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2012 May 2

Part and Parsons

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Sheila C. Johnson and Donna Karan Sheila C. Johnson and Donna Karan
Billy Farrell Agency
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(NEW YORK) What happens when alums, current students, and fashion industry adorers of Parsons The New School convene on Pier 60 for an annual ball to toast the upcoming grads, showcase a select few's designs, and laud the former students who've gone on to do some pretty major moving and shaking? Well, a delightful interpretation of black tie, for starters. The latest Parsons Fashion Benefit, which honored Donna Karan and Sheila C. Johnson, kicked off with cocktails in sync with the sunset—which, in the confines of a massive glassy sunroom dappled with students' designs at the tip of the pier, warrants a pair of shades to prevent unsightly squinting and/or careening into fellow benefit goers (duly noted for the next bash at the space).

Familiar faces on the Parsons circuit (and many a circuit of the style persuasion, really) in attendance included Reed Krakoff, Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs, Vivienne Tam, Peter Som, Chris Benz, Rogan Gregory, Julie Gilhart, Fern Mallis, Steven Kolb, and Opening Ceremony's Humberto Leon and Carol Lim. The institution's prez, David Van Zandt, and school of fashion dean Simon Collins gave intro fodder for the eve. After nibbling on a tomato, breaded eggplant, and ricotta salata salad, attention turned to Narciso Rodriguez, an alum of the school who gave a sweetly tearful (it was subtle, darling!) couple of words in praise of Karan. Then it was time for the night's first spin of the incipient 2012 grad's designs on the glossy white runway weaving through the room. Fantastical, translucent frockery, slightly Marchesa-like and sprouting laser cut leather that resembled chanterelle mushrooms, was interspersed with the most adorable getups for tots (no, seriously, you must see to believe the cute factor) and a bunch of pre order-worthy separates, should any of last night's students go the way of those Proenza lads. 

When Karan took to the stage post-poached halibut in a pool of fragrantly sesame-kissed shitakes, she gamely professed to that well known, slightly delayed matriculation history.  "I didn't actually graduate Parsons," Karan said with a good-humored chortle. "I also failed draping, as you probably know," Karan added, before extolling co-honoree Johnson's friendship and achievements and dispensing some advice. 

"It didn’t make sense until I graduated and started making my own designs," recalled Vena Cava's Lisa Mayock of the wisdom that her own, "unfancy" aesthetic could fly in the fashion world. 

In a room rife with memories with a shared context of collegiate blood, sweat, and tears, some reveries were of a decidedly lighter bent. "All the weirdest things happened in the first year, when we had to take nude drawing classes. The story with one model was that he was a go-go dancer at Studio 54, and this was the next chapter of his life; he took it very, very seriously," reminisced Chris Benz of his earliest days at Parsons. "He had the craziest hair, wore leg warmers, and he would always come to class on roller skates." Very, err, creative times at chez Parsons: is there any surprise in that statement?
ALEXANDRA ILYASHOV 




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