Representing the creative future

Mastering Graduation

Ahead of the Parsons MFA show, 10 alumni share their advice for the graduating class of 2019

Tomorrow, a fresh crop of Parsons MFA Fashion Design & Society graduates will present their designs at New York Fashion Week. The two year course, led by Shelley Fox and JOFF, takes an interdisciplinary approach to fashion education, normally culminating in an exhibition as well as a runway. This year, the exhibition was postponed until after the show, so the runway tomorrow will mark the 2019 students’ debuts. We asked 10 Parsons alumni to share their thoughts on the new approach, plus the pressure and potential of showing at fashion week, dealing with the post-graduation blues and navigating the beginning of their careers.

What are the things you wish you knew beforehand?

Stephanie Frig: You need to go into it accepting and allowing anything to happen. Earrings may be too heavy or beads may fly off. Be prepared for changes. Remain open and positive.

Amy Crookes: Sometimes you have to move sideways in order to go forward. 

Annaliese Griffith-Jones: I wish I took time into consideration more. When you are making such intricate, handmade garments, fabric and embellishments, these things take time…a lot of time. I think that is the biggest struggle working up towards the show because you want it to be of the highest quality as it is a pinnacle time within your career to reflect what you represent and your image as a designer. I do not recommend working until 7am and running to the show.

Zoe Champion: Eat before the Prosecco!

Tingyue Jiang: I should have planned what my long-term goals were as a designer. After graduation, I had to figure out a plan for my future, not just follow what school let me to do.

Gahee Lim: I wish I had better understanding of grad school vs. reality. Grad school is a curated and protected environment that is nothing like the real world. Merit is only a small fraction of what matters to work at a company or to run your own business. 

Zoe Champion

Do you have any last-minute advice for this year’s graduates?

Caroline Hu: Believe in what you have done and persist and be brave. Whether you want to be a brand or go to work, you must work hard and be humble.

Annaliese Griffith-Jones: Enjoy watching your clothes walk. I think you can get so caught up with perfection that all you see is what you could have done better.

Amy Crookes: Get as much experience as possible and use the time post-graduation to explore and find your focus. Ask for advice, BUT know that you don’t have to listen to all of it.

Annaliese Griffith-Jones

What did the show do for you and/or your career?

Annaliese Griffith-Jones: The show gave me a lot of exposure and also a chance to collaborate with different photographers and creatives. It also allowed me to take a step back from the collection and see it as a whole.

Venice W: Physically more people see your work which is a good thing. It was mentally drained as everything you have been working on for one full year was wrapped up toward a sort of conclusion (runway show) in less than 10 minutes.

Snow Xue Gao: That process really made me start to think who was going to wear it, who was going to buy it. Design gets exciting when you dress a real person.

Gahee Lim: Opening the Parsons MFA show in 2016 was huge for me and my career. I had an amazing amount of editorial exposure and job opportunities. I had the very good luck of freelancing at different places for a couple of years after graduation, then I worked at The Row for a year. And I started working at Thom Browne women’s runway design team.

Gahee Lim

Is there anything that you wish you had done differently in the first few months after you graduated? 

Amy Crookes: No, I used the few months after graduation to relax and re-group whilst freelancing and continuing to work on my own projects. It was really important for me to try and find a healthy work/life balance after graduation. 

Tingyue Jiang: I wish I could have taken a long break after graduation. Once I started to work, it was hard to take a long break.

Rui Zhou: Apply for jobs ASAP.

Annaliese Griffith-Jones: I would definitely stress less! I was really caught up with deciding what I was going to do with my future and felt there was a ticking clock for exposure time, but I think in reality it doesn’t work like that. People still appreciate your ideas, processes and intricacies of your collection far beyond the show.