17 posts tagged "Parsons"
“You never leave Parsons,” Simon Collins said from his perch onstage at Wednesday’s fourth annual Parsons Fashion Show. His statement rang true, because yesterday’s show was just as much about the Parsons family as it was about showing off the graduating seniors’ final collections. Editors, photographers, and an endless wave of students crowded into the school’s state-of-the-art University Center at 63 Fifth Avenue, where Milk Studios’ Mazdack Rassi and Parsons alum Chris Benz spoke about their experiences with the school, the importance of having a point of view, and how the brand-new facilities are far superior to the “dump” Parsons used to occupy in Midtown. A series of videos also played in between mini fashion shows, with cameos from Donna Karan, Anna Sui, and Style.com’s Dirk Standen.
“Parsons is all about collaborating,” Collins said. He was referring to the school’s own collaborations, which range from an Allen Edmonds capsule collection to the Parsons/Kering “Empowering Imagination” Competition, which is featured on Style.com this week. “If you’re a brand or you work for a brand, you know you can’t really guarantee being on the homepage of Style.com,” Collins said. “But Parsons can.” You could tell that these BFA students are born collaborators, too. They showed a firm grasp of the current market, sending out boxy coats à la Proenza Schouler; layered knits that called to mind Burberry’s Fall ’14 show; and even Fendi-inspired luxe fur accents, like those on Wenqi Wu’s covetable sheared tunic. We would wear those pieces tomorrow. Each student had a defined point of view—Ximon Lee cites the clothes of Russian street children as his starting point—but at the same time, the show felt cohesive. Not an easy feat. These students spent four years (or more) playing off of each others’ ideas and aesthetics to finish with a range of high-quality, very impressive final projects. You could picture them being an asset to any design team—although many dream of becoming the next Marc Jacobs, Jason Wu, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, or Anna Sui, all Parsons alums who are still very connected to the school. Following the students’ upcoming graduation, we can see why they won’t want to leave the clan.
With his Hugo Boss debut and thriving eponymous line, Jason Wu is having a banner year. So it comes as little surprise that the 31-year-old Taiwanese-Canadian designer is picking up the top honor at Parsons’ 2014 Fashion Benefit, which is set for tomorrow evening. Ahead of the festivities, Wu, who’s both a Parsons alum and—fun fact—a former toy designer, took time away from wrapping his forthcoming Resort collection to speak with Style.com about his secrets to success, New York fashion’s changing landscape, and his obsession with RuPaul.
Congratulations on the Parsons honor. Considering you studied at the school, do you feel you’ve come full circle?
I’ve kind of come full circle because I moved here in 2001 for my first year at Parsons. So it’s nice to go back and be a part of this new generation of the school, which has taught me a lot and done so much for me. It’s a very nice honor and I’m very proud. But I don’t think I’ve made it—at all. I think I’ve hit a nice moment in my career and it feels great to have your peers and people in your industry acknowledge your work. But that’s not to say that there’s not much more work to do.
Between your debut at Hugo Boss, the success of your own line, and now this award, it seems that you’ve really hit your stride this year.
I don’t know. I always think there’s more to do, so I never think I’ve hit my stride. I always want more and want to do more, but certainly I think it’s been a great year so far, having done two shows in New York for the first time, and then getting this award. I guess that comes with age and experience and just doing it for a while. And I guess I’m getting a little better at it.
Do people look at you differently now that you’ve become the big man at Boss?
I don’t know if I’ve knocked it out of the park yet, but I think we had a really successful first show and I guess people look at me a little more like a grown-up, a big person.
Do you feel like a grown-up?
Yeah, I feel a little older. I guess that means grown-up. Definitely achier.
Your Boss show was quite the star-studded event, and Jennifer Lawrence just wore a gown from your Fall collection to the world premiere of X-Men: Days of Future Past. What role does celebrity dressing play in a designer’s success?
Having people you admire wear your clothes in a very public way is inspiring, and it’s also a great way to get your work out there. It’s a great form of advertising. But for me it’s always about quality, not quantity, and it’s about dressing the few girls that I love. I’ve always been very loyal to Diane Kruger, Reese Witherspoon, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams, Kerry Washington—those are girls I dress over and over and over again. And you really develop a rapport and a friendship and a relationship. It goes back to the days when Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn, and Catherine Deneuve and Yves Saint Laurent, had those relationships that went [beyond commerciality]. Those were true relationships. It’s great to continue that tradition.
Can a young designer make it these days without a celebrity bump?
Everyone does it differently. There are some people who make clothes that are more appropriate for a red carpet and there are some people who don’t. I’m not sure if it’s a do-or-die situation, but you do have to seek exposure in your own way, in a way that’s right for your brand.
