one. Although many assumed she would go to Stern College, she, after consulting with her parents and a rav, decided to go to FIT. She feels strongly, however, that unless someone is well grounded in their Yiddishkeit the challenge of a secular college might be too much for them.
Ever a kiddush Hashem, she became a walking encyclopedia for many of her fellow classmates for anything and everything about Judaism. Many would question her longer skirts and longer sleeves, especially in the summer. She agreed that certainly it would be cooler to dress differently, but she believed strongly in the Torah and her commitment to Yiddishkeit.
She has heard questions throughout her years of schooling at FIT with regard to shatnes in various fabrics and tzniut in what she was creating, and she always checked with Rav Yaakov Neuburger, who encouraged her since he felt strongly that Hashem had bestowed upon her a special talent.
Hoffman was known in school as the girl who would wear sparkly tights, perhaps leopard print, with something hot pink to accessorize. She admits that as she gets older her own taste and style have become more refined and dainty.
For her FIT senior thesis, which was in her final semester, Chaya was asked to write a paper on what inspired her to create her 15 designs. From those designs, well-known fashion designer Bibhu Mohapatra and faculty members were asked to select three creations from the students’ entries. On selection day, one of Hoffman’s gowns was chosen for the exhibition.
When the big day arrived, 170 garments were on display for the public to see. Another day was set aside for members of the fashion industry and faculty to choose the designs that would go into the school fashion show. Present at the show were Zac Posen, Dennis Basso and many other well-known designers. The public was asked to vote online prior to the fashion show for the winner of the best creation in the show. The 77 creations were chosen from voters pooled from the fashion world, alumni of FIT, friends and family. Hoffman definitely had a disadvantage as she is not a proponent of social media, yet her creation, of embroidered netting of silk organza, was chosen as the People’s Choice winner.
Ken Downing, a judge of the show, called the Future of Fashion, and senior vice president and fashion director at Neiman Marcus, immediately posted Hoffman’s creation on his Instagram account. Hoffman’s gown has been on display at Neiman Marcus in the Garden State Plaza for the past few weeks.
Hoffman envisions for her future red carpet designs to high-end couture. It is a difficult market to enter, but she’s started strong!
By Nina Glick