In her new role, which begins this month, Erwiah has been tasked with helping launch the institute, providing leadership and strategic direction, creating original programming, conducting research and developing related initiatives tied to the institution.
“My goal is to create a center of learning excellence that goes beyond any border or traditional way of thinking and disrupts the fashion industry in every possible way,” Erwiah said in a statement. “We want to lead the charge in the evolution of the fashion industry and to help prepare the next generation of leaders in fashion business. We want to encourage the business of fashion design by operating as an innovation hub that cross pollinates across the industry and that creates hybrid programs across disciplines so we can work with the best of the best in tech, sustainability, business, design, law, media, manufacturing, retail and more.”
The institute was created thanks to an $8.5 million endowment from Joseph Gromek, former president and chief executive officer of the Warnaco Group, and his wife Gail in September 2019. It was the largest individual gift to Parsons in the school’s 123-year history.
“I’m so proud to see the Joseph and Gail Gromek Institute for Fashion Business launch with such a passionate and dedicated leader at the helm,” said Gromek, who has served as a member of the Parsons board of governors since 2005. “I know the institute will serve as the crossroads for a wide variety of interdisciplinary studies. It will act as a bridge between academia and industry and help support the development and inclusion of a more diverse group of future industry leaders. I can’t wait to see the important and innovative work that Abrima Erwiah and her colleagues produce in the years to come.”
Erwiah, who joined Parsons in 2019, teaches both graduate-level and undergraduate-level courses in systems design and collections. Along with actress Rosario Dawson, she also founded Studio 189, an artisan-produced fashion lifestyle brand that produces men’s, women’s and children’s apparel from Africa.
Her 20-year career in the fashion and luxury space includes stints at Bottega Veneta, Cesare Paciotti and Hermès and John Lobb. In addition, Erwiah has worked as an adviser to the United Nations International Trade Center, served as a mentor under the Kering Foundation for Women’s Dignity & Rights and is the founder of Fashion Our Future, which uses fashion as a tool to engage underrepresented communities in the political process.
Erwiah is the recipient of several awards, including the FIT Changemaker Award, the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Emerging Designer Award and the Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice award from the University of Pennsylvania.
“I am so excited for Abrima to start her role as director of our new Fashion Business Institute, where her deep experience in fashion, sustainability and business will help guide the institute on an innovative path forward,” said Rachel Schreiber, executive dean of Parsons School of Design. “Parsons is committed to training the next generation of fashion and design leaders and the Gromek Institute will play an integral role in our educational mission moving forward. Abrima’s experience, which ranges from working with luxury fashion brands to various initiatives aimed at bringing equity and inclusion to the fashion industry, make her the ideal inaugural director for our institute.”