Last night at NYFW, the school’s students put on a compelling display of explorative, experimental fashion – meet the class of 2016
Parsons’ MFA Fashion Design and Society grads departed the runway less than 24 hours ago, but are already bursting with advice for freshers. “Don’t throw anything away!” exclaims Jessica Shroyer, whose collection was born from her (healthy) obsession with American culture and branding: Mickey Mouse, Coca Cola, Nike. If anything, it hit the nail on the head of how the MA manages to pull off a tightrope balancing act between creativity and commerciality – the latter always being seen as the ‘real face’ of the New York fashion industry. Last night’s show helped to dismantle that perception, as 13 young designers kicked off the month of spring/summer shows worldwide, proving that with the help from emerging support platforms like MADE and VFiles, the city is changing its reputation for good.
What particularly sets the course apart is that Shelley Fox is the one who’s leading it. The professor’s mentoring style doesn’t just place the main focus on garment construction (as many fashion schools do in the States – and worldwide), but instead she keenly pushes the conceptual frameworks driving her students’ collections. She’s an adept research fellow in the field, partially thanks to her MA Fashion education with the legendary late Louise Wilson at Central Saint Martins in the 90s.
‘Postfreedom’ was one of the many political catchwords featured in Jahnkoy Maria’s collection, which closed a show that saw a grand total of 116 looks come down the runway. Her collection, entitled “The Displaced” intends to communicate the message: “To change everything, we need everyone.” It seems like an appropriate manifesto in a time of increasing global turmoil, in a country where the presidential election is posing some serious questions, and yet where youth seem resiliently hopeful for the future. That attitude is precisely what we need to counter the current perils of the world we live in.
The place we can best find that spark of hope? Within ourselves and our own societies, an idea that’s heavily embedded within the course’s curriculum. Named MFA Fashion Design and Society for a good reason, the five-year-old course aims to go beyond the borders of New York alone, and aspires to make students feel prepared to work on a worldly scale, connect with anybody anywhere, and see their impact within a bigger picture. After all, do we really have any boundaries nowadays, when social media is so prevalent that you can show your line of home-made handbags to a kid in Tokyo, Zimbabwe or Alaska?
Featured in the show was a collection distorted by a Glitch app (Zishan Li), a designer working on a project collaborating with Syrian female refugees in Lebanon-based camps (Kozaburo), garments that combine traditional tailoring and layers of tulle fabric to depict gender blending in society (Gahee Lim), a designer wanting to subvert our general fear of monsters à la Beauty and the Beast (also her favourite film, Qinghe Cao) and an ode to the personal struggle between the tight cultural behavior codes of the East and the loosened-up ones of the West (Mook Attakanwong).
The designers showed what Parsons is at its core: an institution which brings together fragments of everyday life and new technologies; teaching students how to work with different mediums of expression like photography and film. After all, fashion nowadays goes beyond just needing to focus on making something wearable and desirable out of a cloth. Despite having only existed for a few short years, the course is making waves, and the future is certainly looking bright for those who are on it. For that, it’s not only the fresh grads who made an electrifying debut into the industry last night who should be applauded, but the entire team who have developed the MFA into what it has become: a space for dreaming, exploration and experimentation – something that seems to have been so craved-for in New York’s fashion industry.