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Parsons toasts MFA class of 2020 with designer showcase

By Jackie Mallon

Oct 25, 2020


Thanks to partner Veuve Cliquot, this unprecedented year still ended in style for the cohort of Parsons MFA Fashion Design and Society program. In a virtual celebration which included musical acts from the College of Performing Arts, words of encouragement and inspiration from NYC luminaries such as Donna Karan and Sarah Jessica Parker, and Louis Vuitton artistic director Virgil Abloh, the event also served as a fundraising reimagining of May’s Parsons Benefit which had to be cancelled due to Covid. Due to instability brought on by the pandemic, The New School is projecting an additional 22 million dollars in financial need for students in the 2020-21 academic year, beyond the 110 million dollars typically awarded.

The event culminated with the premiere of the MFA Fashion Design and Society Designer Showcase featuring the work of ten designers: Chi Yu Han, Jessica Guzman, Kaiwen Shi, Karen Heshi, Lily Xu, Quinzi Gao, Samantha D’Iorio, Sarah Lim, Shuxuan Li, and Zhuoran Li. The presentation, in lieu of the program's annual New York Fashion Week runway show and exhibition, interlaced behind-the-scenes footage of their process work with the students’ completed creations to form a visual diary while introducing us to the designers themselves as they spoke about their inspirations, explained techniques and described the overarching goals behind their work.

If ever design and society have collided, it is this year and the featured collections reflect what program director, Shelley Fox, describes as “ten different designers, with ten different points of view, on ten different journeys.”

And the journeys of these emergent visionaries, whose creativity FashionUnited spotlights a sampling of below, are only just beginning. Fox’s advice to them as they walk into more uncertainty than perhaps any other group in the program’s history? “If the space doesn’t exist for them, they should make it exist.”

Parsons MFA Fashion design and society 2020 spotlight

Taiwanese Chi Yu Han’s collection is inspired by the endless creative freedom of New York City and the experience of coming out. Through clothing the designer explores occupying the space in-between genders and the concepts of femininity and masculinity in more traditional societies.

Jessica Guzman’s experimental knitwear is about programing chance into the technical repetition of creating stitches, rejecting exact replication in favor of spontaneity and evolution.

Through her childlike love of handcrafts and the animated comics of Henry Darger, Kaiwen Shi aims to create a sanctuary for people who want a respite from the intensity of contemporary life, through her use of bright colors, shiny threads, wire beading, weaving, embroidery, and tufting.

Lily Xu explores cultural melancholia and the feeling of longing in unconventional knitwear techniques, print and paint, as she reinterprets her grandfather’s old photographs.

Zhuoran Li reimagines her own body as an assemblage of geometric shapes in knit creating both an artist's canvas and a second skin.

Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

Photos provided by Parsons: Header image of work by Kaiwen Shi; other photos of work from top by Chi Yu Han, Jessica Guzman, Kaiwen Shi, Lily Xu and Zhuoran Li.