By  on May 11, 2011

NEW YORK — Reed Krakoff is the first to admit that he wasn’t the greatest student at Parsons, but he nonetheless learned several key career lessons there.

On Monday night, he recalled a few of those at the Parsons Fashion Benefit, where he was being honored for his contributions to the fashion industry and his career, which has taken him from Anne Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren to Coach Inc., which he, in tandem with Lew Frankfort, transformed into a $4 billion leather goods powerhouse.

Speaking to the audience, which included Parsons The New School for Design’s graduating class, Krakoff said that key lessons were “to trust yourself” and “believe in yourself” — notions he relies on to this day as he is building his own, namesake brand.

Prior to receiving the award, Krakoff had a moment to reminisce about his student days. “I remember sitting in Central Park with friends of mine from school, sketching and thinking about what the world would be like,” he said. “So many amazing people attended Parsons.”

Quite a few of them, including Behnaz Sarafpour, Narciso Rodriguez, Ashleigh Verrier and Peter Som, were at the gala, along with Terry Lundgren, Stephen I. Sadove, Renaud Dutreil, Tom Murry, Robert Vignola, Steven Kolb, China Chow, Ally Hilfiger, Julie Gilhart, Simon Doonan and Jonathan Adler. The event also featured a special tribute to Arnold Aronson and Marvin Traub, who sat down on stage and mused about their history with Parsons — both are members of its board of governors and were honorees at the benefit some three decades ago.

The event raised over $1.5 million for programs and scholarships at Parsons, and a $450,000 gift from Coach will result in the Reed Krakoff for Coach Scholarship for Parsons fashion students interested in accessory design.

The night also featured two runway presentations with looks from the graduates. “They are like three-star Michelin chefs,” Simon Collins, dean of the school of fashion at Parsons, said. “You never just get pasta, you get pasta sourced in the foothills of Lombardy, which will be treated for four days. They will never just settle [for the ordinary].”

Parsons alum Prabal Gurung introduced the graduating collections with a heartfelt speech about his own experiences. Great design, he said, “should shake your core, stir something deep down in our heart and mind, and take us to places where we would have never dreamed of going. Great designs inspire and give us the courage and the strength to dream the impossible dream. But more importantly, a great design triggers this desire and want and the need to learn more.

“I do hope you will always be on a constant quest for more knowledge, ideas and change…change that might affect and alter your own thought process, your work and through which maybe you too might inspire a little kid from Nepal or America or around the world to dream,” he added.

This year’s winner for women’s wear was David Ferron. T. Young Hwang was named men’s wear designer of the year, while Serena Chang took the honors for children’s wear. “It’s hard to process,” Ferron, a former intern for Kevin Carrigan at Calvin Klein, said. “It’s been four years of hard work, and many years of thinking about how hard I was going to work.”

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