Accessory Design is certainly popular amongst students at Parsons (remember those past interviews with Mia and Alika?), and although this is not a specific major offered, students have found ways of incorporating different classes into their curriculums so that they acquire the skills needed for that field. Specifically, recent grad and New York native Justin Blanc, a shoe designer who majored in Product Design, took the time to chat with me about his experience at Parsons, his senior thesis and why it’s important to stay true to yourself (as “corny” as that may sound).
Lauren Davis: Hey Justin! Congrats on your recent graduation. What made you decide to attend Parsons in the first place?
Justin Blanc: One of my teachers in high school used to be the Director of Admission at Parsons years ago and really encouraged me to apply. I got accepted to another top design school but decided on Parsons because of its location and prestige.
LD: What is one of your best memories while at Parsons?
JB: Some of my best memories come from freshman year in general. Everyone spent a lot of time with each other and you get to know a lot of different people before breaking off in your different majors.
LD: Over the years you’ve taken many electives and other courses here at Parsons, what was your favorite class?
JB: I really enjoyed Shoe Design with Howard Davis, who was very encouraging. I actually took his class in the spring of my sophomore year, fall of my junior year and then I sat in on it spring of my senior year. The content of the class didn’t change at all but my skill level got better each time.
LD: Why did you decide to focus on shoe design within the Product Design major?
JB: Initially, I wanted to do Fashion Design but I’m not really a fan of womenswear. I thought Product Design would be a great way to mix the two worlds and take that knowledge of furniture building and transfer it to accessories and footwear in my classes and assignments.
LD: Tell me about your senior thesis, what was the inspiration behind that?
JB: I was a little bit at war with my teachers about what to do for my senior thesis but I decided I was going to do what I wanted since I was the one who would be putting all the time and money into it, I wanted to really be in love with the project. I’m an avid cyclist and I love footwear so I wanted to do something that connected both things, but to do it in a way that wasn’t corny. So I asked myself: How do I mix high fashion with the bike community? In the end I tapped into a woman’s needs while riding a bike, and the shoes she wears. Especially high heels, which are kind of awkward and can get messed up. I finally came up with a whole collection of women’s footwear that creates a solution for this.
LD: Even though its only been about three months, what have you been up to since graduating?
JB: The first month after I graduated it was a struggle looking for jobs but then I got a call from an HR office who remembered me and my senior thesis, and then after a 3 interview process I was offered a freelance shoe designer position at Calvin Klein. Hopefully, it will later turn into a full time position.
LD: Where do you hope to be in the future?
JB: I would like to start my own company. I definitely want to continue things I’ve been working on like footwear related to bikes. First I want to work in the industry and then break off when I feel like I’ve learned more it will make doing my own thing easier. My own projects are on the back burner but eventually I’ll bring them back out and hopefully they’ll create some sort of buzz!
LD: Do you have any advice you’d like to offer for current and incoming Parsons students?
JB: As corny as it sounds, stay true. The reason I enjoyed my senior year was because I stayed true to myself and never hated any of the projects I did. Some people do it just to get a grade, but when you care about it people will believe it and that much more.
Many thanks to Justin. To see more of his work check out his website!