“Everyone wants that moment of ‒ my work is amazing. I’m in an industry that destroys the environment, that can be vacuous, so I have to wrestle that ego.”
Madeleine Hogan, one of fifteen Parsons MFA graduates, was months away from presenting her collection at New York Fashion Week when we first talked to her, yet, like most of her classmates, already painfully aware of the drawbacks of the industry. That is no coincidence. Under the guidance of Shelley Fox and JOFF, the program prepares young designers for a career in the field, while simultaneously pushing them to change it. If these collections are mesmerizing to look at, it’s because they are craftily constructed and meticulously researched, conscious of what it means to design and create in 2018. Presented at Spring Studios, this year’s New York Fashion Week venue, the 130 looks gathered private memories, daydream fantasies, trompe-l’oeil surrealism, crafty rebellion, ruffled ancestry, sartorialized heritage, reimagined rhythm, and efficient laziness.
Without fluffing anyone’s ego (god knows fashion could use fewer of those) we can honestly say, ‒ this work is amazing.
Words Jack Davis & Aya Noël
Images Monica Feudi
Family consists of intimate, intricate, and complicated connections. So does Rui’s collection, an ethereal exercise in knitwear. She first engineered fine-gauge knits that appear laddered with age. Then, with wire, she spiraled the knits around the body in delicate, diaphanous contortions. Pearl fasteners stretch the fabric around the body, flashing sensual circles of flesh.
Intrigued by the overlooked curiosities of commuting, Limeng explored how fashion can preserve moments of transit while challenging the conventions of such representations. The garments revel in their dimensional ambiguity, collaging trompe-l’oeil photograph prints and tailored constructions. A functional bag, for example, attaches to the flat, shrunken image of a commuter’s back. In a sense, it’s neo-cubist camouflage for riding the subway.
“Irina’s 8 Unfulfilled Lives + 1”
Irina wondered what her life might be like had she followed a different trajectory. Might she be an architect? A pianist? An actress? A bride, even? She distilled these imagined characters into ensembles that balance uniform with fantasy. Irina also created one for her current designer self ‒ the “+ 1”, as it were ‒ bridging the gap between reality and fantasy. In constructing the garments, she layered countless sheets of tulle to yield opacities and gradients, symbolizing the virtue of patience in finding oneself.
“Modern Girl 2018”
Galvanized by misogynistic undercurrents in Korean culture, Jimin rebelled with handicraft. Her collection radicalizes the norigae, a traditional chastity knot worn like a brooch. She re-appropriated this technique as fabric using macramé, hand-assembled in vibrant parachute cording. The apparel offers a structured slouch, a hip-hop-inflected ease. Indeed, a wardrobe for the globalized intellectual of the streets.
Saya brought contemporary craft and romance to interpret the ancestry of her native Kazakhstan. She explored the region’s history of nomadic tribalism and the textiles they made. Tulle ruffles, hand-felted wool, and clustered sequins act as a topography of sorts, navigating the viewer’s eye around the body while maintaining a strong vertical energy.
Rife with pageantry, ego, and aggression, the subculture of bodybuilding offered Madeleine prime case studies of hyper-masculinity. The collection morphs the male body from boyish newcomer to hulking hero to deflated has-been: the career arc of a bodybuilder. She built the apparel to mimic the highlights, ripples, and shadows of these bodies ‒ a masterful accomplishment, as some jackets required 180 pattern pieces to assemble. She treated her materiality for luxe flamboyance: embossing leather, spray-painting velour and rucheing nylon.
A painter, illustrator, and designer all at once, Max applied the range of his skills in the act of storytelling. The narrative at play is a surreal daydream in which time acts in circles, not lines. He drew the story first as a sequential comic, then as thematic illustrations ‒ rendered with Grotesque romance ‒ based on the protagonist’s core emotions. Max collaged these illustrations into textile designs, which he screen-printed by hand onto fabric. The collection situates these prints around the body in a range of constructions, including quilted puffer vests and gauzy dresses.
Yang’s research sought to visualize a perceived two-and-a-half-dimension between 3D apparel and its 2D representations. She began with artistic studies, flattening found garments in wooden frames and vacuum-packed plastic like deli meat. Next, she laser-etched multilayered materials to create a fictional deconstruction, as if clothes could crack and scorch like dysfunctional smartphones. The collection uses this technique to suggest an artful X-ray vision permeating beneath the twisted physical layers of each deconstructivist look.
“Redefinition of Value”
With a background in jewelry, Kota observed that people tend to value their belongings by the luxury of the materials more than the character of the design. To toy with the notion of wearing one’s wealth, Kota abstracted bills, coins, credit cards, and wallets into sculptures that engulf the body. He printed dollars on silk organza and etched them into Plexiglas. Coins were linked into chainmail lingerie, their faces each chiseled out by hand. A thong may comprise $20-worth of dimes, Kota asks, but what is it worth to you?
Inspired by the cozy claustrophobia of Edouard Vuillard’s paintings, Amy’s collection swathes the wearer in stretchy, fetching textures of her own making. Some textiles began with the fiber, as she arranged bunches of thread into stringy yarns, sewn together into semi-opaque grids. Amy also hand-drew cheerful prints onto fabric, then smocked them for stretch. Ceramic buttons and toggles further root the collection in its post-impressionist world.
“Shie and She”
Hand and machine find futuristic harmony in Shie’s designs. She first laser cut and heat-molded Plexiglas into architectural forms. Through meticulous handicraft these armatures grew into garments. Tubing, paillettes, and thousands of hand-cut organza circles interconnect to form textures at once intuitive and utterly artificial. On the body, the garments move incongruously, some parts stiff and others fluid.
What if society treated gender like body temperature, something that fluctuates due to environmental stimuli? This inquiry led Rong to take gendered “ready-mades” of fashion design ‒ lingerie clasps, shoulder pads, hairpins ‒ and give them new structural purposes. Bra cups became shoulder pads, hosiery became a belt, briefs became a girdle. The all-gender collection offers a dystopic optimism for the future of design.
With a cultural heritage that includes Hungary, Serbia, and Australia, Stephanie made sartorial her history by way of old family photographs. She organized the images by the rooms in which they were taken, collaging together the furniture, wallpaper, and clothing depicted. Each collage then became the basis of a look, each texture recreated with knitwear, painting, beadwork, and the odd fork.
“VisitVeniceW. 2018 – CityThat$nezZZeALot !”
Sloth, tardiness, and disposability are core virtues consecrated in Venice’s world of askew glamour. She began by attempting to live in paper garments: riding an Uber, running to class, taking a shower. The crumpled and ripped paper became early toiles, which she executed in linen (symbolic of preservation), faithfully rendering each crease. Then came lacy hampers as legwarmers and a dress, t-shirts emerging from a skirt and a tissue box-garter, and a puffer look that dispenses tissues ‒ together, an irreverence worth revering.
Nostalgic for family photos from before she was born, Annaliese’s collection explores the Appaduraian phenomenon of longing for the memories you never had. She channeled this feeling by fabricating wallpaper designs from the Seventies, hand-painted in liquid silicone. She also mimicked tile designs by casting silicone in molds, then studded with crystals. Layered over meshes both machine-knitted and hand-beaded, these uncanny textiles exude an aura of domestic voyeurism.
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.