parsons’s mfa class of 2019 shows us the future of fashion
Colorful, sustainable, and pantless.
Left: Look by Zil-e-Huma. Center: Look by Sho Konishi. Right: Look by Jin Min Lee.
Parsons Design Director, Shelley Fox, is the mastermind directing the school’s fashion program, now in its eighth generation. Ahead of the annual Parsons Fashion Design MFA runway show, Fox chatted briefly on where the fashion curriculum is expected to go from a faculty perspective and how consumers, spectators, and designers alike have taken in the flux of public opinion and new influences. “When I wrote the program in 2008, Instagram didn’t exist. So fast forward 11 years later, I’m realizing the impact of social media and it makes me question if my students look at history that way. Do they stop and read? Ask questions? Observe history? Or do they just stop?”
It was clear her students were imbibed by her force to push boundaries and challenge the status quo as it pertains to culture and society. The results were proven in their rhetoric and expression of design; three commons themes flowed throughout their collection: pop-culture's influence on fashion, sustainability, and fast fashion in the ever-changing landscape of the business.
i-D visited the students a night before the show at the Parsons Fashion Design MFA Studio to learn their more about their process and what their design had to say about the future of fashion.
What inspired the alias Bugs Garson?
I wanted to capture the essence of my grandparents love letters to each other in 1948. The alias Bugs Garson is based on my grandmother’s nickname for an ex-boyfriend she had a while back, which I thought was funny because she was writing my grandfather under the guise, but I wanted Bugs Garson to represent them both and the relationship I had with them.
How did you infuse the inspiration from your alias, Bugs Garson, into the collection?
The collection is a range of colors and prints interwoven into the romance between the back-and-forth exchange between my grandparents over the years, so I thought it would be fun to play with the juxtaposition of textures, fabrics, and a matching piece to spotlight their relationship.
Where would you like to see your work?
I want to be small, create an element of desire. I think it’s important that the brand is sustainable to it doesn’t tip over its head in the long run.
Why are you choosing to do womenswear?
My mom was born without armpit hair which created a lot of confusion and fear for me when I was younger. I wasn’t sure which was the right way the female body should be, which inspired this collection. I wanted to obliterate the woman’s body and tell a different story. I wanted to be playful and use the body as a valley, stream, and a space to just play, to define my own reality of the type of woman I want to see.
I see you're challenging the structure of the female body, what do you think the industry should do more when designing for women?
I think there should be more flexibility and fluidity in the clothing for women. As a Yogi, I’m curious about how a woman can stay in the body and maintain herself while moving in the clothing. I want to see women be brave, generous, and courageous.
What was the most difficult part of the process?
Honestly, it was a natural process. I just flowed with the garments going from 2D to 3D, experimenting until I found something that stuck.
Why was it important for you to challenge the concept of language and communication in this collection?
I’ve always been fascinated by how society judged language and words, especially educationally. There’s a standard when taking tests on what is right and wrong, but I’ve always thought there are other right answers that apply. So using language, words, and communication to say something that others haven’t thought about is what inspired this collection.
What is your approach to fashion?
I don’t have any rules when it comes to fashion. People say there’s a right way to do this or right way to be a good child, a good student, or a good person, but it all it does is make you similar to each other. We have different characters, especially in what you have to say, what you like, and how you like to express that to the world. There’s no need to be anxious, nervous, it’s just about expression.
What would you like to see in the industry when it comes to women in fashion?
I want to see more designs with women that are confident and independent. I want to see a woman that knows what she wants, someone who’s not chasing trends, but has a taste. A strong-minded woman is important because it shows in how she dresses and the way she carries herself.
How has your mother’s breast cancer diagnosis impacted your work? It’s at the center of my work. She had her breast removed which pushed me into this perfectionist mindset where I started to challenge the woman’s body which allowed me to infuse dimension, space, and different textures into the collection.
When you think about the perfect imperfection in fashion, how do you think the industry has conveyed that in the work from following designers?
Margiela does a great job of creating perfect imperfections in his pieces. The models in his campaigns often hide their hands which creates something of an imperfect perfect look that I gravitate towards. But that’s the lens I approach any piece of art so I might be biased.
What’s in plans for you in the future?
I want to continue my own label in China, but I’m a student to life so I want to continue learning and studying my craft.
Jin Min Lee
What is the inspiration behind this collection?
I am fascinated with the idea of male beauty, so I used this collection to showcase that through exoticism, sexuality, and the naked truth.
How has your culture impacted your passion for your work?
I come from a conservative Korean culture where women’s sexual desires are repressed however when I moved to NY, I found the freedom to express myself and my deepest desires, which led me to manifest my desires through the male gaze.
What’s next for you after graduation?
I want to continue my work in exploring the beauty of males with different subjects. I’m a bit under pressure to find work, but I want to stay in NYC and continue working with different brands and people.
