The life and work of Michael Vollbracht will be celebrated Sept. 4 at a memorial at The New School’s Parsons School of Design.
Iris Apfel, Bethann Hardison, Kay Unger, Joel Towers, Jeffrey Banks and Stan Herman will be among the 12 speakers who will pay tribute to the fashion designer and illustrator, who died in June at the age of 70. The event will start at 6 p.m. at the school’s auditorium at 66 West 12th Street in Manhattan.
After years of working as an illustrator, Vollbracht switched camps to fashion design and earned a Coty award in his second season. In 1980, two years after starting his signature label without any outside funding, Vollbracht, a dedicated movie fan, told WWD, “I owe my talent to American films.” He also shared his cinematic view of the world with Bill Blass, whom he helped with a museum retrospective at Indiana University and the company, which he took over the creative reigns from Lars Nilsson in 2003.
In addition, donations in Vollbracht’s honor will be accepted to support a scholarship in his name through the Parsons Scholars program. The Kay Unger Family Foundation will match every donation that is received. Vollbracht graduated from Parsons in 1969, winning the school’s prestigious Norman Norell award. In what turned out to be a harbinger, when Norell was unable to present the award, Blass stepped in.
Unger, along with the late designer Willi Smith, was a classmate of Vollbracht’s at Parsons. She is now chair of the board of the governors at the school. Those who give $150 or more will receive a copy of his book “Nothing Sacred,” which is no longer in print. Vollbracht wrote the book partially to support children who were victims of abuse — a cause that he was committed to throughout his life, Unger said.
Geared for underserved high school students who take art and design courses year-round at Parsons, the scholars program has a new class of 24 scholars annually, with the majority of students going on to college. Most of the scholars who enroll in college are the first generation in their families to do so.
Images of his sketches and drawings will be shown during next week’s tribute and Parsons plans to stage a retrospective of his work at a later date. Unger said there is too much to curate in such a short amount of time to do it justice. The gathering is meant to be a celebration. “He would not have wanted a maudlin event,” she said.
Hardison will be doing double duty on Sept. 4. After speaking about Vollbracht, she will have to duck out for the Nike and LeBron James-presented Harlem’s Fashion Row’s style awards and fashion show. Billed as “The Strongest,” the event will honor Hardison, as well as James, Dapper Dan and stylist Jason Rembert. Hardison said committing to a doubleheader was a must — “I knew I had to be there for Michael,” she explained.