Parsons has a mystical aura surrounding it that instantly lends you coolness in conversation. But what’s it’s really like is a little different. It’s really hard. It’s very inspiring. There’s so much work. There’s no sleeping. Really, I stayed awake for 51 hours one time. You will leave a different person than when you started. Here are a few things that I learned along the way.
Designing a garment takes a lot of time.
From the initial drape, through the patternmaking process, making and fitting a muslin sample, pattern corrections and then to sewing the final garment— the whole process took roughly 100 hours per garment. Most clothes aren’t made this way anymore. Many are directly copied from already existing garments out there on the market.
Patternmaking is a complicated science.
Patternmaking truly is an art and a science. A master patternmaker can create a flat pattern that when cut and sewn molds perfectly around the human form; similar to an architect creating a blueprint for a building. Most patternmaking these days is out-sourced to other countries and is rushed by people with little training. For that reason, most garments out there (particularly from large retailers) don’t actually fit us all that well. My patternmaking professor at Parsons was a diamond in the rough and we’re lucky to have access to many others here in New York.
Designing is wasteful.
Walk into the work rooms at Parsons and the floor is a multi-level patchwork of muslin, fabric, pattern paper and thread. Think many a slips on your butt. Having the janitor mistake your garment for one of the hundreds of scraps surrounding you (during finals. Gah!). Leather was having a moment in 2012 and the amount of discarded leather laying around on the floors always shocked me. Fortunately, there are methods to consciously design patterns that significantly minimize (or even eliminate) wasted fabric.
Wearing the same thing everyday makes you more creative.
So many of the students at Parsons were decked out in the current trends everyday; each trying to out-cool the other. But the students who really got down to business and created amazing work were typically wearing the same thing everyday. Yara Flinn of Nomia said it perfectly in this recent NY Mag article: “I just wear a uniform myself every day, because I don’t like thinking about what I’m going to wear, which is kind of ironic. If I don’t think about what I’m wearing, it’s easier for me to design”. Wearing the same thing everyday — that you feel good and like yourself in — frees up your energy for creativity.
Protect The Magic.
A majority of the people that I’ve come across in the fashion industry are stressed out. This industry, like Parsons, moves fast and to keep ahead in the game you have to constantly keep producing. But somewhere in that process, the pleasure is lost. What if we didn’t have to design so quickly; design so many pieces; design so many seasons? What if instead we slowed down and focused on creating well-made, wearable garments — garments that become parts of uniforms— and let the ourselves love the process?
“The keyword is simplicity, which is a means serving a greater purpose; clarity. Reference lines, simple shapes, simple marker strokes; all of these are supposed to help achieve clear structures, as long as we are aware of using them. You can take any licences, except the lack of awareness regarding your intentions.”
-Dan Nistor, a beloved professor