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  • Faculty

  • Fiona Dieffenbacher

    Associate Professor of Fashion Design


    Office Location
    L - 2 West 13th Street

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    Fiona Dieffenbacher


    Fiona's research and pedagogy bridges theory and practice - her knowledge and expertise represents twenty five years across the spheres of industry and academia. Over the past decade at Parsons, she has held key leadership positions within the School of Fashion. As Program Director of BFA Fashion Design (2011-18) Fiona successfully led the program through the development and implementation of the new curriculum. From 2007-11, she held the inaugural position of Director of External Partnerships, where she managed a substantial portfolio of over sixty projects annually, including brands such as Coach, Louis Vuitton, Swarovski, and LVMH, and established criteria and systems for external engagement.

    Prior to joining Parsons as faculty, from 1998- 2005 Fiona ran her ready-to-wear label Fiona Walker in New York, selling to select retailers across the U.S and Asia and garnering press in publications such as WWD, The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle and New York Magazine, among others.



    Degrees Held

    MA Fashion Studies, Parsons School of Design

    BFA Fashion Design, Parsons School of Design

    BA Hons Fashion and Textiles, University of Ulster 

    Professional Affiliation

    The Faculty Roundtable | NYC
    The Veritas Forum

    Recent Publications

    "The Future Body as Ultimate Dress" in: Silhouettes of the Soul: Meditations on Fashion, Religion, and Subjectivity edited by Otto von Busch and Jeanine Viau, Bloomsbury, 2022

    What is the relationship between the soul, or inner life, and what we wear in the making of identity and belief? What bearing do religious and political belonging, respectability, and resistance have on the way in which we dress? Why have more traditional religious practices been so prescriptive about body adornment? Historically, fashionable dress and religion have been positioned as polar opposites. Silhouettes of the Soul  brings them together, placing them in conversation with each other. By moving beyond traditional, social scientific, and historical analysis of religious attire and adornment the book presents a variety of disciplinary approaches from across regional, social, and religious locations.

    Contentious and challenging, as well as academically rigorous, the book's diverse range of contributors - from fashion and religious studies scholars, to designers, activists, monastics, and journalists - explore the relationship between religion and fashion, extending the meanings and possibilities of both dress and spirituality. Combining interviews and personal stories with more traditional theoretical analysis, Silhouettes of the Soul offers new ways of looking at the relationship between religion, personal convictions, and self-expression - our sense of self and our sense of fashion.


    "Fashion Thinking: Creative Approaches to the Design Process," Second Edition, Bloomsbury, 2020 

    Fashion's great innovations often spring from inspired designers developing unique concepts and challenging the status quo. But how do they do it? To find out, follow ten exceptional fashion design students as they respond to a brief, exploring their diverse strategies and the thinking behind their final collections. This second edition features six new interviews, with insight from the director of Open Style Lab, Grace Jun, and Yeohlee Teng, whose designs have earned a permanent place in the Costume Collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Four new case studies, incorporate new technology including adaptive design for the visually impaired and the use of augmented reality. Beautifully illustrated and structured to clearly demonstrate how to take ideas from concept to design, Fashion Thinking demystifies the creative thinking process to help you develop your own unique collection.

    "Fashion Thinking: Creative Approaches to the Design Process," First Edition, AVA / Bloomsbury, 2013

    Students often struggle to develop their own style and approach to design. While the design process is fundamental to the way all fashion designers work, there is no right or wrong method: each emerging designer must find their own authentic process.  Fashion Thinking establishes key approaches to design and enables this process of discovery. Nine student projects form the core of the book, representing a diverse range of strategies at each key stage of the design cycle. By following each throughout their various stages of development, these examples offer a unique and inspiring insight into the thinking behind a final collection and enables emerging fashion designers to discover their own working method in the process.


    Performances and Appearances

    Keynote: “The Gap In Between Education + Industry: Challenging The Status Quo,” Face the Future, Fashion Salon, World University Fashion Competition, Qingdao, China,  2019    

    Keynote: “UNEQUAL: Dress Dis-ability & Emotion”, Arts of Fashion Foundation FASHION.EDU- SERIES, Public Library - Koret Auditorium, San Francisco, 2016     

    Keynote: “Spirit of Place: Design in Context”, DesignEd Asia conference, Business of Design Week, Hong Kong Polytechnic, 2015     

    Keynote: “Momenting The Memento: Reading the signs of the present to imagine and plan the future,” Educational sub- committee, IFFTI Conference, Polimoda, Florence, Italy, 2015  

    Keynote: “Challenges facing 21st Century Fashion Design Education: Supply & Demand, Commerce versus Creativity and a re- definition of "The Industry." at the FASHION ISSUES conference, Center for Sustainable Design, Stockholm, Sweden, 2014     

    Fashion Praxis: In conversation with Mark Larrimore, Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Eugene Lang College, Fashion + Politics, Symposium, Parsons School of Design, 2014


    Research Interests

    Fiona’s research practice is located at the intersection of dress, embodiment and materiality, with a particular emphasis on the 'space in between' theory and practice. The recently launched En[...]Clothed collective aims to move beyond hierarchical structures to articulate the “space in between” formal domains of fashion theory, scholarship, and creative practice; offering an inclusive space to foster collaboration, interdisciplinarity, and new hybridities.




    In an attempt to explore how clothing acts as a mediator between various “bodies,” states and environments, En[...]Clothed seeks to explore the lived experience of embodiment. Specifically, how may we speculate the space “in between” ([...]) through the lens of body, clothing (or without clothing), and identity?  The En[...]Clothed collective consists of artists, designers, practitioners, poets, performers, scholars, and thinkers who aim to break down the barriers that have historically existed within the formal domains of research, scholarship, theory and creative practice. As a cumulative project, the central goal is to intervene in existing discourses between traditional sites of critical making and thinking in order to generate new understandings and relationships. The collective aims to move beyond hierarchical structures, avoiding stereotypes of language, terminology and narrow definitions, in order to articulate the “space in between.”  The collective body of work exemplifies the ways fashion thinking and making are intertwined and offers an inclusive space for scholars and practitioners to co-create, share knowledge, birth new forms of hybridity, language, and terminology. The collaborative practice and interdisciplinarity bridges a series of dualities: Interiority [...] Exteriority, the visible [...] Invisible, Material [...] Immaterial, Physical [...] Spiritual, Immanence [...] Transcendence, and Perishable [...] Imperishable that will yield new synergies across shared domains of research.

    DRESS & EMOTION (2013-16)

    How do we see ourselves? What comes first? The Body, the Image we seek to create or does one create the other? Are we dressing a body image that is real or imagined? Do we see dress as a uniform, persona, provocation or protection? What is our relationship between dress and environment?

    Dress & Emotion seeks to explore the emotional and sensory act of dressing. It investigates themes of body image, identity, self-curation, representation and the messaging of dress. The project aims to spark discussion among participants and observers: those who have not considered their clothing as a means of nonverbal communication; those who use dress intentionally as a signifier of identity; those who don’t think about why they wear what they wear; those who are hiding, and those who are on display.


    Fiona Dieffenbacher

    Future Courses

    Design Studio 2
    PGFD 5120, Spring 2023

    Thesis 1
    PUFD 4220, Fall 2022

    Thesis 2
    PUFD 4221, Spring 2023

    Past Courses

    Thesis 2
    PUFD 4221, Spring 2022

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