By most any fashion die-hard's standards, Louis Vuitton and Parsons are considered the best of the best in their respective fields. So when they partner up for a competition that promotes sustainability the results are bound to impress.
Already in its second year, the competition, "Reconstruction 2.0," asks Parsons students to create new garments around a particular theme using the Louis Vuitton archives. This year, students were challenged to create a garment out of Vuitton samples that embodied travel, an idea at the heart of the international Louis Vuitton brand. Six four-person teams were selected to compete.
"We were inundated with the most amazing projects and the most amazing ideas, as we knew we would be, and the difficulty was choosing the six teams to take part," says Simon Collins, Parsons Dean of Fashion. "We could've tripled the size of the competition." Yesterday, I visited Louis Vuitton's SoHo store where two teams were in the heat of the competition. Armed with sewing machines, dye, scissors, and sketchbooks the teams were furiously tearing apart the Vuitton garments. Yes, you read that right--Vuitton's gorgeous samples were the only fabric provided to the students. Every season Vuitton is faced with the problem of what to do with their surplus of samples. "They produce a great many samples every year and they were anxious to use those to benefit our students in some way, and so it became clear that what we should do is repurpose them," says Collins.
While I, personally, shiver in my boots thinking about cutting up a Vuitton dress, the competitors were ecstatic to deconstruct the creations of Parsons alum and Vuitton Artistic Director, Marc Jacobs. "It's a little bit sad!" says Parsons student Erin Schuessler, of team Via, "They're all so beautiful by themselves, but combined its like taking seasons and seasons and making it all new." Mary Clair Brush, a member of the opposing team, NOEUD, had no qualms about taking apart Vuitton's luxe designs, "As designers it's always nice to have something as a place to start; having the fabric being set makes you push and see what you can do with those."
Teams were set up in the Vuitton SoHo store, as well as in Parsons' buildings on 13th and 40th streets, with the competition open to the public to view. "We want to demystify the fashion process, and so we felt that having teams compete in public was a great way to connect with the community and let them see what we're doing," says Collins.
When I visited, both teams were starting work on their designs, team NOED working on two, intersecting blankets, one knotted and one woven. Team Via was also working on a blanket using a triangle pattern that transformed into a bag. The results will be displayed tonight at a reception in Vuitton's SoHo store. The winner will receive a trip to Paris to tour the Louis Vuitton Museum and workshop, Espace Louis Vuitton, and the brand's flagship Paris store, plus legendary bragging rights.
The fate of the final garments, however, is uncertain. "We are initially going to display them here [in the Vuitton store], and then in the school, and then, honestly, we haven't decided what to do with them yet," admits Collins. "We have a very, very precious archive at school of garments from the last two hundred years... So they may find their way into that." I offered my closet as another potential home for the students' work. Personally, I'm hoping they find their way into that.