The BFA in Fashion Design program is housed in the School of Fashion, alongside the Associate in Applied Science degrees in Fashion Design and Fashion Marketing and the new Master of Fine Arts in Fashion Design and Society program. Students throughout the thematic school collaborate—and sometimes compete—on selected projects, and share ideas and elective courses. The School of Fashion provides a rigorous academic environment where students learn to see their work in the context of a global, interconnected network of trends, markets, and manufacture and distribution channels, as well as in light of concerns for economic and ecological sustainability.
Located in two world centers of fashion, the program counts more than 100 practicing designers and professionals among its faculty. Guest lecturers and critics at the top of their fields join with instructors to challenge students both intellectually and practically. Noted designers such as alumni Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough of Proenza Schouler and Donna Karan return to campus to engage students in conversation about work in the field and give feedback. Presentations by local designers expose students to diverse voices; a recent one by Isabel and Ruben Toledo offered a glimpse into an avant-garde design practice.
By enrolling in Art and Design History and Theory courses as well as related studio classes, students acquire essential research, writing, and critical reasoning skills while developing conceptual foundations for creative inquiry. Because Parsons is part of The New School, students can also choose from lecture courses and electives in the humanities, social sciences, media studies, and business offered in New York and online.
Program participants gain real-world experience in various ways, such as internships, senior thesis week reviews, and the Parsons Benefit and Fashion Show, all of which put student work in front of buyers, designers, and other industry experts. Partnerships with local retailers also support student designers. Recent collaborations with Bloomingdale's, Henri Bendel, Ellen Tracy, Lucky Brand, and luxury footwear and accessories retailer Cesare Paciotti brought Parsons student designs to market.
Intensive, short-term projects afford other learning opportunities: For Celebration of Children's Fashion, senior-year students created childrenswear collections; For the design competition Reconstruction, teams deconstructed Louis Vuitton pieces by Marc Jacobs and combined elements from them with elements from vintage fashions from the Parsons Archives. Swarovski Crystals sponsored a recent costume competition for which student designers created fantastical costumes for historical monarchs. Course-based collaborations like The Design and Marketing of Luxury Goods is a semester-long program bringing together business and design students to work directly with executives in the luxury goods industry on product development. Past partners include Chanel, Christian Dior, Lladró, LVMH Perfumes and Cosmetics, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bulgari, and Hèrmes.
Seasonal industry events such as Fashion Week afford students myriad opportunities to engage with the field, network, and see work. Even the program's locations are intentional. Surrounding the David Schwartz Fashion Education Center, the program's main building in the heart of New York's garment district, are scores of patternmakers, showrooms, and fabric and accessories vendors. Our location in Paris, formerly home to the French Fashion Federation's École de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture Parisienne, similarly takes advantage of its setting amid the museums, ateliers, archives, and design houses of the first arrondissement. The cities' resources extend beyond the creative talent of their designers and editors to include the industry's business side and cultural connections.
The Fashion Design program's mode of interdisciplinary inquiry examines fashion from social, cultural, historical, and economic perspectives, inspiring students' interest in sustainability and other broad political and economic shifts. Lecture series such as Rethinking Fashion bring experts to campus to speak on topical industry concerns like the role of sustainability in fashion. The Fabric of Cultures: Fashion, Identity, Globalization, a recent panel hosted at Parsons, explored the impact of fashion manufacturing on local and global economies, cultures, and identities, providing critical foundations to students' studio work.