Student Spotlight: Shifra Whiteman (MAM ’16)


Shifra Whiteman is a first year graduate student in the Business & Entrepreneurship Department whose goal is to move further into the world of textile design and illustrations. Whiteman currently designs textiles and jewelry for a company called Mata Traders (a fair trade company that manufactures through women’s cooperatives in India and Nepal). In this student spotlight we learn about her personal goals, why she chose the Business & Entrepreneurship program, and how she plans to further her passion.

How did you get involved in the field of textile design and illustrations?

Shifra: “I’ve always been artistic, but I fell in love with fabric while taking a fiber arts class as an undergrad at the University of Michigan Stamps School of Art & Design. That course led to an intensive textile design summer program abroad in Denmark (through the Danish Institute for Study) visiting the Marimekko and IKEA headquarters, learning all about Scandinavian design, and creating textile designs trough many different processes. That summer sealed the deal. I knew I was in love and obsessed with design — specifically repeat patterns. I have always been a firm believer that illustration is the foundation for textile design, so the two go hand-and-hand. I’m always carrying a sketchbook and jotting down as many ideas, doodles, and inspirations that come to mind.”

Why did you choose Columbia’s Business & Entrepreneurship program, and how do you think this program will create personal growth within your future career?

Shifra: “I chose Columbia’s Business & Entrepreneurship program for a few reasons. First, I believe that the program will give me the foundation I need to blend good design as well as good management through a fair trade model. Chicago is one of the largest fair trade cities in the country. It was an obvious decision to stay in Chicago to get my graduate degree, while also interning and creating relationships in a city that will benefit me both educationally and professionally.”

Describe how designing for Mata Traders has enhanced your creativity as an artist?

Shifra: “Mata Traders is a fair trade fashion company that manufactures through women cooperatives in India and Nepal. Every cooperative has different limitations. One may be able to print up to 6 colors where another is able to only print with 2. Each collection I design for Mata Traders I am challenged in what each cooperative is able to produce and how much I can push their abilities, along with my creativity, in those restrictions. As an artist, I am constantly challenging myself and my ability to keep my personal style in the designs I create. I also get giddy whenever I see someone who I don’t already know wearing my designs. A first year fiction MFA candidate was wearing one of my dresses at orientation and I got SUPER excited! It felt like a sign that I was doing the right thing by starting this program.”

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Shifra: “In 5 years, I would like to be working within the fair trade world either in my own business or consulting start ups and/or current fair trade companies that are already using or interested in using a fair trade model. I want to be able to combine original folk arts and crafts in a contemporary way with good design practices. I believe it is possible to improve the lives of others by using handmade and original art/craft forms to create new products for the western market, and I want to play a key role in expanding that practice.”

Make sure you check out Mata Traders fall 2014 collection on

Also, check out Shifra’s personal portfolio at