Parsons is arguably the best design school in the country, and one of the most prestigious in the world. It’s notoriously selective, and its fashion design program consistently churns out talent like Marc Jacobs and the Proenza boys. It’s already got the American market cornered–and now it’s set its sights on the rest of the world–starting with Paris.
Parsons recently announced it will be opening a brand new academic center in Paris next fall–the first “node” in what executive dean Joel Towers calls a “node and network” system the institution is planning to develop all over the world.
The “re-initiated” Paris campus (Parsons first established a Paris campus in 1921, and in recent years worked through an academic partner to operate its programs) will offer undergraduate, graduate, and study-abroad programs. The areas of study will reflect those of Parsons in New York, but will integrate Paris’s cultural resources and, in the case of fashion design programs, thriving fashion industry.
“Our students will be able to take advantage of the strengths of the Parisian fashion community, the huge attention to craft and detail and luxury, in a different way than Seventh Avenue, than New York,” Towers told us over the phone. “They will be engaged in Parisian life and the Parisian fashion world.”
Parsons Paris is already accepting applications and expects to enroll around 100 students for fall 2013, with hopes that the campus will grow to 300-500 students total. It’s also currently searching for faculty–full time lead faculty who have EU citizenship and adjunct faculty who work in Paris.
Towers doesn’t believe that Parsons New York’s approach to design education is the right or wrong approach, or that Parsons has to compete with the Europeans. “If one views competition as a zero sum game, then the tendency is to say, ‘let’s take Seventh Avenue and teach it on the Champs Elysee,” he explained. “Well, I don’t view competition as a zero-sum game. I think the French and Parisian fashion landscape is of such huge value globally that what I’m looking for is for us in New York to be able to learn from them and for us to be able to bring a little New York to the Parisian environment and see that great hybridism.”
And this is all just the beginning.