Last night, following the senior's fashion show in the afternoon, Parsons hosted a benefit dinner at Pier 60. The benefit served many purposes: to raise money for Parsons' scholarships, honor Proenza Schouler's Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez and Bonnie Brooks, President of Hudson's Bay Company, showcase the senior class' designs, and announce the Designers of the Year. That's a lot to pack into one evening--and it was a long one!--but considering the benefit raised nearly $1.7 million for scholarships it was completely worth it.
On the way into the party I stopped Parsons' alum Prabal Gurung to find out about his time at Parsons. Gurung said he could relate to the pre-show jitters a lot of the senior class was feeling, "My first fashion show that I remember was at a competition between FIT and Parsons. I eventually ended up winning the [competition], but it was so nerve-racking because I didn't know what was going to happen and I was competing with everyone: the Vena Cava girls, Chris Benz, all these people!" His advice to the grads was to stay the course and not give up. "Patience, is the biggest virtue," Prabal admitted, "In the day and age we are living in, you see all the great things happening to people... People always tell me, "Your success was overnight," but I paid more than ten years of dues."
Also in attendance were Parsons' alumnae Michelle Ochs and Carly Cushnie of Cushnie et Ochs, who despite being best buds during college never expected they would start a line together that showed at New York Fashion Week. When I asked them about it they both blurted out "No!" in unison. "We were always friends," said Carly, "But we didn't think about starting a line until after we graduated actually."
The opposite can be said for the night's honorees Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez. Before entering the party Jack stopped for a brief chat with a group of press and admitted his best (and cutest) memory of Parsons; "I met Lazaro at Parsons our freshman year, so that's a pretty fond memory." Aww.
Another pretty good memory for the Proenza "boys," as Cathy Horyn referred to them in her introduction, was having their senior collection bought by Barney's straight off the Parsons runway. "Our careers began this very night eleven years ago," said Lazaro while accepting the honorary award. "It was a night like tonight that we met the president of the CFDA. He introduced us to Barney's who then went on to buy our entire senior thesis collection that we showed on this night 11 years ago. We literally wouldn't be here tonight if it wasn't for Parsons."
Later in the evening fellow honoree Bonnie Brooks, the President of Hudson's Bay Company, the company that oversees oversees Lord & Taylor in the U.S. and The Bay in Canada, emphasized the importance of giving young designers a chance. "I have worked with many designers throughout my career and believe strongly in discovering, nurturing and supporting young and emerging talent."
I have to say that after a night of such amazing support, I'm pretty certain the seniors who showed their lines are going to go far. At the end of the celebration, the designers of the year were announced. Diana Flavio Woodside from Los Angeles took home the award for Childrenswear, Yunxiang (Sharon) Zhou from Tai’An, China for menswear, and Kaye Applewaite from Barbados and Harim Jung from Seoul, Korea tied for the womenswear award.
We had the pleasure of emailing with Harim Jung before the celebration to get her take on winning the designer of the year award and the Parsons and Kering Empowering Imagination Award.
Fashionista: First, can you tell me about the inspiration behind your collection? Harim Jung: I believe personal objects are like little time machines; they accumulate experience and memories to create a force taking you back to that time. My school uniform is one of these objects that I have a great attachment to. I couldn't throw it away because it was with me when I was developing as a person. So for my senior year I wanted to use it to revisit that time and create a collection where I could share my memories, and still have people wear it as garments.
How does it feel to win the Empowering Imagination award? What do you hope to do with that? I was grateful enough to make it as a finalist, and to be selected and awarded it is such an honor and a pleasant surprise. As for the award, Kering will be providing an internship with my other fellow winner Yunxiang Zhou, and we are looking forward to this great opportunity to experience working with one of the leading brands in fashion.
What does it mean to be nominated as a Designer of the Year at Parsons? It's quite an honor to be nominated knowing there were a lot of amazing graduating collections this year. I feel very fortunate and honored to be part of the nomination.
You've got your collection up on Style.com--how does it feel to be profiled by them? Yes, Style.com has been so generous to provide this opportunity of exposure for graduating students. Also, it was so surreal and exciting that we could look up our collection on Style.com.
What do you hope to do after you graduate? I would love to keep on working on some personal projects, but I am also open to any opportunities that come in the way. Just excited with what will happen next.
Click through our gallery to see all the winning looks from last night!
Additional reporting by Tyler McCall