Designer’s Challenge: École Parsons à Paris/Paris College of Art Uncovers Young Talents
The Paris College of Art was established in 1921, when Frank Alvah Parsons, fuelled by a passion for the arts, launched the first American educational program out of the United States. The school was called The Paris Atelier and was founded on the same principles as the school that Parsons headed, New York School of Fine and Applied Art. Its main tenet is that art is universal and essential to the success of nations and individuals.
In 1939, due to World War II, The Paris Atelier shut its doors. After Parsons’ death, the New York School of Fine and Applied Art was renamed Parsons School of Design. In the late 1970s, under the Dean of Parsons School of Design, The Paris Atelier was again opened. This historical bit is just part of the journey that leads to today’s École Parsons à Paris, a school under the Paris College of Art.
The Paris College of Art offers summer, semestral exchange, one-year intensive certificate programs and four-year BFA courses in fashion design. The fashion department, headed by former CEO of Jean-Paul Gaultier, Donald Potard, holds an annual runway show held at the Cirque d’Hiver is the school’s most awaited event. Students from the graduating class present a “Thesis Collection” and compete for the title of “Designer of the Year”, which is judged and attended by prominent designers, some of whom have graduated from the École themselves. Last year, alumnus Georgia Hardinge’s presence in the event inspired the exiting students, who aim to grow into global designers.
This year’s collections presentation is on May 24th presided by Jean-Charles de Castelbajac. Prior to the show, on May 22nd, members of the Federation Française de la Couture, including Anne Valérie Hash, Patrick Cabasset from L’Officiel and Nathalie Lacroix from Franck et Fils, will assemble a jury to critique the students' work and elect the designer of the year.
NOWFASHION met six of the eight aspiring designers, who talked about their collections for the upcoming competition and show. Every week leading to the event, we will take you through the students’ atelier to discover the tiny victories and possible conundrums they face before the big day.
The students were assigned to conceive a collection from start to finish for a mock boutique; this includes a marketing plan, with the focus on design and creation.
Student Lisa Blom, a native of Sweden, explained that she was inspired by the fluid elements of water and the stiffness of metal to create a fabric print in golds and blues. “I like the transition from hard into soft and vice versa,” she said, “and I researched on how they can work together in a print.” Blom used photos from aerial photography as a starting point for the printed fabric, which she transforms into long skirts and corsets made of resin, copper and mesh. “It’s really focused on marbling techniques. I want to show movement.”
Spanish Andrea Gutierrez Coello De Portugal said, “I like the 70s a lot because of what it represents: glamour, the strong woman.” Her collection is derived from images of Studio 54 and the prints and patterns of the era. “I use fish scale prints on crepe de chine,” she holds up her book of pegs. Heels are covered with glitter to emphasize the glam-feel of the decade’s disco nightlife. “My collection is all about print.”
“I was reading The Little Prince,” said Russian Irina Fedotova, “and I thought I could put that together with environmentally-correct, lighter fabrics.” Her collection is made of materials from sportswear to create a “breathable collection”. Fedotova also wants her dresses to be pretty; printed dresses and spandex leggings are strewn with floral prints. “I have a poncho that is like the Little Prince’s shelter spaceship, with volume, but light and elegant,” she said.
Singaporean Peirong Zhou’s menswear aims to surprise. “It’s the manipulation of perception,” she says as she holds up a black leather coat that, when unzipped, looks like bat wings. “I like the idea that this shirt looks like it’s layered and made of several pieces, but it’s actually just one piece.” Zhou’s leather and denim pieces, actualized from silkscreen art, are also conceived from Situationism, or artists in the 60s who were influenced by Dada, Surrealism and Lettrism.
Hui-Yu Wu, who hails from Canada via Taiwan, showed us photos of European colonialism of aboriginal Taiwanese. “I wanted to show the elements that did not exist before the colonization,” she holds up a blouse with ruffles at the neck “and then with bold colours from nature express a solemn feeling.” Her collection, she says, is inspired by the journey of finding oneself and how one is affected by cultural exchanges in a foreign city. “I have Mandarin collars, and Dutch and Spanish ruffles. But I also show the weaving and craftsmanship of the aboriginals.”
Peruvian Jessica Acosta Lorena wants to evoke the feeling of hope in her collection. “The collection is about migration and the disillusionment, deconstruction and reconstruction that an individual faces in a new city.” Lorena began with the hard elements of the city, such as metal, and printed these onto fabric. “It is about tradition and the new,” she says as she holds up a swirly-printed blue jacket with holes under the arms (which she placed just so to create movement). “I try to mesh weaves with modern materials and then give a sense of familiarity.”
The young designers will continue to work on their collections throughout the coming month. Tune in on Friday May 4th at 10 AM Paris time for our next live photo and video coverage of the Paris College of Art senior’s class designer competition where the young designers will choose and fit their models for the show.
-Ria de Borja
Photos by: Valerio Mezzanotti
Video by: Leetal Platt