NEW YORK — A strapless dress billowing with what looked like five giant one-dollar bills and clasped on the side with what looked like a silver clip was one of the many unexpected looks at the Parsons MFA “Generation 7” show Friday morning.
Barely there mesh cutout bodywear, men’s black leather shorts and blazer and a circus-like swing dress printed with smartphone-wielding hands were among the styles that were paraded down the runway at Spring Place. Parsons alumna Donna Karan, who initiated the MFA program in 2010, sailed into the crowd after a well-meaning greeter asked her for her seating assignment.
The designer was joined in the front row by Parsons’ Joel Towers and Kay Unger, as well as Kering’s Laurent Claquin, Simon Collins and Julie Gilhart. The 30-minute show featured designs by Rui Zhou, Limeng Ye, Irina Wang, Jimin Kim, Saya Zalel, Floyd Hogan, Max Cui, Yang Liu, Kota Okudo, Amy Crookes, Shie Lyu, Wrong Xiao, Stephanie Frig, Venice W. and Annaliese Griffith-Jones.
They earned high marks from Karan, especially for the sustainability factor. “Everything was made from scratch — every fabric, every bead, every design. For these guys to do that is extraordinary. Usually, you see things like that on the recycled level. But they made every single thing,” Karan said, after having a word with Shelley Fox, the Donna Karan professor of fashion and director of Parsons’ MFA in fashion design and society.
Karan said, “The kids are what I think are so fantastic. The message had to be for us to understand the sustainability aspect, taking it to the next level and that there is creativity beyond when you’re a student in fashion. It’s that moment in time you have to just go wild. There were certain pieces that I thought were really, really amazing.
“All in all, I’ve seen how the graduate program has progressed, since it was founded. I can’t believe how it has evolved. It’s truly amazing.” she said.
Unger nodded approvingly and mentioned how her multicolored, multi-fabric dress was from the show’s closer: Annaliese Griffith-Jones. “She does all the polyurethane, all the beading. I think she’s an amazing talent. She does all the socks and stockings. She knits everything,” said Unger, lifting the hem of her dress to show one of the court jester-like knee socks that she was wearing.
While fashion week inevitably brings with it a back-to-work feeling, Karan was still relishing one “brilliant” summer. (The fact that she was wearing sunglasses indoors seemed to be further proof.) “I was in Ethiopia, in Haiti and in Costa Rica for a conference in sustainability. But Ethiopia is my favorite place in the world. I adore it,” Karan said.
Back in New York, she is planning a major exhibition at Urban Zen for the globetrotting photographer Jimmy Nelson’s new book “Homage to Humanity.” Karan also has plans to honor Nelson and Towers at this year’s Stephan Weiss Apple Awards at Urban Zen. The model Iman will be saluted too at the awards, which are named for Karan’s late husband.