Syracuse University

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Betsey Johnson and Thom Filicia

Superstars of fashion and interior design.

Two College of Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) superstar alums—Betsey Johnson ’64 and Thom Filicia ’93—have put their uniquely personal stamp on fashion and interior design. In an industry where fads come and go and careers can be short-lived, Betsey Johnson’s name has even more cachet in the fashion world today than it did when her star was on its meteoric rise in the 1960s. Her instantly recognizable design style, with its exuberant color, pattern, shape, and movement, is as popular as ever. As living proof of her motto that fashion should be fun, Johnson, dressed in her signature prints and whimsical designs, is her label’s best advertisement.

Interior designer Thom Filicia ’93, founder and chief creative officer of New York City-based design firm, Thom Filicia Inc., has earned widespread acclaim and notable clients in the worlds of entertainment, finance, sports, media, fashion, and hospitality. Known for his ability to create modern, yet classic, interiors that reflect the individuality of his clients, Filicia’s has an unmistakable design sensibility, earning him countless accolades from the design world. He’s been named by House Beautiful as one of its “Top 100 Designers,” by House & Garden as an “International Taste Maker,” and by Elle Décor as an “A-List Designer.”

“For me, SU was a great university,” says Filicia. “It gave me the opportunity not only to hone and develop my design skills, but I was doing it in an environment where all my friends were not designers. I was with business students, communications majors, students in advertising and architecture. It gave me the ability to communicate design to anyone.”

VPA’s School of Art and Design has a tradition of excellence that goes back more than 130 years. In fact, Syracuse University was the first university in the country to grant a bachelor of fine arts (B.F.A.) degree. Within its three departments (art, design, and transmedia), the school offers 17 majors that lead to a B.F.A. degree: art education, art photography, art video, ceramics, communications design, computer art, fashion design, film, history of art, illustration, environmental and interior design, jewelry and metalsmithing, painting, printmaking, and sculpture. It also offers a program leading to a bachelor of industrial design (B.I.D.) degree in industrial and interaction design.

Design students present their portfolios each spring at events held at Joseph I. Lubin House, SU’s home in New York City. Fashion design majors present their senior collections at the annual on-campus fashion show and may have their collections selected for the annual New York City fashion show.