Parsons Launches Graduate Fashion Programs

Parsons Launches Graduate Fashion Programs

Parsons The New School for Design announced the launch of two new fashion graduate programs that will break new ground in the United States: a studio-based MFA in Fashion Design and Society, initiated through the support of Donna Karan, and an MA in Fashion Studies.

Both programs are interdisciplinary in nature, placing fashion in a contemporary, global context that recognizes its significance as a cultural, social and economic force. Parsons will accept the first class of students for both of these programs in Fall 2010.

"More than a century ago, Parsons pioneered the study of fashion design by establishing the first undergraduate program in the United States," said Parsons Dean Joel Towers. "These new degree programs represent our school's commitment to provide talented fashion students with the professional training and contextual understanding they need in order to excel today and in the future."

The programs take advantage of Parsons being a world-class design school that is an integral part of a research university, The New School, which has acclaimed programs in the humanities and social sciences. While based in New York City, a world capital for fashion, both programs are international in scope with respect to curriculum, faculty and student bodies.

MFA Fashion Design and Society
The MFA in Fashion Design and Society is an advanced degree for talented, emerging fashion designers who are poised to become the next generation of industry leaders through a studio-based program that fosters experimentation. The program was inspired by Karan, whose own career has embraced a broad view of fashion and helped define a new chapter in American fashion design.

"Today, it is not enough for designers to possess strong design talent," said Karan. "In order to succeed, you need a singular creative vision as well as a strong understanding of the economic, social, technological and cultural issues that influence fashion. The MFA Fashion Design and Society program was established to give young designers these advanced skills-no school is better positioned than Parsons to provide this holistic approach to design education."

The program will forge connections with the other disciplines of study at Parsons and The New School, including the social sciences, business, marketing, technology, sustainability and design history and theory; as well as the fine arts, photography, architecture, interior and product design. The program will provide students with the advanced design and research skills they need to become successful in the field, including a critical awareness for self-development and growth.

The program is led by Shelley Fox, the Donna Karan Professor of Fashion at Parsons. Fox, an award-winning designer, has created numerous experimental and innovative women's wear collections that have been exhibited in the U.S. and internationally. She has built an international following as a conceptual designer renowned for her unorthodox pattern cutting and for her constant questioning of convention. Her work is exhibited internationally and published across fashion, design and art journals as well as academic publications. She serves as a Senior Research Fellow for Fashion at Central St. Martins College of Art & Design, University of the Arts, London.

"What attracted me most about developing this innovative new program at Parsons was the ability to break new ground on how designers approach their craft," said Fox. "I envision the program as a space where designers will explore the next wave in fashion design - a wave that brings together fashion, art, creativity, and business in new and unexpected ways."

Through a generous gift from Diane von Furstenberg, Parsons has established scholarship funding for the MFA in Fashion Design and Society. Additional scholarship support has been provided from the estates of two alumni, Richard Obus and Stephen W. Mason.

The MFA in Fashion Design and Society is based in the School of Fashion at Parsons, one of the leading fashion design schools in the world. The school is led by Dean Simon Collins, a seasoned creative director with experience in all facets of the industry who has worked with leading global brands including Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren, Fila, and Zegna. Its faculty includes industry veterans and rising talent, as well as lecturers and critics at the top of the field.

MA Fashion Studies
The MA in Fashion Studies is a theory-based program for emerging scholars who want to engage in the interdisciplinary analysis of fashion in its complex manifestations as object, image, cultural practice and concept. The program is intended to foster a critical understanding of fashion and its global intersections with identity, history, and culture in the contemporary world.

"In the United States, Fashion Studies is a term that is used to define a range of programs," said Heike Jenss, director of Parson MA Fashion Studies. "At Parsons, we intend to break new ground by encompassing critical perspectives and approaches from a range of academic fields such as fashion history and design studies, anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies, to name a few. Through this interdisciplinary approach, students will gain a better understanding of the central debates and concepts shaping this new and developing field. This will enable them to study the multiple forms and meanings of fashion in a broader social and cultural context."

The program is geared for students with degrees in the humanities and social sciences as well as those with art, design and fashion industry backgrounds who want to advance the field of fashion studies. A variety of career possibilities are open to graduates of the program in fashion research, academia, and the culture industries. The program also prepares students for Ph.D. programs in the field.

Jenss is a fashion scholar and researcher who holds a Ph.D. in the Cultural Anthropology of Textiles from Dortmund University, Germany. Her research concentrates on fashion and consumption as identity practices, youth culture, retro styles and vintage dress, and the intersection of fashion, individuality, and uniformity. She is the author of Sixties Dress Only (Campus, 2007) based on an ethnographic study of contemporary secondhand fashion and consumption in the youth culture of the mod and sixties-scene.

The new MA Fashion Studies program is based in the School of Art and Design History and Theory at Parsons, which is led by Dean Hazel Clark, PhD, a design historian and theorist specializing in fashion and textiles. Its faculty includes nationally and internationally recognized experts active in diverse areas of academic research, including fashion and youth culture, design history and criticism, cultural identity and globalization, consumption, and sustainability.

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