How did you come to dress Jennifer Lawrence for her X-Men premiere? Was that a big moment for you?
Yeah. Actually, we just found out [the day before]. I had no idea. I think there’s something so incredibly human about her. That’s why people love her so much—she’s so relatable. She shows a little imperfection—which we all have—and still looks stunning.
You mentioned that people like seeing imperfection in public figures. With that in mind, people seem to like you a lot. What’s your imperfection?
My imperfection is that I’m not as perfect as people seem to think I am. There’s a sense of controlled, sophisticated ideas in my clothes that are quite neat, and I think people sometimes think I’m that, but I’m not.
Are you messy?
I’m actually not messy. I’m terrible at waking up early. I’m terrible at a lot of things. I’m terrible at technology—anything computer-oriented. And I’m terrible at making anything on time, which I’m really working on. Actually, at Parsons, I was always really late, and you can’t be late at Parsons. You really get into trouble.
You, along with Alexander Wang, Prabal Gurung, Joseph Altuzarra, etc., are part of New York’s new guard. How do you think the creative climate here is changing?
Right now, New York fashion week is at its best. We have the most young talent [succeeding] at the same time for the first time in a long, long while, and this is the first time that we’ve really been acknowledged on an international level in a long time. That has to do with the fact that our generation’s outlook is global, rather than local. If you look at Style.com, you can read that anywhere in the world. That certainly helps. Having that kind of recognition all over the world is something that is quite rare. We’re experiencing something of a moment, a movement.
Why is that, do you think?
It is, in so many ways, New York’s time. All [of the young designers] in New York come from different international backgrounds. I think that’s a very nice representation of what New York fashion is about—it’s about diversity; it’s about fresh ideas; it’s about making its own statement, because we don’t have the hundreds of years of history. We’re really still, as a whole, quite new at it.
Do you remember how you felt when you were designing your Parsons graduate collection?
It’s so funny because I went to Parsons and my major was menswear, yet I make the most fit-and-flare dresses you could possibly imagine. I guess after going to the very masculine side, I felt like I was much more comfortable in the very feminine side, and eventually the combination of the two became my work as we know it today.
Why were you initially drawn to menswear?
I always liked the idea of tailoring. I always felt making a jacket was the most difficult thing, and it is still the most difficult. Sometimes the cleanest things with the least amount of details are the most intricate.
What do fashion students need to know that isn’t necessarily taught in school?
It’s that the fashion industry isn’t by-the-books. It’s not about following one specific route, it’s about paving your own way and making it your own. That’s what makes fashion interesting—individual visions—and not one person breaks through in the same way. We all get into it slightly differently—I worked in toys first.
Speaking of toys, I read that back in the day, you did a RuPaul doll?
I worked with RuPaul once! It was a long time ago. We made a RuPaul doll and it was wildly successful and that’s how I met him. Of course, RuPaul’s Drag Race is my favorite show ever. It’s like the best show on television. RuPaul is kind of the ultimate supermodel, and I have an obsession with supermodels.
Does your former life as a toy designer ever inform your fashion designs?
Attention to detail is what links my work as a toy designer and a fashion designer. Most people say I went from dressing toy dolls to real dolls. That’s kind of the press-y version of it. But in actuality, I did everything from designing the sculptural form of the dolls to the industrialization of the molds to the manufacturing. I always knew how to create a really good product, and I think that experience primed me for this industry.
How important has business savvy been to your success?
The balance between creativity and business-savvy is something that every young designer needs to be aware of, because it’s the reality of our industry. Having that balance is something that my generation of New York designers really thinks about.
What is your advice to fashion students who want to be the next Jason Wu?
I don’t know if they do want to be the next Jason Wu! But my advice is seize every opportunity and work hard. It sounds so obvious to say that, but the glamour of the industry can get distracting sometimes, and at the end of the day it’s about the work. I work weekends all the time—there’s no such thing as overtime for me because my own time is overtime. And I don’t have any vacations, so cancel those family plans.
The official Haute Couture calendar published by the Chambre Syndicale had listed two Dior shows: one for press and a second for clients. But at 6 p.m. on Monday, a third show took place to accommodate a particularly special group of attendees.
Over the weekend, nearly eighty students from sixteen of the leading fashion schools around the world arrived in Paris for an immersive Dior experience. They visited the maison’s ateliers on Avenue Montaigne, participated in a conference with designers from across LVMH, and attended the Spring 2014 runway show.
“It’s good to see this world from the inside,” said 23-year-old Flora Miranda Seierl, who is in her final year at Antwerp’s Royal Academy of Fine Arts. “Today we heard from people who went to our schools who actually work at LVMH. You never think of it like this, but it’s real people doing real jobs. And so you realize that it’s not unreachable.”
