Discovering New Talent at Parsons’ Senior Show


Discovering New Talent at Parsons’ Senior Show

Marc Jacobs. Anna Sui. Donna Karan. Narciso Rodriguez. Proenza Schouler. Prabal Gurung. Doo.Ri. Tracy Reese. Vena Cava. Isaac Mizrahi. Chris Benz.

All of these designers — and hundreds more, both famous and not — are graduates of Parsons The New School for Design. So it’s always exciting when the Parsons senior show rolls around each spring, as it’s pretty much guaranteed that you’re going to discover at least a few new fashion stars of tomorrow. The school was first established in 1896, and for the past few years I’ve been on Parsons’ senior thesis panel, which takes place a few weeks before the show and involves the graduating fashion students presenting their collections to a group of industry insiders (this time, my fellow panelists included designer Maria Cornejo and Teen Vogue Fashion Director Gloria Baume). A separate panel then votes to name a Designer of the Year in the womenswear, menswear, and children’s wear categories, which are announced at the gala event.

Monday’s show honored Parsons alum Reed Krakoff (who designs his own signature line and is the Executive Creative Director at Coach), and was held at Pier 60 along the Chelsea Piers. It featured the work of 34 graduating designers on the glossy white X-shaped runway, which was surrounded by four huge video screens, with additional student work displayed on mannequins throughout the sunny, waterfront space.

“[Going to Parsons] was an amazing gift; I’m indebted to them,” Krakoff told the audience before announcing that senior Joel Harding had won the Coach Project “It’s All in the Details,” which involved reinterpreting the iconic Coach duffle bag. He was awarded a $2,500 cash prize and a summer internship at Coach.

Then the lights dimmed and it was sh-sh-sh-showtime, folks! First out was the cool urban kids’ line by 21-year-old Serena Chang from Tucson, Arizona (who took home the Designer of the Year prize in that category), followed by a dizzying slew of menswear (the award in that arena went to T. Young Hwang, 30, of Seoul, South Korea – though I also loved the fashion-forward menswear by Grace Hu).

Not surprisingly, there were a ton of really terrific womenswear collections as well. Standouts included the handcrafted floral embellishment of Snehal Bathwal, painterly prints by Andria Crescioni, luxe sportswear from Brian Suter-Maury and Paige Kettering (the latter of which put me in mind of Chado Ralph Rucci), great chunky knits by Joanna Akkaoul, and highly architectural fringed and embellished pieces by David Ferron, who was named Women’s Wear Designer of the Year.

Afterwards, I wandered around the venue checking out the other student clothing and accessories displays, where I ran into the gracious Mr. Krakoff, who was happily posing for photos with the graduates.

As always, I discovered some wonderfully creative designers — and I can’t wait to see which of these talented newcomers will join the ranks of Marc, Donna, and Proenza in seasons to come.

Lauren David Peden writes for Rue La La as a Contributing Editor.

May 12, 2011