Fashion Design and Society (MFA)

The Master of Fine Arts degree is awarded for completion of 60 credits. No credits may be transferred. Students must maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade point average and fulfill all requirements in a timely manner.

First Year / Fall

PGFD 5100 Orientation 1 1.5
PGFD 5110 Design Studio 1: Personal Identity 6
PGFD 5130 Design in Fashion Systems 3

First Year / Spring

PGFD 5120 Design Studio 2 6
PGFD 5140 Advanced Visual Practicum 1.5
PGFD 5150 Fashion Presentation 3
PGFS 5030 Fashion Cultures: Lecture 0
PGFS 5031 Fashion Cultures: Recitation 3

Second Year / Fall

PGFD 5200 Orientation 2 1.5
PGFD 5210 Design Studio 3 6
PGFD 5230 Communication 3
PGFD 5240 Thesis Preparation 3

Second Year / Spring

PGFD 5220 Design Thesis Studio 9
PGFD 5250 Thesis Reviews 1.5
PGFD 5260 Thesis Presentation and Portfolio 3
PGFD 5270 Professional Practice 3
Total Credits 60

Curriculum Description

First Year | Fall Semester

Orientation/Intensive I

An introduction to the MFA Fashion Design & Society Program, the course is a one-week intensive research project that takes place at the beginning of the first semester and aids in the development of graduate culture at Parsons. The course provides a foundation for success in the Personal Identity: Design Studio I course.

Personal Identity: Design Studio I

This course is split into two sections. The first, focusing on personal identity, deconstructs and reconstructs how students think and research, pushing them to look beyond ordinary fashion references and encouraging them to explore literature, film, art, politics, photography, science, anthropology, history, and economics. The second, studio-based section builds on the thought processes and research material developed in the personal identity section of the course. It culminates with taking a small constructed collection of clothing to toile stage/final fabric.

Design in Fashion Systems

Although the fashion industry is often modeled as an economic and symbolic transaction between designers and consumers, it is difficult to use this model to portray fashion as a creative industry. Studies of complex adaptive systems provide a rich alternative model for interpreting the structural relationships and evolutionary dynamic that regulate creativity in the industry. By learning key principles—from systems-theory and case-study methods—students discover innovative ways to realize their designs and collaborate with designers, manufacturers, producers, distributors, retailers, the media, and consumers. Design in Fashion Systems is a graduate level course for students interested in understanding how fashion is shaped by forces beyond design.

University-wide or Fashion Studies Elective

Students choose an elective either in Fashion Studies or in another program at The New School with the advice of faculty as needed.

First Year | Spring Semester

Design Studio II

Design Studio II links students with industry partners, who are chosen for their emphasis on new technologies in fashion such as fabrication, garment construction, yarn use, or fabric manipulation. It allows students to gain industry expertise and use innovation in order to experiment in clothing design.

Advanced Practicum: Photography

This workshop equips students with basic knowledge and skills in photography. Held weekly, it covers digital and SLR cameras, exposure, processing, lighting, and color management as well as studio workflow and team management. Students learn additional language that enables them to communicate their ideas and frame their concepts. Workshops run parallel to their projects and provide material they can use in design.

Fashion Presentation

An international visiting professor leads the course, which explores creative means of presenting fashion. Placing fashion production within the metropolitan environment, the course examines the relationship between fashion and the city and articulates creativity as a practice that is situated in a specific place. Designers are urged to recognize the cultural context that they work in and consider how that context affects the way they communicate creative and commercial concepts.

Fashion Cultures

This lecture course provides students with a broad framework to understand fashion as a culture, system, and industry intrinsically linked to globalization. Lectures are given by speakers from The New School and elsewhere. Students explore multiple perspectives on fashion and its wider social and cultural dimensions and see how diverse disciplines influence fashion theory and practice.

Second Year | Fall Semester

Orientation/Intensive II

This course is the opening intensive prior to Thesis Preparation. It is a one-week intensive that takes place during the beginning of the second year. A visiting professional designer leads a discussion on the relationship between individualism and personal voice. The course brings students together to experience group learning and to set the stage for future design debates and discussions.


This course explores filmmaking as a way to expand on the traditional techniques (fashion illustration, photography, and others) that designers use to develop a design or collection. This course does not train students to design for cinema (i.e. to design costumes) or instruct them in marketing and advertising. Rather, it uses film as a medium to inform their concepts and collections. Through film, students capture their aspirations, reflect on influences, explore curiosities, and develop narratives that are often present in the initial stage of design. As students develop an understanding of film techniques—from how to structure a narrative to how to pace an edited sequence—they learn to find and use a new aspect of their voice.

Design Studio III

Design Studio III will be a collaborative project with an International Design Company. The design company in partnership with the Program Director will establish the design brief. The aim of the project is to: broaden and deepen the student's understanding of the professional design world;enable access to the knowledge and expertise of the professionals; understand the importance of project management; to understand the relationships between practice, research & development within the market and finally to understand the professional environment and its expectations.

Thesis Preparation

This course prepares students to successfully complete the Design Thesis Studio's final collection/capstone project. Students submit a written proposal and research material that supports a final project. They are expected to do research and develop a plan for sourcing materials and finishing, manufacturing, and prototyping the product. In addition, they must make industry contacts in order to make use of materials technologies and manufacturing techniques as necessary.

University-wide or Fashion Studies Elective

Students choose an elective either in Fashion Studies or in another program at The New School with advice from faculty as needed.

Second Year | Spring Semester

Intensive Thesis Reviews

This one-week course, which draws on Parsons' graduate culture, is taken by all graduate thesis students at the beginning of their final semester. It includes critical feedback sessions with practicing professionals, designers, and artists from inside and outside the fashion industry.

Design Thesis Studio

In this capstone course, taken after Thesis Review, students develop their own proposal for a final project. Students to use all their research and focus on one significant project. By the end of the course, students should demonstrate improved capabilities as designers and innovative uses of technical cutting and materials.

Thesis Presentation and Portfolio

Thesis Presentation and Portfolio is held in tandem with the Design Thesis Studio. Students use their research from the thesis studio to determine how to present their final collection and further develop their portfolio. The course is self-directed; students receive feedback and technical support from design lecturers as needed.

Professional Practice

The course provides an overview of the fashion industry. Visiting professionals discuss topics such as copyright, contracts, PR, branding, fashion-show production, and journalism. Speakers include stylists, historians, curators, designers, international sales agents, business management, buyers, and retailers.


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