• Faculty

  • Fiona Dieffenbacher

    Associate Professor of Fashion Design


    Office Location
    L - 2 West 13th Street

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    Fiona Dieffenbacher


    Fiona Dieffenbacher's research and pedagogy is located at the intersection of dress, embodiment and spirituality with an emphasis on the 'space in between' theory and practice. In 2020 she founded The En[...]Clothed Collective: a global group of practitioners, poets, artists and researchers who center bodily knowledge as a practice in order to articulate theory. She is an an editor of Fashion Practice: The Journal of Design, Creative Process and the Fashion Industry.

    Her expertise bridges industry and academia: as Program Director, BFA Fashion Design (2011-18) she had oversight of the development and implementation of the new 120 curriculum; from 2007-11 she held the inaugural position of Director of External Partnerships, managing a portfolio of sixty projects annually, including brands such as Coach, Louis Vuitton, Swarovski, and LVMH.  Prior to Parsons, she ran her ready-to-wear label “Fiona Walker” from 1998- 2005 in New York based on ethical and inclusive practices.  Selling to select retailers across the U.S and Asia, the collection garnered 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

    Fashion Practice: The Journal of Design, Creative Process and the Fashion Industry.

    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

    “Obscurity in Plain Sight: Fashioning Faith In the American Everyday,”  AMERICAN EVERYDAY: Resistance, Revolution & Transformation, Fashion Studies Department, Columbia College, Chicago, 2020  

    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 spirtiuality  with a particular emphasis on the 'space in between' theory and practice. She is an Associate Editor of the Fashion Practice Journal. 



    How does the body, mind and spirit work together to contribute to embodied knowledge?How can a recognition of the spiritual augment materialist knowledge?  What bodily knowledge can be gleaned from liturgical practices?  This project seeks to investigate the role of bodily knowledge at the intersection of the spiritual and the material. Working from an integrated framework of embodiment it takes a holistic view of human subjectivity (mind, body and spirit) seeking to reconcile the divide caused by cartesian dualism.  


    In an attempt to explore how clothing acts as a mediator between various “bodies,” states and environments, this cumulative project 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?  This collective of practioners, designers, thinkers and poets aim to break down barriers within formal domains of research, scholarship, theory and creative practice to intervene in existing discourses between traditional sites of critical making and thinking in order to generate new understandings and relationships. We seek to move beyond hierarchical structures, avoiding stereotypes of language, terminology and narrow definitions, in order to articulate the “space in between.”  This 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.  

    DRESS & EMOTION (2013-16)

    This project explores the emotional and sensory act of dressing and investigates themes of body image, identity, self-curation, representation and the messaging of dress. It 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

    The En[...]Clothed Collective Exhibition

    The En[...]Clothed Collective Virtual Platform

    Dress & Emotion

    Future Courses

    Design Studio 1
    PUFD 2220, Fall 2024

    Design Studio 2
    PGFD 5120, Spring 2025

    Design Studio 3
    PUFD 3320, Fall 2024

    Past Courses

    Design Studio 1
    PUFD 2220, Fall 2023

    Design Studio 2
    PGFD 5120, Spring 2024

    External Projects
    PSOF 5000, Spring 2024

    External Projects
    PSOF 3000, Spring 2024

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