LETTER FROM THE FOUNDER
I founded the Children’s Institute of Fashion Arts (CIFA), a non-profit organization devoted to expansive education in the culture and craft of clothing for kids because I wanted to establish a place where children of all ages could express their excitement for fashion, and learn the skills, techniques, and confidence that comes from exploring both materials and the hands-on processes associated with them.
In 2017, the Children’s Institute for Fashion Arts was incorporated as a 501c3 non-profit organization and we are well on our way to becoming a full-service interdisciplinary institute for young people: a place where kids can learn about history, the natural environment, sustainability, work and creativity through the glamour and fantasy of fashion, the grit of textile technology and production, and the sequence and logic of design thinking.
The idea for the CIFA came out of a deep concern for the future. I conceived the project in 2012 when I saw how quickly the world was changing, and perceived how these changes in the economy, media, technology and the environment were affecting children.
Because of the advent of new technologies, young people today have access to vast amounts of information at a pace that is unprecedented, and we are seeing young people increasingly disconnected from reality because of their use of technology.
Hopelessness is at a high point and projections for the future consistently point us to the need for better ways to connect with
kids. Our programs help kids slow down, connect with reality, and establish a steady rhythm progressing from idea to completion.
My background as an interdisciplinary artist and designer, and as a sociologist, has led me to recognize the essential need for education that allows connections to occur between materials and ideas. Children are naturally inquisitive and interdisciplinary. My motivation for founding the CIFA comes from an urge to preserve fundamental human processes for our children so they can inherit the world with confidence and the ability to take charge of the challenges to come. By instilling in them the idea that fun and play are integral to learning, and showing them that they can actually create and produce something, they may be courageous and bold in their pursuits.
I repeatedly hear from children the confidence, joy, and happiness they get out of learning new skills and creating their own designs. Kids tell me that learning to sew gives them the confidence to change things they don't like about their clothes so they can better express who they really are rather than feeling powerless to do so. Kids tell me they feel proud when they make their ideas become real and they don’t often get the chance to actually make things they want. We help kids realize their own potential in ways they are very excited about.
Teaching the basic skill of sewing leads kids to engage with their worlds in new ways, opening up all kinds of possibilities for creativity, science, math, and engineering. Developing skills of logical production through small projects with manageable outcomes leads to continued interest in learning and creative enterprise.
Our vision is to become a full-service institution based in the heart of New York City’s Garment District. Please support the Children’s Institute of Fashion Arts by making your tax-deductible donation to our exciting new organization. A contribution to CIFA is an investment in maintaining childhood enthusiasm, innovation, energy, and the future of the children. Your help is essential to realizing this ambitious project!
Thank you very much for your support.
Britta B. Wheeler, Ph.D.
Founder and Executive Director
The Children’s Institute of Fashion Arts