"Central Needle Trades High School had its origins in a garment loft on West 26th Street in 1926. Its original purpose was to provide a trained work force for the many trades in fashion related industries. Most of its students were immigrants or the children of immigrants who were trying to make new lives for themselves in a new country. As part of a Works Projects Administration (WPA) project, construction of a new school was begun in 1938. Its design called for it to be the ultimate vocational school. It’s Visitor’s Guide referred to the new school as “The Fulfillment of an Ideal in the Field of Vocational Education.” Principal Mortimer Ritter wrote:

"It is only fourteen years since the school was founded – a few classes held in a third floor loft. Today a skyscraper school proudly demonstrates the achievement of an important phase in modern vocational education, planned and fulfilled by people of vision . . . ."

The school that opened its doors in 1940 was also a fine example of the Art Deco movement, as best illustrated in the landmark status murals in the auditorium and exquisite mosaic over the main entrance to the building.

The original curriculum was almost entirely vocational, stressing sewing, machine work, garment cutting, garment grading, draping, tailoring, costume sketching, etc. The school changed as the fashion industry of New York City changed. It adopted its present name in 1956 to reflect the new variety of vocational majors offered. The majors of the school have changed since then, as the school’s curriculum has become increasingly more academic and its occupational and technical majors moved more into the areas of design, art and marketing. Today’s student may major in Fashion Design, Fashion Merchandising Management, Visual Merchandising, or Graphics & Illustration. Today’s program also successfully prepares students for entry into college. The High School of Fashion Industries is recognized as one of the highest performing schools in New York City having received an ‘A’ rating for eight straight years from the NYC Department of Education. The last two years the High School of Fashion Industries has finished in the 96th percentile of all New York City high schools. The school has also been recognized by US News and World Reports as one of America’s best high schools.

HSFI has strong and long lasting connections to the world of art and all facets of the fashion industry. These have yielded viable and dynamic partnerships. In the Art related areas, we have successfully collaborated with the ARTS Connection and with the International Center of Photography for over a decade. We have interns placed at the major museums and ongoing mural projects in both the public and private sectors. Our students have had their prototypes and designs displayed in the windows of Saks Fifth Avenue and Barney’s.

At the core of the Fashion Design, Art and Fashion Merchandising partnerships is the unwavering support of our Advisory Board, founded in 1932 as the Fashion Crafts Educational Commission, and, in recent years, having undergone a revitalization and name change. It is the members of this Advisory Board who have sustained our students’ twenty year participation in the Adopt-a-Student Program, established an endowment fund for college scholarships for our graduates, continued the scholarship support for incentive awards for our 9-12th graders, and have worked alongside the principal in gaining the support of key industry organizations such as the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Barneys, Kleinfeld, Swarovski, IMG, the Liz Claiborne Foundation, the Young Menswear Association, the National Association of Men’s Sportswear Buyers and the Black Retail Action Group."