Fashion is coming to the hallowed halls of Harvard.
An entrepreneurial Harvard junior, Timothy Parent, has organized Project East, a fashion show and benefit set for Saturday on the campus in Cambridge, Mass.
Aside from generating interest in the seven Asian designers whose pieces will be featured on the runway, this student-run initiative is intended to promote companies' interest in recruiting Harvard undergrads and to raise money for a nonprofit organization that helps children working in sweatshops to return to school. About 800 people are expected at what Parent hopes will be an annual event.
Parent, who is specializing in Eastern Asian studies and economics, said he decided 18 months ago to do something to help raise the profiles of Asian designers after being in Korea and seeing the progressive, handmade approach that many designers there take.
This weekend's event on the Radcliffe Quad will include pieces by Yeohlee, Twinkle by Wenlan, Mary Ping, Gemma Kahng, Thuy Diep, Chris Han and Jen Kao. In addition to the seven practicing designers, the work of seven 2007 graduates of Parsons The New School for Design will also show their work.
"Small designers in general have a hard time surviving," Parent said. "This is an industry where people who are perceived to be very successful may not even be breaking even. It's important to support people who pursue their passion, especially in a business so dominated by French and Italian houses."
Parent, who is interested in doing brand development in China and Korea, has other motives, too. "We want to build a relationship between Harvard and the fashion industry," he said. "Right now there are no resources. As far as recruiting goes, there is Ralph Lauren. No other fashion companies are doing it."
Kahng and Diep are among the designers expected to participate in a panel discussion Sunday about careers in fashion at Harvard. There also will be an auction featuring designer clothes, including donations from Alexander Wang and Issey Miyake, with proceeds benefitting the Confucius Foundation, a nonprofit that helps educate underprivileged children in China.
"The juxtaposition between Harvard and fashion has never been explored," Parent said. "Fashion is the last thing that comes to mind when you think of Harvard, but we've gotten a really good response from designers and the press."Diep said she got involved "first and foremost" because the event will benefit a good cause. She also liked the idea of being in the company of the other designers. Diep plans to show items from her first collection, fall 2007, at Harvard, since it will be more timely for the student audience. A graduate of Brown University, Diep said she is eager to retrace her student days, when she would drive to Boston for day trips from Brown's campus in Providence, R.I. — and to develop a retail base there.
As the title sponsor, Macy's Inc. provided $15,000 in support, Parent said. The months of preparation and fund-raising did not result in any credits for Parent or other students. "Harvard is pretty picky about its classes," he said. "I probably have been paying more attention to this than to my classes, but it's just extracurricular."
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