Tim Gunn may have departed his post as Parsons’ Chair of Fashion Design to become chief creative officer of Liz Claiborne Inc. earlier this year, but clearly there's nothing but love between the “Project Runway” star and his alma mater, judging by the university’s annual Benefit and Fashion Show, which took place at the Grand Hyatt ballroom in New York on Monday night.
The stylish soiree, which raised more than $3.4 million for scholarships and academic programs, kicked off with a festive cocktail hour, during which Parsons’ 125 graduating fashion design students mingled with guests such as Donna Karan, Oscar de la Renta, President Bill Clinton and Kate and Andy Spade.
Although only 26 graduates participated in the post-dinner runway event, all 125 seniors were accompanied by a model wearing one of their designs during cocktails, giving each of them a chance to show off their work while hobnobbing with the crowd (though we did feel more than a twinge of sympathy for the unlucky model who had been chosen to wear one student’s garter belted, butt-bearing Playboy Bunny homage, which might have been fun in theory - or on a runway - but was a bit, how to put it?...overly cheeky in reality, especially as we saw several male guests ask her to turn around so they could admire the view - yuck!).
After admiring a view of a different sort - the designs of the two Jessicas (seniors Jessica Garb and Jessica Brooke Abraham, that is) - we ran into Parsons Womenswear Designer of the Year, Boaz Eli, who had been awarded top prize earlier in the day, along with co-winner, Michelle Ochs.
”It’s an amazing honor,” the tousle haired Israeli told The Fashion Informer. “I didn’t think it was going to be me - and we’re really rooting for each other. We’re a group of friends, and we just kept telling each other, ‘If one of us wins, all of us win.’ But I’m really happy and really honored.”
Mike Bloomberg was on hand to support the students and the school in general. “Terry Lundgren is presenting tonight,” Mayor Mike told us. “I think he’s one of the great executives and one of the great human beings. He’s been a friend of mine for years, and when he asked me to come, I was honored to be invited. Parsons is a great school and unique to New York.”
Senior Carly Cushnie greeted designer Oscar de la Renta, who was there to present an award. “I haven’t seen any of the student’s work yet, so I’m very much looking forward to the show,” de la Renta told The Fashion Informer, just as the 1,000-plus guests were ushered upstairs to the mirrored ballroom for dinner and the runway presentation.
Former President Bill Clinton was on hand for the second year in a row to introduce his good friend, Oscar de la Renta, and he joked that he was thinking of making it an annual event. De la Renta introduced the evening’s main honoree, Susan D. Kronick, vice chairman of Federated Department Stores, Inc. (Macy's/Bloomingdale's), who was followed by New School President (and FOB) Bob Kerrey, who announced the establishment of the $350,000 Tim Gunn scholarship, bestowed by Liz Claiborne, Inc., and that Gunn had been formally named Honorary Chair of Fashion Design at Parsons, which counts designers Donna Karan, Isaac Mizrahi, Marc Jacobs, Doo.Ri Chung, and Proenza Schouler’s Jack McCoullough and Lazaro Hernandez among its illustrious alum.
After a dinner of goat cheese croquettes and filet mignon, the senior show began, with the 26 star students sending out between three and five looks each from the womenswear, menswear and childrenswear categories (the latter of which will host its own show at F.A.O. Schwarz on Tuesday, May 15th, at which Parsons Childrenswear Designer of the Year will be announced).
“It was an amazing, amazing, amazing year - full of talent,” Boaz Eli told us after the event, which did, indeed, showcase some of the best work we’ve seen from a Parsons’ graduating class. “I’m kind of in awe, because I think it was one of the strongest [classes] ever. I’m just really happy and proud of myself and my friends.”
As well he should be.
Runway photos © Dan Lucca; all additional photos © Jim Celeste/Patrick McMullan Co.