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"Avoid Using the Word Genius"

Fashion Insiders Share Survival Tips at Parsons Fashion Benefit

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Francisco Costa and Eva Mendes   
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Starstruck Parsons students rubbed elbows with fashion royalty at the design school's annual black-tie benefit Wednesday night at Cipriani Wall Street. The dining room was full of expert stitchers, but Eva Mendes, who accompanied honoree Francisco Costa, wasn't one of them. "I don't know what to do with thread or a needle," she admitted. "But I'm a crazy, amazing flower arranger! Just drop off your flowers and I will have an exotic bouquet for you." She'll also have a Costa gown for the Met ball, she revealed.

Two graduating seniors shared Designer of the Year Awards—kind of a big deal, considering that the Proenza Schouler boys and Marc Jacobs (in attendance) have won in the past. Taking the stage, fellow alum Peter Som recalled the two main questions he asked himself during his student years: "Would I sleep for the next week?" And "how much ramen could I survive on?" Fashion school dean Simon Collins affirmed that Parsons is no place for slackers. "Our students barely raised their heads" when headline-grabbing protesters occupied a New School building a few weeks ago, he boasted. "We work them pretty hard."

Offering some tough love of her own, New York Times critic Cathy Horyn read three bits of advice into the mike: "Avoid using the word genius," "stop looking at other people's work for inspiration," and "perfect your craft." Now's a great time to work on that last one, she added. "Some of you probably won't get jobs for a while."

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