- Jackie Mallon |
The 69th annual Parsons Fashion Benefit opened with, not only the glitzy arrival of guest of honor Rihanna wearing a suit by Parsons alum, Matthew Adams Dolan, but also one of its buzziest student collections, that of Ji Won Choi who has already gained international attention for her bold graphic statement of engineered stripes in loose relaxed shapes that recall Japanese martial arts clothing.
Jacob Olmeda began his BFA thesis process by envisaging the world through the eyes of a bee and worked with a hydroponic textile that resembles grass growing out of a sandy surface. While he uses battle terminology like “guerilla gardening,” and refers to his garments as “environmental armor,” his motivation is the most natural thing in the world: to bring humans and the environment together as one.
Knitwear made a particularly strong showing on the runway starting off in ecrus that bloomed into soft pastels before an all-out riot of color towards the finale. Qiongxin Kou’s gentle colors with cobalt trims were open and loose like fishing nets but boasting a haul of five-petaled flowers.
Loose knits and button ups
Shirting showed up in unexpected variations, a cuffed sleeve of it completing the leg of a pant in Valentina Ramirez’s collection which also explored the classic corporate button-up worn back to front, or splashed with felted wool on torsos and shoulders. Chia Lee’s pretty spore-like embellishments on child-like silhouettes looked crisp worn over another button-up, this time of delicate organza.
Margaret Kwon’s dazzling beading on elegant forest-green floor-length crepe with a cut away hem at the back allowed the train to emerge in dramatic but gentle fashion creating impact when entering and exiting the room.
Eunice Yoon Lee’s collection was engineered to be assembled and broken down with ease. She used snaps which allow for flat packed storage and convenient travel. Rika Konishi’s menswear made rich use of indigo layers disrupted with distressed textiles that seemed to burst from seams, creep up limbs, and in one case even engulf the body. A sweater created to look convex. almost like a grey orb disguising the model’s upper body was fun. Aran Kim mixed painterly strokes, heavy stitching and patchwork to snake up the length of a dynamic jumpsuit.
Eyes On The Prize
A notable addition to the runway were the eye-catching sunglasses and many of the designers had accessorized their garments with their own design of footwear and bag. Italian eyewear giant Safilo collaborated with Parsons for the first time this year, and even provided an inaugural award to student Olivia LeBlanc for her sunglasses design. The partnership with Venice’s Politecnico Calzaturiero has been ongoing for a number of years and gives students the opportunity to have shoes made. As the Dean of Fashion, Burak Cakmak, noted in his opening speech, today’s students must create full collections, becoming “lifestyle designers."
The show closed in high spirits with Emma Cleveland’s collection of vivid knits and scribbled prints in a crayola palette that had the virtuoso splendor and naif whimsy one might expect if David Hockney sat down to doodle on his iPad with Zandra Rhodes. And to perfectly bookend the proceedings, when the announcement of the winners of the Kering Empowering Imagination Award was announced––a prize of 10,000 dollars––it went to Cleveland together with the show opener Ji Won Choi.
To encapsulate the mood of the evening, Rihanna with Donna Karan, a 2016 Honoree, united on stage to announce the recipient of the Parsons Design Fellowship, a competitive program launched by Karan’s Urban Zen Foundation, which gives students the opportunity to travel and work in Haiti. Students collaborate with local artisans at Urban Zen’s Design, Organization, Training (D.O.T) Center, this year to develop a merchandise line benefitting Haiti and Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation. The winners were Helena Bajaj Larsen, Valentina Ramirez and Ishita Mehta.
By contributing guest editor Jackie Mallon, who is on the teaching faculty of several NYC fashion programmes and is the author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.
Photos: Jamie Mccarthy / Getty Images North America / Via AFP. Getty images featuring collections of Ji Won Choi, Jacob Olmeda, Qiongxin Kou, Valentina Ramirez, Margaret Kwon, Eunice Yoon Lee, Aram Kim, Eunbyul Kim, Olivia Leblanc, Jihyun Myung, Emma Cleveland.