The Future of Fashion Education: Creating Beautiful Solutions at The Fashion Colloquia New York
Diana Vreeland once said, “You must always give ideas away. Under every idea is a new once waiting to be born.” This concept of giving ideas away was evident at Fashion Colloquia New York, which took place February 8, 2013 at Parsons The New School of Design. Set to coincide with New York Fashion Week, this was the fourth such conference in the series. Previous Colloquia had taken place at The Institut Français de la Mode in Paris, University of the Arts London, and Domus Academy in Milan. Although the snowstorm condensed the plans for this two-day event into one, the spirit of collaboration was in evidence throughout the day and especially in the opening remarks of Simon Collins, Dean of the School of Fashion at Parsons The New School of Design. Collins summarized the seven guiding principles by which he has lead the school to become a sought-after partner for such brands as Stella McCartney and Christian Louboutin.
1. Brilliance Only Please!
“If we cannot do it brilliantly, we won’t do it,” said Collins who made it clear that he would accept nothing less.
2. Keep alumni close.
Parsons has a long list of notable alumni such as Marc Jacobs, Anna Sui, Narciso Rodriguez, Donna Karan, Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler, By featuring alumni in high profile school events and collaborations, they bring publicity by association and offer students opportunities for informal access and networking. As well, Parson’s annual Fashion Benefit raises approximately $1.5 million for student scholarships.
3. Just say No!
If an opportunity comes along and doesn’t fit the school’s mandate (see rule #1), they won’t do it, and Collins will politely decline.
4. Never, Never, Never, Never, Never, Never Give in!
Giving credit to Winston Churchill for this principle, Collins says that he is intentionally provocative around this issue and will simply “not tolerate bad design” in any format, mentioning email as something that should be executed with elegance and thoughtfulness. (I found myself nodding to this one as I have been known to dig in my heels when it comes to not settling for anything less than brilliantly beautiful.)
5. Create Beautiful Solutions.
“If it is not beautiful, we don’t want it,” said Collins.
6. Be Nice.
This simple rule is often overlooked in the fashion world, said Collins. Nice begets nice.
Collins explained this Italian term describes a certain nonchalance and elegance. He wanted his faculty, his students and his alumni and all the rest of us to design and conduct ourselves with sprezzatura.
Collins candor was both refreshing and provocative. Challenged during the question period to define “bad design”, Collins simply asserted that we all know it when we see it, and said that sustainability equated to “selling less crap”.
The balance of the day included a host of speakers including a panel on “Fashion, Architecture and Urban Planning”, a presentation on the “Fashion and Technology” exhibition at the FIT Museum by co-curator Emma McClendon, a conversation between Professor Shelly Fox and alumni Lucia Cuba who designed a dress worn by Lady Gaga, as well as several academic papers on “Digital Technologies & Their Impact on Fashion” as well as “Globalization of Fashion”. The day ended with a conversation between Beth Dincuff Charleston who curated the exhibit “Sophie Gimbel: Fashioning American Culture” and Helen O’Hagan a long-time friend and co-worker of Sophie Gimbel at Saks Fifth Avenue.
Although the weather presented considerable obstacles for the conference organizers, the event came together with a good measure of sprezzatura. It was elegant, brilliant and fun, especially the after-party as we all braced ourselves for the wintery commute home. The conference proceedings will be available online on the Parsons blog Parsons560. Future Fashion Colloquia events are planned to coincide with the fashion weeks in such cities as Mumbai and Shanghai.
Quoting Parsons’ Website:
The Fashion Colloquia is made up of a core network of four universities (London College of Fashion, Domus Academy, Institut Français de la Mode and Parsons The New School For Design) connected by their geographies and involvement in the four big ‘fashion cities’ of Paris, London, Milan, and New York. The New York session of The Fashion Colloquium hosted by Parsons The New School for Design will closed this inaugural series in February 2013.
You can find more information about the Fashion Colloquia on fashioncolloquia.com
More recordings of the Colloquia’s presentations are available for viewing on Parsons live streaming page.
The Campaign Against Bad Fashion – Simon Collins, Dean School of Fashion, Parsons The New School for Design.
Fashion Design: Collaboration, Craft & the Collective Zeitgeist – Fiona Dieffenbacher, Director, BFA Fashion Design, Assistant Professor, Parsons New School for Design.
Sophie Gimbel: Fashioning American Couture – Beth Dincuff Charleston, Curator / Adjunct Faculty, Parsons Arnold in conversation with Helen O’Hagan a long-time friend and co-worker of Sophie Gimbel at Saks Fifth Avenue.
Fashion, Architecture, and Urban Planning/Fashion – Timo Rissanen Assistant Professor of Fashion Design and Sustainability at Parsons The New School for Design (sitting for Joel Towers, Excetive Dean, Parsons The New School) with fashion designer Yeohlee Teng & Deborah Marton, Senior Vice President of Programs, New York Restoration Project, discussing the future of Fashion in New York City and the NYC mid-town campaign.
Technology at MFIT: Exploring 250 Years of Forward-Thinking Design – Emma McClendon, Curatorial Assistant The museum at The Fashion Institute of Technology