19th Annual Fashion + Design Conference, 365 5th Avenue New York

White: Palette, Prism, Possibility


CUNY Graduate Center 365 5th avenue New York, NY 10016



Open to the public


White: Palette, Prism, Possibility

19th Annual Fashion + Design Conference 

Why White? Because it contains—and hides—multitudes. So said Melville in his Whiteness of the Whale. So said Vince Gilligan in his Whiteness of the Walter. Becausewhite is itself as varied as those multitudes. Because it tricks us into thinking that there is no color where in fact there is nothing but. White is the repository of hope and change.

In this, the 19th New York Fashion and Design Conference, we seek to reveal these multitudes, whether in the work of contemporary designers of clothing and accessories, of leading jewellers, or in the materials with which they work their magic. We explore the variations and consider the trickery.

The white wedding dress, an icon continually reinvented. A white line connects Worth to Wang, passing through Balenciaga and Rodriguez, among many others. In this context, white conveys a notional purity which, 

from a contemporary perspective, we might struggle to define; nevertheless, white exerts a particular power over us. More modest garments, the white tee shirt and the white dress shirt, for example, are equally iconic and, in their distinct ways, equally powerful. Here, white in an undiluted, unmediated aspect is fundamental to that power. But even when subtle, white maintains its authority: while it is the blue warp of denim that draws the eye, there would be no denim without its white weft. 

It is no accident that white figures so prominently among precious substances, whether diamonds, pearls, or platinum, each a symbol of power, of eternality. White is essential to the allure of faceted diamonds, our most valued prisms, which work their magic by dispersing white light, yielding the colors of the rainbow. Pearls, on the other hand, require no cutting or polishing to exert their hold; their beauty is entirely intrinsic, and we are awed by their lustre. And by that of opals as well. 

To explore and unravel the significance and power of white, this conference takes a fresh approach to the discussion of precious substances, natural fibers, and the processes by which they are transformed into objects and garments, while looking anew at the ways in which society consumes, communicates about, and validates those materials.

White is complex, at once the color of celebration and of mourning, the color of refinement and of origins. Indeed, white is the color of beginnings: cotton, silk, and most wool fibers begin their useful life in one of white's myriad shades; the white canvas awaits the brush, the blank page the pen. As the color of beginnings, white becomes a potent symbol for social and environmental responsibility and ethical clarity, the bedrock of the society we strive to shape and of a better future and a better world.

Among those have agreed to participate in "White": 

  • Zac Posen, Ralph Rucci, and Jason Wu, fashion designers; 
  • Shaun Leane, British jewelry widely known for his sculptural pieces created for Alexander McQueen;
  • Gary Wassner, Project Runway: Fashion Startup Judge, CEO Hilldun Corporation; 
  • Valerie Steel, Director, Museum at FIT;
  • Jacques Panis, President, Shinola; 
  • Wendy Waugh, SVP, merchandising and development, Theory;
  • Dennita Sewell, curator of fashion design, Phoenix Art Museum;
  • Robert Verdi, TV personality and style expert;
  • Daphne Guinness, model, collector, commentator and muse, who has collaborated with international filmmakers and musicians and has championed rising artists and designers;
  • Bethann Hardison, former fashion model; Founder. Diversity Coalition, an initiative to increase diversity in the fashion industry and expose racial prejudice; and recipient, CFDA Eleanor Lambert Lifetime Achievement Award;
  • Ebonee Davis, model for Calvin Klein, Teen Vogue, and Urban Outfitters, who made headlines in 2016 when asking the industry to join the fight against racial injustice; 
  • John King, Chief Quality Officer, GIA;
  • Wendy Brandes, Paula Crevoshay, and Hisano Shepard, award-winning jewelry designers;
  • John Hatleberg, jewelry designer, lapidary, and creator of replicas of the world's most historic diamonds, having worked closely with De Beers and the Smithsonian Institution;
  • Mara Urshel, owner, Kleinfelds Bridal;
  • Mickey Khan, Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Luxury Daily;
  • Hedda Schupak, Editor-in-Chief, The Centurion Newsletter;
  • Rachel Leonard, Editorial Director, The Bridal Council;
  • Jean Z. Poh, Founder & CEO, Swoonery, a luxury e-commerce platform that aggregates top international fine jewelry brands and offers users an intuitive shopping experience;
  • Hannah Becker, Creative Director & CEO, Diamondoodles;
  • Walter T. Wilhelm, Chairman, WWA Advisors;
  • Rick Guidotti, international fashion photographer and founder of Positive Exposure (1998), an organization dedicated to highlighting the beauty of genetic diversity;
  • Mary Orton, editor of style blog Memorandum, and founder and chief executive officer, Trove, a style blog aggregator that lets users save or purchase pieces;
  • Julie Zerbo,founder and editor-in-chief, The Fashion Law and author of a regular column on the topic for WWD;
  • Jack Ogden, jewelry industry authority and historian;
  • Benjamin Zucker, authority on precious stones who joined the family gem business, and author, among whose publications are Gems and Jewels: A Connoisseur’s Guide (2003), as well as the novel White (2008), one of three in which precious stones play a vital role in the protagonists' lives; and Elihu Yale: Merchant, Collector & Patron (2014) who used part of the fortune he made in diamond trading to help found the eponymous university. 
  • Harry Benson, celebrity photojournalist;
  • Mercedes R. Gonzalez, Founder and Director, Global Purchasing Companies;
  • Keith Hoover, apparel and retail executive with "guru" status in the area of color management;
  • Donald Kaufman, color authority and Founder, Donald Kaufman Color;
  • Darcy Miller, Founder, Darcy Miller Designs and Editor at Large, Martha Stewart Weddings;
  • Ronnie Vanderlinden, President Diamex inc., Diamond Manufacturers & Importers Association of America (DMIA) and United States Jewelry Council;
  • Barbara Zeins, President/COO, Gerson & Gerson, New York.

About Initiatives in Art and Culture

Initiatives in Arts and Culture (IAC) is an organization committed to educating diverse audiences in the fine, decorative, and visual arts. IAC's primary activities are conferences, publications, and exhibitions. These take an interdisciplinary approach, considering issues related to fabrication, connoisseurship, cultural patrimony, cultural preservation, and the future of culture. Particular areas of emphasis include American painting, the history of frames, the Arts and Crafts movement, the influence of Asian cultures on American fine and decorative art, and the history and future of fashion and materials. IAC’s projects have been supported by a wide array of individual, corporate and foundation funders.


10 - 11​ November 2017  


CUNY Graduate Center 
365 5th avenue 
New York, NY 10016



To book tickets


For more information