"We've spent all week looking at what people are doing now," said Simon Collins, dean of fashion at Parsons The New School for Design, before the second annual graduate show for the school's new MFA Fashion Design and Society course. "But this is about the future." If the sixteen collections sent down the runway today foreshadow the aesthetics of tomorrow, we're in for a wild ride. However, a crop of creative explosions definitely wouldn't be the worst thing for New York's oft commercially focused fashion industry.
Show opener Melitta Baumeister's stark white silicone looks, which included giant overcoats and a sheer white column dress with a bouncing rubbery hem, were weirdly wearable, and refreshing. This collection indicated the sole trend that ran throughout much of the class—eschewing shapely silhouettes in favor of structured, oversized forms. According to the course's director, professor Shelley Fox, this allowed "their fabrics to do all the work."
And work they did. Jihye Nam sent out roomy white T-shirt dresses covered with a rainbow of sheer and opaque silks. Her models resembled living watercolors as they stomped in paint-dipped platforms, fishnets, and knee-high socks. Claudia Li's blossoming black and cream cocoons were trimmed with painstaking yarn details that looked like manic scribbles. These pieces were the stuff of fashion fantasies, but that doesn't mean the class neglected reality entirely. California native Amelia Lindquist, for instance, juxtaposed enormous, light-treated denim looks (some of which were cheekily printed with a nude woman's torso) with fluid white jersey tops or skirts. Later, Piotrek Panszczyk offered a clever—and commercially viable—collection of lavish, sculptural leisurewear in alpaca, bonded jersey, and velvet. His print, which he made by xeroxing a fur coat, was a sure highlight. Hannah Jenkinson's new take on traditional knitwear and crochet was also a standout, featuring a white lace tracksuit and translucent sweaters filled with tendrils of trapped yarn. Meanwhile, show closer Jia Hua's neon and black multilayered ensembles—which combined a mind-blowing array of tech and luxury fabrics—could hit shelves tomorrow.
Indeed, some of Parsons' up-and-comers have the skills to break out on their own, but many are wisely aiming to work for a brand first. ("I'm not in any rush," as Hua put it.) These designers' goals aren't far out of reach. The likes of Céline, Nike, and Givenchy are already courting members of the class of 2013, and, considering Donna Karan hired alum Carly Ellis right after the 2012 show, who knows what kind of attention this impressive presentation will bring. Panszczyk, however, is intent on taking a leap. The Polish-born talent is teaming up with one of last year's grads to launch a line. "The industry here in New York is so jaded and massive," said the 27-year-old, who will be staying in Gotham to start his business. "So I think it's the perfect time to do something really cool."