Parsons The New School for Design has a roster of famed students (some of whom didn't quite make it to graduation): Alexander Wang (who actually dropped out before graduation), Proenza Schouler, Jason Wu, Tom Ford, Peter Som, Marc Jacobs and the list goes on. Well, as of last year, the celebrated NYC school has offered a new program, the Master of Fine Arts in Fashion Design and Society, that has drawn enormous interest from the industry. In fact, according to Style.com, Céline, Nike, and Givenchy are already courting members of the class of 2013. Earlier this month, the graduating class (which consists of just 16 students) showed their collections and we caught up with them to talk about their brands, the business of fashion and what they are obsessed with right now ...
For her collection entitled, em dash, Abigail Lewis (one of only a couple American-born designers in the program) looked to the intersection of the abstract and the concrete, and the result was beautiful. An imaginative and yet, quite wearable collection, Lewis showed long architectural coats, crisp shirts and lust-worthy dresses, all of which had an air of structure and femininity, as well. Noteworthy pieces: the tops and a skirt constructed out of elongated bugle beads made of glass medical tubing and woven together.
1. How old are you and where are you from?
I am 29 years old. I was born in Alton, Illinois, a river town along the Mississippi.
2. You just showed your MFA collection. Tell me a bit about you and your design process in general.
I approach design first through thinking in abstraction, then very directly through cut, material, and construction. I think of my process as a dialogue between material, space, and form. Each piece must be worked out as a puzzle, both in itself and in relation to a collection. I try to consider everything and my process can be quite painstaking.
3. Do you feel like you're becoming a brand? How are you different from other young designers/design brands?
Yes, mainly for three reasons—my interest in meaning, tactile experience, and the wearer for who she is, really.
I believe fashion revolves around perspective. Perspective accounts for how we process the external, and it is ever-changing. A great designer will leave a legacy, an identity that can be respected by successors, but perspective is entirely unique to the designer himself. I think any great designer knows its value.
4. What have you learned so far about the business of fashion?
That apart from waste, pace, and allowance for fun, its scarcely different from any other business.
5. What is your dream job?
My dream now is to be mentored by a true visionary. I would love to experience working in Europe. I wasn't able to travel much growing up and I am curious how I would evolve creatively living in Europe. Ultimately, though, my dream is to have my own label in New York. I am quite interested in the business of fashion and the power of context. I think the industry could afford (some) rethinking.
6. What fashion designers do you admire/look up to?
Coco for her strength
Vionnet for her charm
Balenciaga for his elegance
Sander for her intellect
Calvin for his purity
Margiela for his thinking
Van Noten for his consistency
Philo for her brilliance
7. What are you obsessed with right now? What makes you happy?
I am most happy when I'm being creative. Second to that is the satisfaction that comes from having created something beautiful. I am very devoted to my work—you could call that an obsession.