Photography by Delphine Lewis.
Last April, a fire broke out in the basement of Parsons School of Design’s Sheila C. Johnson Design Center. The design school’s sixth graduating class were just a few weeks away from graduation when they were forced to pack up and move to a space in Brooklyn, where they would stay for roughly four months. Despite the program’s associate director Joff Moolhuizen describing the move as “playing a giant Tetris game” which set them back a month, the class finished their collections and the program on time.
This morning, the program’s 7th generation (also displaced by the fire) showed their final collections at New York Fashion Week, a ritual within the program that allows the students to launch their careers on a legitimate stage. The group has big shoes to fill; “Five of our former students have their own shows in fashion week this season,” says Shelley Fox, Parson’s Donna Karan Professor of Fashion and Director of MFA Fashion Design and Society. “Within our first 6 graduating classes we’ve had 8 LMVH finalists, and one special prize winner, Kozaburo Akasaka.” Former students also include Matthew Adams Dolan, Melitta Baumeister, Snow Xue Gao, and the designing duo behind Area NYC, Piotrek Panszczyk and Beckett Fogg, who met while studying in the program.
Venice W. sits by a piece in her collection
This semester’s show is a display of the student’s textile abilities, with each collection more tedious-looking than the last. Shie Lyu’s collection is so complicated that it seems 3D printed (it was all sewn by hand), and Kota Okuda made accessories out of real money (including a giant American Express card). Amy Crookes, whose jet-lagged parents flew in early from Australia to help her put the finishing touches on her collection, even made her own ceramic buttons. Fox describes this class’ work as “textile heaven."
Helmets by Jimin Kim
It’s very reflective of the program itself,” adds Moolhuizen. “We’re very big on teaching the students how to translate their design identity onto every aspect of their work. We live in this Instagram generation where everything looks great in photos, so how do you make yourself unique? How do you make things that no one else can make?"
Socks and shoes by Stephanie Frig
Social media has democratized fashion, but it’s also oversaturated it. And that’s not the only challenge these students face as the industry shifts constantly. “It’s too hard to see where things in fashion are going,” says Joff. “Physical retail is obviously dying.” Fox adds that even politics in the country have affected their students. “I found out today Max’s (Cui) parents bought the tickets from China to come to see his show and got refused by border services three times.” But despite serious setbacks like fires and political turmoil, the students of Parsons 7th generation delivered on time. “The show must go on,” says Fox. “15 students and 130 looks.”
And so it did.
Wallet dress by Kota Okuda
Take a look behind the scenes of the last hours leading up to the students show.
Special thanks to Shelley Fox, Joff Moolhuizen, and all the amazing MFA Fashion Design & Society students at Parsons School of Design.