Our Favorite Looks From Parsons MFA Presentation


Our Favorite Looks From Parsons MFA Presentation


Photography: BFA

It’s almost no surprise that some of this year’s best collections came from Parsons MFA. I mean, last year’s lineup included JAHNKOY and Snow Xue Gao. But a lot of times, student work looks like, well, student work—and that’s not a good thing when it comes to couture (or even ready-to-wear) fashion. So this season, I obviously went it under-expecting—and came out more than pleasantly surprised. Yeah, it’s a total cliche. But who the fuck cares if it’s actually true?

At this season’s Parsons MFA showcase, NIHL, Zoe Champion, Shanel, Shizhe He, Tingyue Jiang, Di Gao, Venus Lo, Amanda Brown and Caroline Hu showed collections alongside a bunch of first year pieces made in partnership with Swarovski. Aside from some of the freshman collections, our favorites were definitely NIHL, Zoe Champion and Caroline Hu.

For his collection, NIHL designer, Neil Grassinger, went with avant-garde menswear that felt part Ralph Lauren, part Moulin Rouge. Zoe Champion, after losing her grandmother, took a very conceptual approach and focused on the way people relate to clothes. Hu, who had the most dramatic pieces, used a smoke machine to create a traditional effect, then hand-painted the fabric. The result looked like wearable impressionist art.

Though all very different, the thing that Grassinger, Champion and Hu had in common was the ability to blend realism with imagination. Each designer debuted innovative pieces that were crazy enough for runway, but also actually wearable. That’s the thing a lot of brands miss these days—either by over-dramatizing collections for the spectacle, or by debuting athleisure every season. And that’s why we’re excited to see what they do next.

View photos from the Parsons MFA presentation above, and read interviews with Grassinger, Champion and Hu, below.


Tell me about the collection.

I really wanted to create alternative couture menswear.

What inspired it?

I was inspired by different iconic men’s separates and transforming them into something that was very one-of-a-kind.  So a lot of the pieces are based on something you’ve seen before—everyday pieces, like t-shirts, motorcycle jackets and jeans. We sliced them apart and joined them together with different embroidery mechanisms. We also some made some entirely out of embroidery. For example, if I were to make a t-shirt, I would make it entirely out of lace, and every seam would be handmade. So it would seem functional, but it would be entirely decorative. It’s kind of this idea that everything we know as practical is, in fact, decorative.

What was on your mood board this season?

There were a lot of images of different men in iconic films like Robert Dinero in Taxi Driver, James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause, Tom Cruise in Eyes Wide Shut. The images of people—especially film—that have shaped our view of masculinity.

How does this collection compare to your previous work?

I was originally doing womenswear—I have a lot of experience in the industry as a womenswear designer and that’s where I developed my skill-set. But I would always make clothes for myself out of necessity, and that really drove my desire to do menswear.

Do you think fashion should be political?

Definitely. I believe there are a lot of gender politics in what I do—trying to break boundaries on what a person should wear or shouldn’t. There’s really a lot you can say about human anthropology and politics in fashion.

What do you see your role as a designer, especially during hyper-political times?

My role as a designer? To be an instigator for change and social awareness. The way that people present themselves has a significant impact on how we see the world.

Zoe Champion

Tell me about the collection. What inspired it?

My grandmother—she passed away over the summer. We were clearing out her wardrobe and there were all of these clothes that were so important to me, but I didn’t feel like I could wear them because they were her clothes and couldn’t go over my body. So, I would just hold them against myself. But I didn’t want to get rid of them. This collection is about the connection between holding clothes against yourself but not actually wearing them—it’s a lot of pictures of clothes on top of clothes and trompe l’oeil effects. I ended up actually taking pictures of my grandmother and family photos that I didn’t experience, so I didn’t have a real connection to them, and digitized them up and did all this stuff to them to make them more relatable.

What was on your moodboard?

A lot of photos of my grandma, family photos, digital manipulation, color, and textiles—it was really about experimenting through textiles rather than image sourcing.

How does this collection compare to your previous work?

This collection is a lot more creative because it explores the connection people have with each other and with their clothes. Previously, my process has been about finding a source of inspiration and designing from that. This was more about creating feeling and a moment in time—it’s very personal.

Who do you see as the Zoe Champion man or woman?

Anyone can wear it—it’s for someone who’s fun and daring and likes to be an individual.

Do you think fashion should be political?

I think fashion is political, no matter if you’re trying to be or not. The fact that we wear it every single day has a large impact—particularly with all of the people involved in the process of making it. There’s just no way for it not to be political. But I also think fashion can just be fun and bring joy and excitement.

What do you see as your role as a designer, especially during this hyper-political time?

It’s about being very smart in the way that you make clothes—being environmental and ethical, but also creating clothes specifically for people to have a connection to. My thing is making clothes that people connect to and want to wear their whole lives.

Caroline Hu

Tell me about the collection. What inspired it?

Renaissance art and paintings, fabric and design. For this collection, I uses a smoking machine to create a traditional smoking effect and then painted the fabric.

How does this season compare to your previous work?

It’s more focused on one thing. I wasn’t trying to do embroidery and a bunch of different techniques—I just focused on one direction and researched it very deeply.

Describe your brand in three words.

A romantic accident.

Do you think fashion should be political?

No. For me, fashion is just art so there’s no need to be so loud.