Following the show, held on the grounds of the Musée Rodin, the group went somewhere usually reserved for VIPs: backstage.
“It’s like waiting for Madonna,” gushed Central Saint Martins fashion knitwear student Matty Bovan, as Dior creative director Raf Simons posed for photos and signed program notes.
“For me, in my position at this moment, it’s wonderful to connect with students and the atelier people who don’t get to see the show,” said the designer moments later.
Simons noted that an experience like this affords students some perspective—namely, to place personal goals ahead of commercial ones. “You shouldn’t think about the system, but just what you really, really believe in. And then in the beginning, you reach out to other people who believe in it, rather than those who are in control,” he said.
Designer Walter Van Beirendonck, who showed his men’s collection in Paris last week and still teaches at Antwerp’s Royal Academy, said the access was invaluable to his students. “It’s a place that you don’t usually enter, and for students to see that and learn about this story and how it all works, it’s very amazing.”
The Antwerp connection was not by coincidence. Back when he was studying industrial design, Simons applied for an internship with Van Beirendonck, who accepted the graduate despite his lack of fashion experience.
But savoir faire is savoir faire, no matter the medium. Just ask Jo Miller, who is studying to be a milliner at the London’s Royal College of Art. “This will completely change how I feel about my own designs. It’s a completely different world and could only enrich my work.”
Or, as her teacher, hat designer Flora McLean, put it, “My students need to learn very specific technologies for how to make shoes and hats and handbags. I think there was more for them than anybody else because it’s both the technology and the dreamy parts.”
That dream, which ends today, extended beyond European institutions: Parsons The New School for Design and Pratt Institute in New York, as well as China Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing and Tokyo’s Bunka Fashion College, were among the invited schools.
When the idea was suggested to Simons that there should be a check-in five years later to see where the students landed, he smiled. “They will probably kick me out,” mused the designer. “But that’s how it should be. That’s the cycle.”
Today, H&M revealed the eight finalists for its Design Award competition, the winner of which will be announced on January 28 during Stockholm fashion week. The top talents were selected from a group of 26 semi-finalists after presenting their collections in London to panel of judges that included Michelle Dockery, Erdem Moralioglu, and street style star Michelle Harper. Harper, who has a flare for outré ensembles, also stars in a lookbook showcasing the finalists’ wares. Lina Michal, Eddy Anemian, Jia Hua (a Parsons alum who made quite an impression with her graduate collection in September), Xiao Li (above), Devon Halfnight, Sophie Sälekari, Camilla Blasé Woodman, and Henriette Tilanuas will all compete for the grand 50,000 euro prize later this month. Check back here on January 28 to catch Style.com’s coverage of the competition.
If you’ve been following our coverage of the Parsons/Kering competition, you’re well aware that college graduation is nigh. But it’s not just Parsons’ BFA students who are presenting their final collections. Tomorrow, the second graduating class from the school’s MFA Fashion Design and Society program will unveil their wares at PH², an exhibition whose opening will be cohosted by Diane von Furstenberg. Yesterday, professor Shelley Fox and the best of the eighteen graduates gave Style.com a first look at their progressive work. “What impressed me was their persistence not to give up, to experiment, and to push themselves in a way they didn’t know they were capable of,” said Fox of the graduates, who will reveal their complete lineups during a show at New York fashion week in September. This year, Fox put a particular emphasis on pushing the students to create their own fabrics. “That’s one way you can really define yourself and set yourself apart from other designers,” she said.
Several of the grads took this to the extreme, like knitwear designer Hannah Jenkinson (above, left). Hailing from the UK, the 29-year-old pulled inspiration from the minimal clothes of the Amish, Mennonites, and nuns, as well as athletic wear. “But really,” she notes, “the collection was driven by technique and process; by [exploring] the boundaries of what makes something knitwear.” Take, for instance, her transparent jumper, in which she trapped strands of white yarn between two layers of fusing material. Other looks were crafted from rubber or repurposed vintage pieces. Chunky laces—like the ones seen on her sheer track pants or feminine skirts, were painstakingly hand-embroidered. “Some of [the pieces] took eight days.”
Melitta Baumeister, a 27-year-old German designer, took a new-wave approach to fabrication (above, right). She would finish a fabric garment, make a mold, and then recast it in silicone or foam. The result was classic clothing—like a white oxford shirt, a bomber, or a lace dress—reinvented in what felt like rubber. The collection, she explained, has to do with “controlling the uncontrollable, materializing liquid, and preserving a moment of movement in the garment.” The digital age affected her designs as well. “Now, with things like Instagram, capturing an image of a moment or a memory is almost more important than the memory itself.” Continue Reading “Top of the Class: Inside Parsons’ PH² Exhibition” »