You’re using politics to speak on your collection, how has NYC influenced your design?
When I was young, I had perceptions of what America/NYC would be and it’s totally different from what I’ve experienced, so the collection is a composition of the different characters (police officer, dancers, writer) I’ve encountered. I’m always looking for remnants of home (Pakistan) while in this city, which is why I’ve infused bunnies to showcase my childhood memories.
What are some core ethics that drove you to execute this collection?
Freedom, sexuality, and desire. It’s about how a Pakistani woman approaches female empowerment in America especially as a Muslim. The industry lacks diversity and I wanted to use this opportunity to show something different through my political viewpoints. I used the fear of the big city to excite and challenge myself in immersing in the culture which aroused a contradicting sense of style.
What was your goal with the collection?
I want to create a dialogue that empowers women from diverse cultural backgrounds without the burden of societal assimilation.
Where does your inspiration come from for this collection?
I’m trained in classical ballet so my designs are pushed by that silhouette, especially for workwear and the everyday look. But I also wanted to add a performative flare, hence why I have crystals on the legs of this pant.
What’s the constant theme you used throughout the project to hone in on the pieces?
Embellishment, it’s one of the techniques I used to hone in on the pieces, much like in ballet.
What do you want to implement in fashion?
Sustainability. I think it’s slowly but surely happening, but it can happen faster. I think more education for the consumer on what sustainability is and shifting the perception of what fashion is which will reduce fast production. We need to push creativity, good design, and innovation which will solve the problem of sustainability, but it will take time.
How did this collection come about?
I decided to use my experiences over the years to create a collection that conveyed the world as a whole, kind of like a melting pot. So we have bits and memories from Iraq, Pakistan, London, and NYC all in one. I like playing with color and pattern. I went to Catholic school so I used to vandalize my uniforms with safety pins to express myself through my clothing which you see a lot of in this collection. Things just morphed into each other and I flowed from there.
What was one key theme you used to drive the creation of your design?
Flexibility is important to me. I’m a performer, so I want to create movement which is why I used latex to showcase the fluidity in the fabric throughout the collection.
What would you bring to consumers as you move forward as a brand?
Craftsmanship and art, I consider this craft couture which you can’t get anywhere. I’m taking it back to the artisan but keeping it high level. I like heavy stuff, tugging the line between masculine and feminine. I wanted it to be as unisex as possible so I wanted things to be the same fit.
What’s next for you?
I want to get hands dirty honestly, I’m just waiting for something to fall on my lap. My brain is currently in limbo so I’m still waiting to see where the journey takes me.
Who would you like to wear your designs?
Patti Smith, Kim Gordon, Florence Welch—anyone that feels drawn to my work.
What’s the technique behind your work?
There’s definitely a level of craftsmanship coupled with a D.I.Y punk ethos to it. I just play with darkness, but include a soft feminine flare to it.
Walk us through the process of this collection.
I used the collection to reflect my childhood memories and how they never left me. I love womenswear, knitwear, in particular, so I use different techniques to create a story through texture, weight, and layers. I have a process where knitting is the base which is clear and unclear in some parts, rubbing and screen prints represent the second layer, and ceramic is the final layer which is solid and tangible, yet precious and fragile.
What’s next for you?
I’m not sure but I want to work with a knitwear brand in NY, that’s my specialty and focus, so I’m looking to get a job with a brand or studio where I can get my hands dirty.
How has the program pushed you towards your goals?
It was good for discipline because I realized what mattered the most to me which was my childhood memories, which was infused into the collection.
What was the inspiration behind this collection?
I infused my Russian heritage along with the influence of Australian culture to create a story of family history. I enjoyed juxtaposing loud and quiet, color and craftsmanship to create a collection that is vibrant, simple, yet fun.
Do you think the industry is aware of the sustainability crisis?
I think we need to be more aware, especially in terms of production. Designers are expected to produce with quick turn around which creates unhealthy work environments and unhealthy mindset. There are different facets of sustainability that we need to pay attention to, not just production.
You speak of fast fashion, how can the industry dwindle on the mass production?
By doing exactly that, slowing down the process, giving designers the time and pace to create something long-lasting over time instead of fast fashion.
Where do you think the future of fashion is right now?
I think sustainability is a mindset. We have to be conscious about how we’re manufacturing products before we can see that transpire in various industries. I love nature, Earth, so I want to preserve it as much as possible using technology. Though we’re not there yet, I think that’s the avenue we should be moving into.
You said you’re inspired by Adam and Eve, what does that mean or look like in your work?
I think people are fascinated with desire, but in the same breath are ashamed of it, which is why Adam and Eve is fascinating to me. I’m using this collection to open the world up to the possibility of desire, how to bask in it without feeling shame.
What’s next for you?
I want to be a stylist for select clients. I’ve always liked collaborating with artists so If I can work with them in that manner and designing special pieces that would be amazing.