Designers Go Back to School for Parsons




At Parsons’ annual black-tie benefit at Chelsea Piers, Interview chatted with The New School of Design alums Narcisco Rodriguez and Prabal Gurung. Rodriguez said that, as a student at Parsons, one of his fondest memories was getting to work with Calvin Klein: “He was my critic and I created a coat for him. It was funny because many years later, I went to work for him, designing coats and tailoring, and I handled coat licensing for him. It was kind of ironic.”

We asked Rodriguez, who is currently finishing work on his June resort show, what we might expect for his his S/S 2012 collection, which he will present in September at Lincoln Center. “On the West Coast, I saw some beautiful things, and I was in Europe and just got back from Chicago.  Traveling is really informing my work these days.” As for what is interesting him in New York right now, Rodriguez said that he’s “very into the Book of Mormon. I just saw it last night and can’t wait to go back and see it again.  Talk about brilliant and awe-inspiring!  That was quite fun.”

Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Glenda Bailey presented Parsons alumnus and board member Reed Krakoff, designer and President of Coach, with the The Parsons Table Award at the event, which included two runway shows, consisting of designs by graduating seniors.  “For a moment there, I forgot that I was looking at students’ work.  It was very professional and there were some beautiful pieces; I was very impressed,” said Rodriguez after the shows.

Gurung, who delivered the keynote address, paid tribute to Alexander McQueen, who was honored on May 2 at the Met Gala with the opening of the “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” exhibit, and whose successor, Sarah Burton, designed Kate Middleton’s wedding gown. “What resonated the most was his brilliant courage,” Gurung said of the late British designer, before mentioning “the many other visionaries” including “John Galliano’s bias-cut gowns… and Madonna’s cone-shaped Gaultier” (at the Gala, Madonna said she missed McQueen and “loved his punk rock attitude”) and “the mind-boggling adrogny from Helmut Newton… to the Chanel dress that was glowing in the window in a London store late at night in 1999; that stirred an emotion and gave me the courage to revisit my dream of designing and hence my application to Parsons.”

Gurung was recently selected to represent the field of fashion in the USA Network special, “Character Approved,” which profiled leading young trailblazers in design, food and the arts.  “My inspiration not only in designing, but in the person I want to be, is my mother,” said Gurung of the Character Approved award.  She is a huge influence on me.  I’ll show you one of her philosophies.”  Gurung held up his Blackberry, the screen saver of which read, “Great minds discuss ideas.  Average minds discuss events.  Small minds discuss people.”

“I’m almost done with my first resort collection,” said Gurung.  “I have to tell you, I am so excited!  It’s about playing with colors and textures and continuing with the girl I presented in the fall collection and moving her to a new direction, an evolution from the previous one.  I am excited for spring because for the first time it immediately came to me.”  Gurung said that the new collection is inspired by “a novel.  Last season it was Great Expectations.  As designers, we work hard but twice a year we get seven to ten minutes of indulgence to show the world what we’re thinking about, our whims and fancies.”