Francesca Sterlacci

Francesca Sterlacci

University of Fashion

Drawing from her extensive fashion experience, and motivated by a deep concern that the art of fashion design has been increasingly diminished by the encroachment off-shore manufacturing, in 2008 Francesca identified the need for an online fashion design video library and created the website, University of Fashion (www.universityoffashion.com).

Francesca’s mission is to preserve the art and craft of fashion design by bringing together the world’s best fashion school professors and fashion industry professionals to produce a huge library of educational videos designed to inspire and educate professional designers, students, teachers, home sewers and the fashion curious. Each University of Fashion video is carefully crafted to provide the viewer with clear, step-by-step lessons in all the key design disciplines, including draping, pattern making, sewing, fashion art and product development. In additional to how-to videos, the University of Fashion offers video lectures on many fashion industry topics and takes the viewer on location to key fashion industry events and places.

By marrying the latest internet and video technologies with leading edge fashion education, the University of Fashion seeks to play a critical role in teaching and preserving the art of fashion design.

Fashion Career

Francesca started her fashion career in the late seventies by designing for several successful, multi-million dollar fashion houses, traveling extensively on behalf of her employers to Paris, Milan, London, Spain, Amsterdam, Scotland, Singapore, India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Korea, Japan, China and the Philippines.

In 1980, Francesca founded Francesca Sterlacci, LTD and sold her own line of clothing to prestigious stores such as Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, I. Magnin, Henri Bendel, Barneys, Nordstrom’s and Neiman Marcus. One of Francesca’s specialties was leather apparel design, and she sold many of her unique leather creations to Hollywood celebrities. While at Francesca Sterlacci, LTD, Francesca made many personal appearances at fine specialty stores across the United States. Her designs were featured in magazines such as Vogue, Elle, and Glamour and her work has appeared on the covers of WWD and Harpers Bazaar, as well as in The New York Times.

In 1990, Francesca opened a freelance design service called Design Instinct, designing sportswear, leatherwear and outerwear for the women’s, men’s and childrenswear markets. Her accounts included Bill Blass, Pierre Cardin, J.G. Hook, Avirex, Carole Little, Woolrich and GIII Apparel Group.

The Fashion Group International nominated Francesca for their Rising Star Award, she was nominated for the More Fashion Award, and won first place in the North American Design Contest.

Academic Career

Inspired by the success of her own label, Francesca sought to teach fashion students and fashion professionals the many practical design and merchandising skills she had developed while running her own fashion business. Francesca started teaching at her alma mater, the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), beginning in 1990. Francesca quickly became a tenured fashion professor at FIT and, ultimately, became the Chair of FIT’s Fashion Design Department in 2001.

Besides teaching at FIT’s New York City location, Francesca also taught at FIT’s affiliate schools in Italy, the Philippines and in China. In addition, Francesca created a series of FIT-sponsored certificate programs in Leather Apparel Design, Haute Couture, Outerwear and Performance Apparel. In her role as Chair of FIT’s biggest academic department, Francesca initiated a total revision of FIT’s AAS and BFA fashion design curricula. Tapping into her many industry fashion connections, Francesca raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for FIT resulting in the construction of FIT’s state-of-the-art knitting lab, computer design lab and leather apparel design lab.

In 2004, Francesca relocated to San Francisco, California and was invited to teach graduate level fashion design at the Academy of Art University. Recognizing the value of online education, Francesca pioneered online fashion instruction at the Academy, teaching both onsite and online for the Academy of Art University for 6 years.


Francesca holds a Master’s degree (MsEd) in Higher Education Administration from Baruch University, a Bachelor’s degree (BA) in art from New Jersey City University and an Associate’s degree (AAS) in fashion design from Fashion Institute of Technology.


Francesca is the author of several books including: Leather Fashion Design, Leather Apparel Design, the Historical Dictionary of the Fashion Industry, and the A-Z of the Fashion Industry. In addition, Francesca has contributed to several other published books including essay contributions to the Encyclopedia of Clothing & Fashion and a chapter in You Can Do It: The Merit Badge Handbook for Grown-up Girls. Francesca is a member of Fashion Group International, the College Arts Association and is listed in The International Who’s Who of Professional & Business Women.


Francesca has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Economist, Washington Times, The Philadelphia Enquirer, Women’s Wear Daily, Associated Press, Newsday, Daily News and Time Magazine. She has appeared on New York City’s Channel 5 News and the Oxygen Cable Station. Francesca has also been interviewed by NPR, the Voice of America, JustStyle.com and NJ.com.