The New School’s Parsons School of Design students had several high-profile spectators during the school’s benefit on Monday night. The crowd at Pier Sixty included designers and retail executives, including honorees Eileen Fisher and Neiman Marcus Group’s Karen Katz, and even a celebrity – none other than Rihanna. The three were recognized for their work in performance, design, and fostering social good.
“You should be celebrated for your creativity, for your fearlessness, for your persistence and determination. You should be celebrated for all of the work you put into building your future, for being different, for not being given enough credit,” Rihanna told the crowd, following a runway show of the school’s student fashion designs. “My point is, we often tear our youth down when we should be building them up. At the end of the day, our future is in their hands.”
Rihanna closed out the night with Donna Karan. The pair recently teamed for an initiative to benefit the singer’s Clara Lionel Foundation and Haitian artisans through the Design, Organization, Training Center in Port-au-Prince. This summer Karan will take three Parsons students – the winners were revealed at Monday’s benefit – along with her to Haiti through the Design Fellowship program.
“I took Parsons down to Haiti – I was trying to get other designers down and I figured, ‘Oh my god, take the graduates.’ So we take three graduates every year to work with the artisans,” Karan explained earlier in the evening. “I really do believe it’s the graduates of the schools who can really make the difference out there. Because they’re not established yet – it’s hard for a designer to get away as much as you have to. It takes a lot of your time and energy.”
And as for the graduating design students, Karan – who sits on the school’s board – shared a few of her guiding thoughts.
“I really think they do have to take the position of working in another company and learning the industry,” she said. “And also realizing that it’s not about you. It’s about the we, not the me. You’re only as good as the people you have around you.
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