September 2 2014

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3 posts tagged "Shelley Fox"

Parsons’ MFA Designers Have a Lot to Offer



“I am what I am.” This is the phrase scrawled across the cuffed hem of design student Jiapei Li’s white pants (above), which are currently on view at Parsons The New School For Design’s MFA Fashion Design and Society exhibition in the Gucci building on Fifth Avenue. In fact, the existential sentence is the title of her sculpted graduate collection, set to march down the runway at the Parsons MFA show during New York fashion week in September. Li, a 23-year-old talent hailing from China, impressed with her oversize neoprene and mesh wares, each of which fused impeccable construction with forward-thinking, flirty flare and sporty wearability. “I started by making things that I don’t like,” she told us at the exhibit’s opening last week, gesturing to a gridded pastel purple pencil skirt. “And I turned them into things I like. It was all about finding myself and my own design identity.”

This hunt for one’s identity is a unifying thread that runs throughout the twelve graduating students’ collections. And judging by the innovative work in the showcase, most members of the incredibly diverse class of 2014 have found theirs. Twenty-seven-year-old Pauline Choi (below), in particular, stood out as having a firm grasp of her vision. One of only three menswear designers on the course (all of whom, interestingly, are women), the Korean born-student turned out garments that were at once masculine and ethereal. Thanks to a sponsorship from French couture lace house Sophie Hallette, Choi was able to work filigree into her designs, employing it on the torso and sleeves of a diaphanous white embroidered tulle button-down; on the top of a wool pinstriped basketball short-dress-trouser hybrid; and in the center of a dégradé overcoat that seamlessly transitions from wool cashmere to canary floral lace to chunky knit. The latter technique is something the Japanese-trained designer used throughout—yarn faded into sheer tulle on sweaters, and one black tulle T-shirt embroidered with crimson thread boasted a knit gray ribbed collar that took three days to hand-sew onto the neck. “It was interesting to see the blend between the delicate, soft, almost invisible material going into masculine menswear shapes,” said Choi, noting that she was inspired by men who head to the basketball court after work. As far as her postgraduation plans, Choi offered, “I’d like to go into some fashion competitions and start my own line. But in reality, I need to get hired by a big company to pay back my student loans.” Either way, you’re sure to be seeing more of this rising star soon.


This year’s students—the above two included—were able to balance the artistic vs. the commercial in their cerebral, but often saleable, collections. “Sure, if you wear the pieces as I’ve layered them, it might be a bit too much,” said Pakistani designer Ammar Belal of his politically charged collection (below), which deals with the U.S.’s occupation of Afghanistan, the prisoners in the Bagram detention camp, and the current state of the region. “But at the end of the day, all these pieces are just organza T-shirts and sportswear.” Case in point: A translucent poppy-embellished top (a reference to Afghanistan’s heroin production) was shown over a shirt printed with the face of a grandmother killed by an inaccurate drone. Together, the pieces pack a loaded punch. On its own, that intricate poppy top would look great as a soft summer dress or worn with jeans. When asked about the course, Belal, who’s maintained a menswear business in Pakistan for the last ten years, said, “[Course director] Shelley [Fox] helped me find myself in a way I haven’t found myself in years. If there’s one thing I can say about the MFA, it’s that it helped me channel my identity.” And a strong identity, at that.

Twenty-three-year-old British-born menswear designer Jessica Walsh (below), too, merged concept and reality with a skilled hand. Inspired by the men around her, the designer, a former Marc Jacobs intern, interviewed and photographed her muses before heading to the workroom. Massive abstract black puffer coats—the shapes of which evolved from a series of Walsh’s line drawings—were shown alongside jersey tops printed with the designer’s photographs, slick basketball shorts, tracksuit bottoms, and shirts constructed from black nylon and gray cotton. The latter were carefully sewn to appear permanently wrinkled. The effect was oddly elegant. Bruises, too, came into play, influencing the tactile print on an attractive painted overcoat. “Boys get into fights, but the bruise is very intimate,” Walsh said, adding that her highly involved design process allowed her to “create an idea of who I am and what I want to do.”


Thirty-five-year-old Ukraine-born knitwear designer and Parsons undergrad tutor Natallia Pilipenka also shone, thanks to her tactile collection of foggy cashmere sweaterdresses, white lace shirts, and burnout dévoré frocks. “The MFA program is based so much on research,” she said, “so it allowed me to work with textiles and delve really deep into what interested me.”

Easily the most out-there of the bunch, 27-year-old Taiwanese menswear designer-cum-performance artist Bei Kuo offered up a series of silver metallic, white embossed neoprene, and slick black sportswear looks that easily could have been unisex. Printed with white text, one pair of trousers stated, “You do not exist.” For fashion’s sake, I hope Parsons’ graduating designers are more than just figments of the imagination.

Parsons The New School For Design’s MFA Fashion Design and Society exhibition is on view at 685 5th Avenue, 9th Floor, New York, NY through May 23.

Photos: Courtesy of Parsons

A Prize for Fashion’s Foreign-Born Creatives in the U.S.


Vilcek prize

If you or someone you know has continued to demonstrate great promise and achievement in furthering the future of fashion—whether in design, styling, hair and makeup, image making, curating, or writing—and is a foreign-born immigrant (yes, Canada counts) currently residing in the U.S. who is under the age of 38, this open call is for you.

The Vilcek Foundation’s 2015 Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise in the Arts has chosen to honor contributions to fashion for the coming year, and enlisted the help of Shelley Fox, the Donna Karan Professor of Fashion at Parsons and the director of the school’s MFA in Fashion Design and Society, to assemble the prize jury. “If you’re in the industry, you often know the other people [behind the scenes], but the wider public often doesn’t have a clue how the whole fashion system works…I was trying to peel away the layers of all the creatives who were involved in this entire process.”

One Vilcek Prize of $100,000 will be awarded to an established artist in fashion, following a discretionary deliberation process, while three emerging talents will receive the Vilcek Prizes for Creative Promise in the Arts of $50,000 each.

Applicants ranging from the fashion curator and the stylist to the animator, photographer, historian, and critic are all encouraged to apply. The spectrum of professions is similarly echoed by the jury of judges Fox has brought together, including Thom Browne; Patricia Mears, deputy director of The Museum at FIT; and Jeff Ng, founder of communications agency Staple Design, among others.

What will they be looking out for? “Someone who’s developing a craft and a vision of where they’re going,” says Fox. “And perhaps they’re not being recognized because they’re still under the radar. It’s just about bringing them to the front of it more than they might be, with some extra mentoring, money, connections, and contacts.”

The open call for applications will close on June 10, 2014, and the winners will be publicly announced in spring 2014.

Photo: Courtesy Photo 

Top of the Class: Inside Parsons’ PH² Exhibition


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 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” »