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Fashion Designer Lily Harris ('02)
  • Alumni Story

Heilicher alumna Lily Harris talks about her day school experience and how it positively influenced her outlook and current career in fashion design.

Q. Tell us a bit about your own Jewish background, upbringing, and involvement. How did it influence your current path?

A. I was raised in a Jewish family who gathered together for Shabbat dinner every Friday night and synagogue on Saturday mornings. I attended Heilicher (then known as MJDS), along with my brother Josef, and mostly it taught me a closeness of family and values that have carried through.

Q. Tell us about your current endeavors and your journey from Heilicher to now.

A. I currently work in fashion design in New York, both as a full-time job and as a hobby. At Heilicher, I always enjoyed art class, and that education directed me towards a further pursuit of creativity. After high school, I attended the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) for apparel design.

Q.What kind of science or exploratory learning were you exposed to at Heilicher? What influence did that have on your current career?

A. At the day school, there was always a nice mix of math, nature, and art. I’ve never been an extreme lover of science class specifically, but I found stronger appreciation for a mix of these three aforementioned disciplines. I remember watching tadpoles develop, and I remember liking math class because Mr. Portnoe was one of my favorite teachers. I was partial to art class because that is the time of day where I could do what I wanted to do. I liked all of the periods with quiet, focused thinking.

Q. What is special to you about Heilicher and your Jewish day school experience? Is there an experience (a class, assignment, activity, teacher) from your time at Heilicher that was particularly meaningful and valuable for you and your future?

A. I definitely looked forward to The Learning Fair every year. One year my mom helped me create my “dream dress” as a home sewing project. It looked exactly like the crazy sketch that I drew, turning out to look a lot like Toddlers and Tiaras meets Dolly Parton. Apparently gold fringe was my dream come true.

Another year I took a more scientific and holistic approach to learn the uses and healing properties of capsaicin from peppers. I clearly felt comfortable and curious within Heilicher to explore different things.

Q. How did Heilicher influence your path to being a “maker”?

A. I learned a strong work ethic from Heilicher. I was always pushed to challenge myself and appreciated that. I did feel like Heilicher, for me, was a positive space to learn. Having creative interests or multiple different hobbies was encouraged and gave me confidence for going to public school afterward.


Q. What message would you like to give to other alumni or Heilicher families?

A. I can’t believe some of the cool opportunities that Heilicher has now that I would’ve killed for, so take advantage of it. It will pay off to take a graphic design class, a photography class, or a yearbook class by the time you get to high school! You will be ahead of the game.

Lily Harris with brother Josef
Lily with her brother Josef during her Heilicher days.