About This Video
Soul Club Oral History Project: Gwenveria Sargeant
The Soul Club of FIT was organized in 1968 by community member Clara Branch after the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Clara Branch was a staff and faculty member of the Fashion Design Department who served as the club’s advisor until her retirement in 1991. The purpose of the club was to share and celebrate Black heritage and culture, and to assist students with books, materials, and mentorship. The Soul Club of FIT is best remembered for its annual standing-room only event, The Soul Fashion Show, which was held at FIT from 1971 through the early 1990s. Clara Branch directed these shows which featured the work of young Black designers and models, and were supported by the larger community of the New York City fashion industry. In 1992, Rhonda Burrell-Stubbs took over as director upon Clara Branch’s retirement.
The Soul Club Oral History Project is an initiative of the FIT Library, inspired by the Soul Club fashion shows’ exuberance, positivity, dynamism, and joy. For this oral history project, FIT alumni and faculty members are interviewed about their participation and experience in the Soul Club. The goal of this project is to explore FIT’s rich and diverse history and uplift, amplify, and publicly share the stories of Black fashion students and faculty members as told by the community members themselves.
Gwenveria Marcell (Chisholm) Sargeant is a native of Syracuse, New York with a diverse background. She is a Fashion Design graduate of The Fashion Institute of Technology and a well-traveled, seasoned and innovative Woman’s wear Designer/Merchandiser. She is possessed with a wealth of experience in both the Women’s & Children’s wear markets. Her design endeavors have taken her to various parts of the Far East and Europe for both design development/research as well as production purposes.
Her entrepreneurial efforts (in association with her partners) resulted in a licensing agreement with “Sears, Roebuck and Co ” in association with G-lll Apparel Co., Cathy’s of California & Berkshire Hosiery, which resulted in nationwide distribution in over 100 stores. These unique garments and accessories were manufactured under their F.A.I.T.H. (Fashion Art In The House) label and featured original urban/ethnic textile designs & graphics for Women’s Coats, Ladies Accessories& Children’s Sportswear. Gwen is the founding member (1994) and Chairman of the Board of the Fashion & Arts Xchange Group Inc., a not-for-profit service organization that provides opportunities for networking and interchange among the diverse community of African-American professionals in the fashion and arts industry.
Recently she enjoyed serving as adjunct professor in the Fashion Design Art department at FIT her alma mater, and currently serves as guest Professor for the Educational Opportunities Programs there teaching fashion design to underprivileged, inner city high school students. While keeping her finger on the pulse of the fashion market as a Designer/Consultant on a freelance basis to various companies in the garment industry. Gwenveria now resides in Northern Westchester with her Husband and two sons.
Taur Orange, interviewer, is the head of Educational Opportunity Programs at FIT.
FIT Special Collections and College Archives
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