Student work never fails to deliver the most experimental ranges, as the fashion created in school by tomorrow’s freshest, new talent isn’t yet tainted by any pressures of capital success. It’s true—when money is removed entirely from the creative process, designers are able to redefine limiting rules and move the needle as far forward as possible. Though ultimately unrealistic, such uninhibited play is important for designers to entertain before becoming jaded by the commercial industry.
At this year’s Parsons BFA fashion show, students’ mini collections certainly pushed the edge—some lineups mirroring the outside world and dramatizing social conflicts, while others looked internally to reveal designers’ dreams, fears and faded memories. With one body of work to encapsulate their entire student experience, graduate collections are inevitably charged with confident, complex concepts.
From Angela Luna’s humanitarian outerwear to Han Wen’s feminist eveningwear, these are 10 of Parsons’ most promising fashion graduates and names to keep on your radar:
“My collection is inspired by my babyhood. Babyhood is a time that most people consider as being ambiguous and vague, mainly because most people are unable to remember most of their experiences during this time. However for me, I consider my babyhood as an extremely valuable memory in my life. I was able to spend time with my mom, experiencing life together as I took my first step, and spoke my first word. Although like all memories, I cannot remember every single detail so clearly; I will forever cherish this sweet memory of my babyhood.”
“Design for Difference, now Adiff, is a humanitarian fashion outerwear brand dedicated to addressing global issues through design, providing customers with unique and innovative products, and performing large scale donation. [My] collection, Crossing the Boundary, is unisex and one-size, with jackets that serve multiple, transformable purposes. Created in response to the refugee crisis, each jacket offers a designed solution to one or more issues that refugees face on a daily basis. There are jackets that convert to large and small tents, a sleeping bag, or backpack, as well as jackets equipped for carrying children, floatation and visibility.”
“My design philosophy is inspired very much by my emotions, and my thesis collection, The Daydreamer, is an autobiographical representation of who I am as a designer and habitual daydreamer. Ever since I was a little girl I would often get in trouble at school for imagining that I was somewhere else, on another adventure. I was inspired by Frances Burnett’s The Secret Garden, and the collection sets out in an escapist dream of the nostalgic old English countryside where a little girl finds herself in the middle of a magical garden. It is a journey of self-discovery, and in the little girl I saw bits of myself. She is at first alone in her daydreams, but gradually she learns to reach outside herself and share her fantasy with others.”
“My thesis is titled Ghosts of Svalbard. Last summer I traveled to Svalbard, in the Norwegian archipelago. I wanted my thesis to revolve around exploration and inhabiting the uninhabitable, so I thought trekking glacial landscapes would be a good starting point. I soon realized that climate change left a distinct mark on the topography, and that the ‘ghosts’ of our consumer decisions travel to Svalbard, altering the landscape, damaging the terrain, even if we never physically go there. We become unintentional intruders—ghosts that end up inhabiting the uninhabitable. I explored the dialogue between these two distinct, simultaneous realities—the reality of us here in New York and the reality of our presence in Svalbard.”
Wei Hung Chen
“This thesis collection is a result of attempting to redefine the system of making garments in order to improve the issue of waste. This led to a series of investigating, compartmentalizing garments, and researching closure techniques to discover new methods of utilizing these garment components and redefine how they can be worn and constructed. Making garments modular can maximize a garment’s interchangeability. This allows the wearers to constantly experiment and play with their garments, taking pieces off and putting them back on based on seasons/occasions/trends. This infinite interchangeability will ultimately lengthen the garment’s lifespan in one’s closet, allowing it to live beyond seasons and fixed time.”
“We all have our own way of overcoming homesickness. Living in an unfamiliar environment far from my family, I decorated the interior of my New York apartment to remind me of my home in Korea. This collection was inspired by my living space—my Scandinavian furniture, large globe floor lamp, wool cashmere blanket, all of which created an atmosphere of security, comfort and warmth reminiscent of my Korean home. I wanted to bring people into my personal sanctuary, as a designer who believes there’s no boundary separating design. I created accessories and other stationary items to reflect even the smallest elements of my home. I tried to express both tangible and intangible features, using opaque fabrics to represent structure and furniture, and sheer fabrics to articulate warmth, light and mood.”
“My thesis collection is inspired by my early personal experience with social anxiety. My research process made me realize that the pressure and anxiety never left my life, but the only thing that changed is my attitude towards those problems. Therefore, I choose to present the anxiety through a humorous animation perspective. I hope the clothes I designed can make people laugh about our anxiety.”
“After years of living in here, I’ve found that women in the western world tend to be more aware and enthusiastic about being independent and having female rights compared to China, where I am from. This difference led me to a fantasy: What if China were powered by women, or what if the world were powered by women? How would this affect women’s ways of dressing? Growing up surrounded by great women, I’ve always been inspired to reflect on my own strengths and conflicts as a man. The amazing women in my family—mainly my mother—encouraged me to realize the importance of living the life I want to live. Through this collection I am expressing a defiant yet romantic female through the eyes of a man who appreciates the power of women.”
“This collection has been an opportunity to take lessons I have learned working in costume design and fashion design over the past few years, and apply them to create something that is both here and there. I believe that ultimately the difference between the two worlds is simply context, that no garment is inherently one or the other. But most importantly, I believe that fashion and costume have transformative power. I believe the clothes we wear can take us to another place or time, or elevate us to a more fantastic version of ourselves. This is what The Dollies is for me — a means of transportation and transformation to a place of fantasy, joy and exploration.”
“For my thesis collection, I wanted to go through the depths of my heart and feel what I want say, but can’t say to people. I wanted to explore how my views change as I get older and take inventory of all my feelings. I wanted to process my emotions into my drawings, development and fabrics to develop a poignant collection.”