Rutgers Senior Helps Design Possible Gender-Neutral Clothing Line for Macy’s

Disha Basu (MGSA ’24) majoring in design, interned over the summer with Macy's and was part of a team that won a design award for a gender-neutral clothing line.
“Only when I reached Mason Gross was I able to reach my full potential and aced everything,” said Disha Basu. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is what I want to do.’”
Nick Romanenko/Rutgers University

The Mason Gross design major spent her summer internship working on the concept

Disha Basu spent her childhood bouncing around the globe.

Each time her father relocated the family for work – India, Malaysia, Singapore, London and New Jersey – Basu learned to adapt to a new school, new friends and a new culture. The only constant in her life – aside from moving every few years – was her art.

“Whenever we would pick up and leave – whether it was to move or to take a road trip or beach holiday – the one thing I would carry with me was a drawing pad and coloring pencils,” said the 21-year-old senior design major at Mason Gross School of the Arts (MGSA) at Rutgers-New Brunswick.

This summer, Basu’s unique worldly perspective and art education served her well as a product development intern for Macy's International Concepts Ready-to-Wear division. While working at Macy’s Manhattan flagship on Fifth Avenue, she was part of a team whose concept for a gender-neutral fashion line took first place in the department store’s “Win with Fashion” pitch competition.

“From the very beginning, I was involved in the product development process, collaborating with designers, and assisting in sample reviews,” said the Somerset, N.J., resident. “This hands-on experience allowed me to understand the intricacies of bringing a fashion product from conception to the sales floor.”

Over eight weeks, her team of six interns researched buying, sustainability, marketing practices and more to design a product line of several pieces, including a blazer, cargo pants, graphic T-shirt and bomber jacket. The all –neutral line – from colors to sizing and even non-gendered display location – were pegged to a Pride month release.

“We see the LGBTQ+ community is growing big time and women and men like to wear bigger, baggier clothes these days,” she said of the concept, which may ultimately end up on in a Macy’s retail display next spring. “We noticed some people like buying from the men’s section regardless of gender.”

The interns on past winning pitch teams typically received call-back offers to start their post-college careers with Macy’s – an opportunity Basu said she would certainly accept. Until then, she plans to soak up all she can from her BFA program during her last year at Rutgers.

Gender-fluid clothing line designed for Macy's by MGSA design student Disha Basu.
Disha Basu was part of a team of Macy's interns whose concept for a gender-neutral fashion line took first place in the department store’s “Win with Fashion” pitch competition.
Courtesy of Disha Basu

Ironically, Basu never contemplated a career in the arts until her junior year of high school, when her mother suggested graphic design.

“To me, making art was peaceful. I didn’t consider it work,” she said. “It is a way of getting out of my head. I can put whatever I want on a piece of paper without judgement. I didn’t want to take that way from myself, so I resisted going into the visual arts.”

After delving into graphic design work and exploring Adobe software, coding and web designing, Basu was hooked. Suddenly, the girl who struggled academically throughout middle and high school was finding her groove as an art student.

“Only when I reached Mason Gross was I able to reach my full potential and aced everything,” she said. “I was like, ‘Wow, this is what I want to do.’”

Art and design professor Gerry Beegan, who also directs MGSA’s MFA in design, said he was struck by Basu’s energy and drive to hone her craft when she was a student in his design histories seminar. 

“She has grown wonderfully at Mason Gross and taken advantage of all the opportunities she has here,” Beegan said. “We’ve had students doing the Macy’s internship in the past, and they’ve been very exciting. But she’s taken it to a different level because of that determination. She just throws herself into everything she does.”

Up next for Basu: her senior thesis. As a global citizen who’s experienced the fallout of climate change in developing nations, she is gravitating toward a project that promotes sustainable packaging – possibly for a coffee shop.

“Living in India was very hard. It’s one of the most polluted places. You find plastic running through the sewer system. I thought, 'This needs to stop,'” she said. “I’m very into package design, and our Earth is dying because of plastics and all these pollutants being emitted. Understanding those areas and tying them back into my design project is something I want to focus on. I think it is a concept that’s going to grow.”