The end of the school year is always an exciting time at Parsons. Besides anxiously awaiting the end of classes, graduation, and the start of summer, we’re also toiling away to produce our best work for the Parsons Festival. Workshops, symposiums, lectures, and most notably—student exhibitions—comprise the monthlong event. The highlights of the Parsons Festival are always the Senior Thesis exhibitions, which showcase the final work of our soon-to-be graduates. I think it’s so awesome to see the fruits of everybody’s labor, especially after seeing how hard my peers have worked for the year!
2013 marked the 65th year of the annual Parsons Fashion Benefit. The Thesis Fashion Show is the pièce de résistance of the School of Fashion, where the top BFA Fashion Design seniors have the opportunity to showcase their final Womenswear, Menswear, and Childrenswear collections. There’s two shows: the first is an afternoon preview open to all New School students, alumni, faculty, and industry people, while the second is the extravagant black-tie benefit dinner. Held at Pier Sixty in Chelsea, the benefit regularly draws some of the biggest industry names to raise money for Parsons scholarships ($1.7 MILLION, to be exact!!!!). This year’s attendees included Parsons alumni Prabal Gurung, Tracy Reese, as well as Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez, who were honored at the event. That’s some incredible exposure for our students!
This year, I was super stoked to see a couple of my friends send their looks down the runway (including my own roommate Thi Wan!) Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to attend the show in-person, but thankfully I got to watch the live stream! You can still check out the recordings of the afternoon show as well as the Parsons Benefit online. Though the dust has settled for the semester and the end-of-the-year excitement is winding down, I finally got a chance to catch up with my friend Evelyn Tao (or Ev, as I call her) to talk about her experience creating her thesis collection and her nomination for Childrenswear Designer of the Year!
Syd Chan: Congrats on showing a terrific collection at the thesis show! Your kids looked like adorable little fashionistas. Can you tell me what inspired your collection?
Ev Tao: Thank you! I was actually inspired by a very strange and abandoned UFO village that I had found in Taiwan last year. I lived there for 18 years without ever knowing that it existed. It’s basically a deserted resort of Space Age modular houses designed in the late 60s by a Finnish architect called Matti Suuronen, and these houses in Taiwan have long been forgotten and resulting in urban decay. The prints were all inspired either by 60s mod, or the eerie concept of “white noise” but still done in a playful way that makes it kid-friendly.
SC: Such an interesting combination of imagery, very cool! So what was it like designing for kids as opposed to runway models?
ET: Although I design into the “Mini Me” aesthetic, when designing for kids, there are definitely a lot more practical concerns to take into consideration. The fabrics I chose and the silhouettes I designed all had to be wearable for a kid. Especially due to the age group I’ve chosen (Girls 7-14), I really had to focus on creating pieces that were age appropriate, but at the same time, sophisticated enough to catch the eyes of parents, and also allow the kids feel like they are wearing something kind of “grown up,” since that’s usually the look that girls in that age want to dress like.
SC: Seems like a lot of hard work. Can you talk a little bit about the judging panel process for the Designer of the Year nominations?
ET: I feel like I still get anxiety when hearing the word “panel.” Honestly, it was such a hectic day and I was so nervous I can barely recall much of what happened. Everything went by so quickly as soon as the doors to the auditorium closed, and before I knew it I was dragging my rack up there and in the spotlight. I still regret that due to how nervous I was, I forgot to talk about half of what I needed to. Then it took more than a week before we found out via email the nominees for DOY.
SC: I could only imagine how nerve-wracking it must’ve been to sum up a years worth of work in just a few minutes. But you survived!! How did it feel when you found out you were a finalist for Childrenswear Designer of the Year?
ET: Post-panel, I was really just very glad that I’d finally finished my thesis and accomplished something that I truly am proud of, so when the email came I was actually kind of surprised that my name was on there. I had mentally prepared to not see my name on there because I felt like I had bombed my presentation!
SC: You’re so hard on yourself…I guess you’re just like every other Parsons student! But I think your work must’ve spoken for itself. So the benefit always attracts some heavy fashion hitters, it must’ve been incredible to get some great industry exposure! Were you able to mingle and meet any important figures during the benefit?
ET: Funny thing…I really didn’t have much time to mingle during the benefit because I had four little girls I was chasing after and trying to dress!
SC: Ha! I guess you were right about having more considerations when doing childrenswear! Now that you’ve graduated, do you have any plans for your future and your career?
ET: I just started interning at J.Crew, and it’s currently only my second week but I am loving every second of it! I guess for the time being I am just trying to detox a little from the past four years of school, and trying to gain as much hands-on experience as I can in this internship program. I am not trying to make plans too far into the future since you never really know, but I’m definitely just going to the flow and embracing wherever it takes me!
I definitely see some great things coming for Ev’s future! You can check out more of her work by visiting her website here. Congrats to Ev again on her nomination for Childrenswear Designer of the Year and, of course, graduating from Parsons!!!