The Parsons-made window display now on at 550 Madison Avenue.


DECONSTRUCTIONISM 101: A Parsons AAS Fashion Design-made window display featuring secondhand denim and suits may be giving Madison Avenue shoppers reason to reconsider their next purchase. Through the end of March, the “#UN_MADE” installation will showcase samples, videos, deconstructed sustainable designs, finished products and editorial images in the windows of 550 Madison Avenue, the building Philip Johnson designed that was once home to AT&T and later Sony.

Now unoccupied, the 37-floor office building was bought by the U.S. subsidiary of the Saudi conglomerate Olayan Group and London-based Chelsfield for reportedly more than $1.3 billion. There is no financial deal between The New School’s Parsons School of Design and the Olayan Group, a Parsons spokesman said Wednesday.

Dealing with students who are knowledgeable about current events and changes afoot in the fashion industry, Jason McCarthy, director of the AAS Fashion Design and Fashion Marketing program, said the aim was for them to consider their potential impact on the industry now. Julia McCann, Mia Jeanjaquet, Mengying Li and Na Ren were the students involved with the project. “We really challenge students to explore design and create alternatives by challenging the fashion system. The project really came about from that and the current dilemma of waste in the fashion system, and how we can look to redesign that by using existing apparel to prolong the garment’s lifecycle and for the students to come up with new ways of designing and making fashion.”

Enlisting four students including two graduate ones, McCarthy and his team spent more than a month reviewing the whole design process, filming videos and visiting thrift stores in Brooklyn and Manhattan. “You can go to one thrift store, but when you go to six or seven or eight, it really brings home the amount of waste in these stores especially in some of the warehouses in Brooklyn, which are much bigger,” said McCarthy.

“But that experience was also an opportunity for students to deconstruct garments to use the material to reimagine the material in designs they never would have considered otherwise,” he said. They also got a much better understanding of how items are constructed, finished and the fabrics that are used. “Once you take these garments apart, it becomes a different element to use,” he added.

Parsons has already suggested another window project idea to Olayan, and such collaborations and a closer examination of sustainable design are only the start of something new. “The unmade element will definitely come into the classroom as curricula aspect. There was definitely this approach to the fashion waste but I think the students actually learned a lot from the process about garments and construction,” said McCarthy, who also teaches at Parsons.

The thought-provoking window display is also meant to catch the eyes of shoppers passing by — “hopefully,” McCarthy said.

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