NEW YORK — In an unexpected move, Simon Collins is stepping down as dean of the School of Fashion at Parsons the New School for Design.
Collins e-mailed news of his departure to friends and colleagues Monday afternoon. In an interview Monday night, he said he plans to give up his post at the end of the year to focus on his global practice of advising companies, institutions and governments about design. “Design thinking can be applied to any industry — legal, banking, political,” he said.
The New School has initiated an international search for a new dean who will succeed Collins next year, a spokesman said.
“I feel as though we have achieved a huge amount of growth at Parsons and you can only maintain that level of growth for so long. It has to level out a bit. I think I am more of a growth person than a leveling-out one,” he said. “I love the school massively and I will always be indebted to it. I shall always support it any way that I can.”
Before joining Parsons, Collins worked as a designer and creative director for such companies as Ermenegildo Zegna, Marks & Spencer, Polo Ralph Lauren and Nike, where he helped lead a $900 million apparel business that included collaborations with Junya Watanabe and Naoki Takizawa of Issey Miyake. That experience has enabled him “to speak authoritatively about design,” he said.
At Parsons, Collins helped champion the school’s move to an avant-garde 375,000-square-foot space designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Describing his six-year run as “the most rewarding and enjoyable” of his professional life, he wrote to friends, “There have been so many highs (plus one or two tricky moments) that I shall never cease to be amazed at how much joy and learning can be crammed into such a short period.”
With a portfolio that includes the Trends Group in China, WGSN, Fashion GPS and government affiliates in China, South Korea and Thailand, Collins has a full calendar for the months ahead. He has been asked to meet with government officials in China, South Korea and the Royal Thai government to share his philosophies about design.
He recently returned from China, where he wrapped up filming the fifth season of his TV show “Creative Sky,” which has five million viewers. Producers there had another gig for Collins — a documentary about him that will air in October.