Three years after embarking on the MFA Textile program at The New School’s Parsons School of Design, the inaugural graduates were not about to let the pandemic lockdown dampen their imaginative ideas.
Each of the 16 graduates have created textiles that intersect craft, technology and sustainability. “I’m so proud and I’m so sad. I’m incredibly impressed by their attitude and endurance. And the way they handled COVID-19 was so positive and so mature. They were also strong,” said Li Edelkoort, who envisioned the MFA Textiles program in 2015.
It launched three years later under the leadership of program director Preeti Gopinath. After stay-at-home mandates required students to exit the classroom, Edelkoort kept up contact online. “They were all in their own houses and apartments with dogs and husbands and boyfriends and roommates — often in very small spaces. They knew how to adapt to the new circumstances in very funny ways,” she said. “It was very emotional to speak to them. I was in awe.”
Jeremy Ripley, for example, needed an enormous piece of textile to design a sculptural piece so he rented a loom in New York, managed to rebuild it in the basement of a building and later installed the finished product in a dance studio in Jersey City. Using Tencel, wood dowels and rope, he turned a flat texture into a living form that was inspired by mathematical and geometrical concepts. The textiles aim to create new interactions with acoustics, the color spectrum and electromagnetics.
Another student converted her dinner table into a loom, making a length of fabric from silk sari scraps. After the pandemic wiped away the prospect of any end-of-year presentations, one soon-to-be graduate opted to create an amazing film. “Suddenly, it becomes you and your work so the the video is a documentary of the work instead of an exhibition. They have learned a lot of extra skills but they managed to come through it with flying colors,” Edelkoort said. “They are really educated for this future after corona. They can be independent, they will be able to cooperate. There will be many different ways that they are able to make money and to make work…they will not be dependent on regular old fashion jobs. They are ready for the new challenges.”
The graduates have been trained to work in nonfashion sectors as well. Should they choose to work in fashion, they will bring a new voice, according to Edelkoort who added, “It really starts from the aesthetic, the new usages, the new fibers, the new research. It is much more interesting than textiles have been before.”
While the current job market is not going to be easy for anyone, Edelkoort described the graduates as “very entrepreneurial. They were given made-to-measure courses so they have developed their own vision and problematics. So they are very well-armed, emphatic. They have done work with industries. They have done personal work and group work,” she said.
From her standpoint, it is almost the revival of the period of arts and crafts in terms of the beauty and the social aspects and inclusivity. “There are positive reasons to rejoice even if that sounds bizarre nowadays,” Edelkoort said.