James Whitner

With streetwear continuing to reign supreme in the world of fashion, the School of Fashion at The New School’s Parsons School of Design has linked with Complex and Yellowbrick to create a noncredit online course called Streetwear Essentials.

For about $1,000 each, participants will learn about the history of streetwear, design processes, retail, marketing and other elements. In addition to Complex editors and Parsons faculty members, the online students will hear video lectures from Jeff Staple of Staple Pigeon, Don Crawley of Just Don, Heron Preston of Heron Preston, Michael Cherman of Chinatown Market, Nick Diamond of Diamond Supply Co., Leah McSweeney of Married to the Mob, Rob Cristofaro of Alife, Shanel Campbell of Shanel, April Walker of Walker Wear, Maurice Malone of Maurice Malone, James Whitner of The Whitaker Group and other streetwear personalities. The talent in the program has not advertised with Complex, but they have been featured editorially, a spokesman said.

The education platform company Yellowbrick created the program in collaboration with Parsons’, Complex’s editorial staff, and streetwear leaders. The industry participants will not be compensated in any way.

However, students will be encouraged to share their points of view within the program’s community and via social media. Ilan Jacobsohn, senior director of distributed education at Parsons, disputed the suggestion that by doing that, participants’ ideas will not be protected. “I really stand behind that it’s wonderful for students to have the opportunity to create a community and a network to start sharing with each other and getting feedback.…The alternative is that they just discuss it among themselves and that’s a little bit close.”

Open to all — not just Parsons students — the class has more than 15 hours of instruction and project time offered across six modules. Students will explore “Defining Streetwear: Origins; Designing Streetwear”; “Marketing, Branding and Visual Communication”; “The Future of Streetwear Retail and Distribution,” and “Business and Entrepreneurship.” The program will wrap up with “What Streetwear Means to Me,” with participants being asked to research, design and develop a range of products and then create a pitch for their proposed business. Jacobsohn said, “What we hope to show to them is that this is a real career path and path of study. You might know that you like streetwear, but what you might not know is that includes marketing, merchandising, studio practice, design — all these aspects of the business. And we as a university, of course, educate in that.”

He dismissed the suggestion that Streetwear Essentials is commercialized learning. “We consider it learning. It’s wonderful to have partnership with folks in the business. It’s very much about truly educating these students and these students who are taking these classes,” Jacobsohn said.

Complex and Yellowbrick developed a similar program with the Fashion Institute of Technology titled “Sneaker Essentials.” “Thousands of students” are enrolled in that class, according to Christian Baesler, president of Complex Networks. “Several thousand” students are  expected to participate in the “Streetwear Essentials” class, according to a Parsons spokesman.

The ascents of Virgil Abloh and Kerby Jean-Raymond aren’t the only signs that the trend is ingrained in fashion. The sector is expected to hit $429 billion globally by 2025, according to an estimate by Bain & Co. From Parsons’ standpoint, “Our job here is to get as many people to realize what it means to study this,” Jacobsohn said of streetwear.

Complex sees the alliance as an opportunity to give back to the community and help inspire its young audience. “Obviously, from a business pint of view, it’s one of the ways to diversify our business beyond advertising. Last year about half our revenues came from non-advertising, which is a high degree of diversification versus other media companies,” Baesler said. “We’ve been looking at education as one of many commerce-related revenue streams, where we get consumers to pay for content, or in this case, education.”

Another objective is to have students land internships, and possibly jobs, after completing the program, he said. Complex also hosts streetwear events for networking purposes or panel discussions, but those events are not mandatory for completing the course, Baesler said.

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