The High School of Fashion Industries on Wednesday honored two downtown Manhattan denizens, Mazdack Rassi and Jeffrey Kalinsky.
Rassi, the cofounder and creative director of Milk received the Visionary Award, while Kalinsky, who founded Jeffrey New York and Jeffrey Atlanta, and is vice president of fashion direction at Nordstrom, received the Legacy Award.
Kalinsky said he and Rassi shared the same stomping ground. “I knew Rassi from the second I tried to negotiate my lease in that building at 449 West 14th Street,” he said. “I’m a bit older than Rassi, but we started out in the same place at the same time. It was very nice get the award with Rassi.”
HSFI was founded in 1926 as Needle Trades High School. It adopted its current name in 1956 as the fashion industry changed and has continued to provide updated majors for students to remain relevant. Students can major in fashion design, merchandising, visual display, graphics and illustration. For four consecutive years, the High School of Fashion Industries has received an ‘A’ rating from the New York City Department of Education.
Along with the awards, the senior class on Wednesday held its fashion show. “It was a great effort,” Kalinsky said. “What I loved even more than the clothes was that the students were all their own models. I loved seeing that confidence from kids that age.”
Rassi’s award was presented by Zanna Roberts Rassi, NBC Today Show fashion contributor and Marie Claire senior fashion editor, who also happens to be the honoree’s wife.
“Receiving this award is such an honor,” Rassi said. “High School of Fashion Industries encourages its students to embrace their creativity at a young age, and that’s what we’re focused on at Milk, too. Whether it’s fashion, photography, music or film, Milk nurtures creativity, empowering the next generation of culture.”
Rassi said he hopes graduates of the high school will visit Milk Studios, adding, “We’re only a few blocks away, after all.”
“Jeffrey is a close friend who has revolutionized fashion and retail alike,” Rassi said. “Years ago, the two of us got our start in the Meatpacking District, and we’ve grown tremendously since, along with the neighborhood. Being honored by Jeffrey’s side makes me hopeful for these kids as they pursue their dreams — and it’s a good reminder that there’s always an exciting endeavor ahead for us, too.”
Kalinsky pulled a memory from his past, explaining that he was contacted about the award by Patti Cohen, who spent 30 years as head of marketing and public relations at Donna Karan International before retiring last year. “She’s on the board of the high school. Patti and I go back to when I was 23 years old and working for Donna Karan shoes. I was the North American agent in charge of distributing the footwear. She treated me like gold back then.”
His award was presented by chief executive officer of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, Steven Kolb. “He called me a pioneer and went through my career. It was emotional to hear all of that. It was really an honor to participate. This is a very old public high school for fashion, which is super cool to me.”