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Dean of Fashion Parsons The New School For Design
The luxury industry took a hit for a while after the financial crisis, but it's booming now, posting record profits.
Simon Collins is the Dean of Fashion at Parsons The New School for Design. He talks about various factors affecting the fashion industry during a conversation with Fibre2Fashion Correspondent Manushi Gandhi.
Parsons is one of the world’s leading institutes for art and design. It was founded in 1986 in New York, USA. Parsons comprises of the School of Art and Design History and Theory; School of Art, Media, and Technology; School of Constructed Environments; School of Design Strategies; and School of Fashion. Each of these has various departments and offers numerous degree programs. Parsons school also started in Paris in 1921. Many popular designers like Kay Unger, Tom Ford, Anna Sui, Donna Karan have passed out from here.
Simon Collins oversees all areas of fashion studies at The New School. Mr. Collins has worked with some of the world’s leading brands like Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren, Fila, Zegna, and Marks and Spencer. He was appointed as the dean of Parsons’ School of Fashion in 2008. He went to Bournemouth and Poole College of Art and Design and Epsom School of Art and Design.
Do you feel that fashion is a very subjective term which differs from person to person?
The first thing an aspiring designer should have is a unique vision. If you don’t have something you want to say, something you’re dying to get out into the world, why bother? That’s not to say that you shouldn’t take input from other people when it makes sense, but you have to trust your vision as a young designer, and explore who you are and what you have to say. It might not be what other people would do – in fact, it shouldn’t be. If it were, it would’ve been done already. You can see it in the designers who’ve come from our program: Alexander Wang, Jason Wu, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, and I’d also add Jenna Lyons, who’s the Creative Director at J. Crew. They’re all doing very different work, but they all are very true to their own vision.
What is the role of an institute in developing designing sense of the aspirants?
One of the biggest things you should learn in school is how to learn; how to keep asking questions, keep adding skills to your toolkit, and staying curious for the rest of your life. What we try to do here at Parsons The New School for Design is to teach out students to ask smart questions. We want to help them figure out what’s in them, and what they really want to do. Then, we give them a platform to execute that vision. It’s what we do here in New York, and it’s what we’ll be doing at our presences in Paris and Mumbai; teaching students how to create beautiful solutions.
Do you think fashion is an industry that is very sensitive to the fluctuations in the market?
Fashion is an industry like any other. Hard times hurt here, like anywhere else. Although it doesn’t always work out as you might expect. The luxury industry took a hit for a while after the financial crisis, but it’s booming now, posting record profits. At the same time, the past five years have seen a dramatic rise in fast fashion stores like Zara or Uniqlo, who offer high-fashion-influenced clothes at relatively low prices.
What is the importance of social media for students aspiring to be good designers?
Knowing your customer is one of the most important things for a brand. You have to have a sense of who the people are who wear your clothes, and the people who wear your clothes have to have a sense of who you are as a brand. The connection that social media offers is so, so valuable for this. It connects you to your customers and offers them a real-time look at you. It’s also a great place to have a little fun, and show your sense of humour. Really getting your head around this can make a big difference for a brand.
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