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Soon-to-be FIT grads vie for spot on school’s coveted runway

Before they make it to FIT’s annual professionally produced runway show, the “Future of Fashion,” they need to survive Judging Day.

Doing a senior thesis is daunting for any college student, but for soon-to-be graduates of Fashion Institute of Technology’s fashion design program, it literally comes down to judgment day.

OK, it’s technically called Judging Day, and students work all year with industry mentors like Zac Posen and Flora Backer, who are called "Critics,” to show their collections to a panel of judges in order to land a spot at FIT’s coveted “Future of Fashion” runway show on May 3.

Judging Day takes place Thursday, and this year’s judges are Ken Downing, senior vice president and fashion director of Neiman Marcus; Nikki Ogunnaike, fashion features director of ELLE.com; fashion writer Emilia Petrarca of The Cut; stylist and Emmy-nominated costume designer Kemal Harris; and Nicole Phelps, director of Vogue Runway.

Metro chatted with three FIT students who hope to see their collections on the runway next month — and beyond. One, Laurin Cabralissa, actually landed a spot already as she was named a Critic Award Winner on Tuesday.

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Grace McCarty, Sportswear

The 21-year-old Atlanta native turned to fashion after initially focusing on visual arts. Her designs are centered around sustainability.

Favorite designer: “A designer I admire is Stella McCartney. I love how creative her collections can be with silhouette and with specific details while being sustainable.”

On sustainability: “My goal was to use natural fabrics for the majority of my collection, the largest source being wool. The leftover fabric from my first two looks is going to make up the third look entirely.”

On Judging Day: “No matter the outcome of judging day, I have learned so much about myself as a designer through this process. I am grateful for the opportunity to present my work in the Great Hall, and I am proud of what I have accomplished.”

In five years: “I hope to be a designer at a company where collaboration, exploration, sustainability and ethics are important, and using these elements to focus on creating aesthetically interesting and functional garments.

Laurin Cabralissa, Special Occasion

The 35-year-old Massachusetts native pursued fashion at 30 after a career in pharmaceutical sales. “Something was just missing from my life," she said. "I was an artist. I longed to create things. I was obsessed with fashion. Everyone who met me told me I missed my calling.”

On making that switch: “The adjustment to the workload. It is an extreme amount of work, never-ending, really, and pulling all-nighters at my age isn’t as easy as when I was 19. I have definitely felt the difference in my age when talking to my peers. I like to think it’s keeping me young."

Favorite designer: "That’s tough. I love Miuccia Prada, but there are so many designers that I’m inspired by."

My collection … "is inspired by nature, but has an urban feel to it. I used organic shapes and lines and wanted it to be airy, flowy and fantasy."

In five years: "This is a hard question to answer as I’m not really sure. I still have a lot to learn about the industry, but I would imagine being a head designer in a great company."

Norissa White-Issacs, Intimate Apparel

The 22-year-old Queens native’s collection focuses on body positivity.

Favorite designer: "I do not really have a favorite, but I do really admire Dolce & Gabbana. I love their aesthetic and see the romantic and baroque architecture inspiration in their designs and their use of textiles."

On body positivity: "I chose to specialize in Intimate Apparel because it is the most body conscious. Being a curvy woman, I see a huge lack of attractive lingerie in bigger sizes. My collection is meant to be worn on any woman, regardless of age, race or size. As a woman of color, it is so had to find a nude bra and panty set that matches my skin tone."

On Judging Day: "I am thrilled to showcase my designs to industry professionals and judges. I am going into judging day with a positive attitude, I am happy no matter what happens. I got to create two looks I am proud to exhibit."

In five years: "I see myself working my way up as an Intimate Apparel designer. I always knew I had to learn the rules before I could challenge them. I want to spend my first years in the industry learning and observing so I can branch out and start my own label."