Activating the Static: The Parsons MFA Graduate Exhibition
The fifteen reflect on their auto-curations
Novelties abound greeted visitors of the Parsons MFA Fashion Design and Society exhibition where this year’s fifteen graduates showcased developments from their thesis collections. Double-helixed knits stretched floor to ceiling like cartoon laser beams. Papery skirts suspended from inflatable hangers. Bodybuilders leered from posters.
The exhibition culminated a semester of intense conceptual and material development, disrupted by an electrical fire that forced the program out of their dedicated studio. They found refuge in Industry City, a campus of converted warehouses in Brooklyn tenanted by many creative startups. The show occurred here from June 6 through 10.
Preceding their September show at New York Fashion Week, the exhibition offered the graduates greater autonomy in presentation. They each produced an installation of their work, mediating the garments alongside original paintings, sculptures, videos, and more.
The fifteen reflect on the merit of their auto-curations.
The responses were edited and abridged for clarity.
“The installation helps designers explain the backgrounds and emotions behind our collections. It also lets the viewer get a chance to take a closer look at our details and finishings.”
“On the runway you don’t have the opportunity to see these clothes up close. All the intricate textiles we do are such a vast amount of work. You might think, it’s just a knit, but maybe it’s all hand-knit.”
“Because my fabric is made of super-fine yarn, you need to get close to see the fibre and the texture. And I have my sample swatches to show off. It’s important to show the garments in a still way.”
“My things are about perspective, so I wanted to put them near the window so the sunshine can come in. It creates beautiful, colorful shadows.”
“The installation is a good way to represent the hard work, inspiration, and development. I think the development is more important than the final outcomes.”
“You are able to create an immersive personal experience for someone to understand the core of the collection.”
“I’m quite a concept-based designer, so the installation shows the relationship between my garments and concept. People who saw my installation said it was really clear to help them understand the concept.”
“I think installation in the world of fashion allows for an intimacy with the audience. It crosses the boundaries between viewing and experiencing. Having this close contact with garments, you’re able to see the textures and colorations that are so integral to these pieces.”
“The exhibition is important for people in the industry to know what this year’s students did. It is a preview, like a movie trailer.”
“It’s so important today to see the process behind people’s work. There’s something about being able to set up your work in exactly the way you want it and to be able to talk about it. But the runway is also important because it allows other people to take on interpretations of your work without that information.”
“Some people still prefer to shop before they buy online. The exhibition allows people to see the quality of the work. This is not what will make the clothes different, but it will be the reason why the clothes should exist. Craft and quality are the hard sides of fashion.”
“You can see the details and mechanisms of how we make. It’s a good opportunity to show specifically what we have.”
“My collection is very personal. It’s about chosen life paths, so this exhibition has given me an opportunity to create and show people my own world, to give an atmosphere according to the different characters I have made. It’s the chance to create a cinematic setting and help others read my story.”
“Installations allow for a designer’s work to be taken in completely and thoughtfully, allowing those viewing it to submerge themselves in the design. There’s longevity in moments like that.”
“It’s a good, carefree opportunity to show detailed information to the audience and visitors.”
Jack Davis is an undergraduate student, designer, and writer at Parsons School of Design. He works for the school’s Fashion Design and Society (MFA) program.