My MMY~Where Are They Now?
Rina Olivestone - MMY 5766-5767
|Rina Olivestone hails from Teaneck, NJ and is currently a fashion designer based in Manhattan. Rina recently completed her degree in fashion from FIT. During her studies, she also served as the Associate Regional Director and Head Advisor for the Northwest Region of NCSY. We recently interviewed Rina to find out what it is like to work in the field of fashion design.|
MMY: Tell us a bit about your background.
RO: I'm from Teaneck NJ, went to Maayanot for high school and then on to a year and a half at MMY. After that I pursued my dream to study fashion design at FIT.
MMY: Why did you originally choose to go to MMY? How has your MMY experience impacted on your life? On your schooling and career?
RO: When it came time to apply for seminaries and choose where to go, my whole family (including two of my brothers who are Mevaseret alumni) treated it as not even a question that I would go anywhere but MMY.
For a while, even though I knew it was the best school for me, I said I wouldn't go there out of spite. I got over that stubbornness and admitted that MMY was the right place and where I would be headed. I knew that in terms of hashkafa, friendships and learning, it would be the place I would grow and gain the most out of my year.
MMY solidified who I was as a person. I came into MMY with an idea of who I was and who I wanted to be, and the experiences I had there helped me reach my goals, while also helping me create new goals and direction for my future. I gained learning skills, insight and appreciation of Judaism that grounded me and made me confident I could go forward into the world with a secure Jewish foundation.
MMY: How long have you been interested in fashion? How did you decide you wanted to use your artistic talent towards fashion design?
RO: When I was younger, I used to create clothing for my dolls. I was also very artistic and took art lessons in my free time. Eventually, these two hobbies combined and I realized that my doodles in class were actually clothing designs! By sixth grade I was convinced I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I didn't realize that some people don't know what they want to do even halfway through college; for me it was always a given that this was the direction my life was heading.
MMY: Did you face religious challenges in FIT? If so, what were they and how did you handle them?
RO: Even though I wasn't the only Orthodox student in FIT, I was the only one in my entire major for most of my schooling. So this meant I had to deal with anything from explaining to my teachers why I would be missing the day of our term garment presentations for another holiday, to explaining kashrut to my classmates, or why even though I was designing all kinds of clothing, I dressed differently.
At first, I wasn't as vocal about my religiosity and tried to keep a low profile. But then I discovered, a few months through my first semester, that half my class thought I was a haredi rebel who had run away from home in order to pursue a degree in fashion design, and that my parents and family were shunning me! This is when I realized that my classmates did not understand anything about the differences of opinions and beliefs within the Orthodox Jewish community. I began to be more vocal about myself, about my religion and why I did or didn't do certain things. My classmates asked me a lot of questions and I didn't hesitate to respond as well as I could. I was pleased that I could put to rest a lot of their misconceptions about Judaism, and show them what it means to be a halachic Jew, and that I could be part of the secular world while still holding strong to my morals and beliefs.
MMY: What were your religious considerations when going into this field, knowing where it is often taken in the secular world?
RO: I knew that I had chosen a field that wouldn’t really be helping me strengthen my religiosity, unless one day I end up working within the frum community. We'll see if that happens! I also knew that I had to have a strong foundation and strong ties to my community in order to keep me grounded while immersing myself in this secular - and often frivolous - world of fashion design.
MMY: How has working in this field affected your ideas about tzniut?
RO: I’ve had an education on how the secular world views the human body and modesty. I’ve worked at places that have openly said they were making the neckline down to there and the slit up to there because they thought it would sell. I once worked at a design house for junior clothing that told me they made things for preteens that were frankly scandalous. They told me they did this because little girls feel cool if they can dress like those scantily clad older women! They didn’t care about morals; they just cared that it would sell.
On the other hand, I’ve also worked at other places that have a different attitude. While they don’t necessarily create their clothing according to our view of modesty and tzniut, they choose not to cheapen the woman by just exposing her body, and they try to treat their customers with respect. For me, this complies with my view on tzniut. I don’t fool myself that a secular company will cover a woman's body the way I have been taught by halacha, but I appreciate it when a designer treats a woman with the respect and honor that she deserves and gives herself.
MMY: Where have you been working since graduating?
RO: I have interned at a lot of companies including Donna Karan, Rachel Roy and Twinkle by Wenlan. I’m currently working as an assistant designer at New York and Company.
MMY: How do you see yourself using fashion design in your future career?
RO: I hope to gain more experience in the fashion design industry, and possibly one day create a niche for cool, functional, tzanua clothing for frum girls.
MMY: Looking back, what aspects of your time in MMY had the biggest impact on your future? In what way is your kesher with MMY important to you today?
RO: MMY was a foundation for my life. MMY helped me solidify my morals, my views and my goals. It made me who I am - and who I’m still becoming. I know that if I ever have a question or a problem, that there are rabbeim and teachers at MMY who will gladly answer me or talk out whatever I need, still to this day. I know that when I visit Israel, I can visit MMY and teachers will greet me excitedly and make me feel at home. MMY goes above and beyond to keep up a kesher with former students through alumnae shiurim and friendly, warm emails. This makes a very big difference to me!