The New Parsons School The benefit, which honors prominent figures in fashion, business, design and philanthropy, hosted its 74th annual event. The celebration was held on Wednesday, May 24, 2023, at Cipriani Wall Street in New York City, with Parsons BFA graduates showcasing their garment designs and a special guest appearance by Busta Rhymes.
This year’s honorees included Geoffroy Von Raemdonck, CEO of Neiman Marcus Group; Naomi Campbell, supermodel and cultural innovator; and Olivier Rousteing, creative director of Balmain. Each honoree, recognized for their significant contributions to design, retail, fashion, philanthropy and social justice, exemplifies Parsons’ values of creativity, innovation, sustainability and inclusivity.
Parsons BFA graduates sent their looks down the runway that evening as guests watched from their dinner tables. With 200 students each creating one look for the BFA program, a pre-benefit runway show was held on Saturday to showcase the designs in motion. The West Village venue was filled with a crowd witnessing a cohesively stitched together show of 200 looks in select groups that included entire collections created by a handful of designers.
The show illustrated the next generation of fashion designers and innovators who can become like Marc Jacobs, who graduated from Parsons. Jacobs presented and accepted the honor for Naomi Campbell that Wednesday night. Students in attendance had the opportunity to speak with guests such as Anna Wintour, Carolina Herrera, Founder of Carolina Herrera, and Wes Gordon, Carolina Herrera Creative Director and Co-Chair.
The guest list of the evening included model Cara Delevingne, actress Jodie Turner-Smith, Kim Kardashian, designers Dapper Dan, Diane Von Furstenberg, Tory Burch, April Walkerand Parsons’ dean of fashion BenBarry.
Students with exposed garment designs are included Shirley TangMarcelle Barbosa Steve CoteHelen Sotropa and Bradford Billingsley, who presented the garments at the benefit dinner.
Each honoree serves as a mentor to graduates, aligning with Parsons’ mission, vision, and curriculum. No one spoke about it more than the famous Olivier Rousteing. Rousteing captivated the audience and students with an impromptu speech, bypassing his planned version that he wrote four weeks before the benefit. His spontaneous yet casual ad-lib showed his passion for each student’s trajectory.
Embracing the crowd with words he echoed earlier in a private conversation, Rousteing says, “I think tonight we’re not just celebrating ‘Olivier’ as creative director, we’re celebrating a new world. I started twelve years ago in France. I was the only black designer at the head of a French luxury house. What happened is that I had to fight for so many years.”
Rousteing went on to express his thoughts on Parsons graduates as advocates for an equally fair industry: “Those three words – inclusivity, diversity, democratization of fashion – this is what’s happening tonight. A celebration of not just me [and others] but the next ‘world’.”
“New World – [is] a better world. So this award is not for me, but it is all for the next generation. They fight for who they want to be, and have no limitations in their dream because of origin, color, or anything that would not define what they want. They will be ‘tomorrow’. I met amazing students. Tonight, this is what I want to explain to them. Keep your hope, keep your strength, keep working hard and don’t let anyone get you down.”
The fundraiser raised over $1.7 million in funding for The New School Parsons. By honoring three innovators and industry leaders, Campbell, Von Raemdonck and Rousteing, we uphold the values of a more than 100-year-old academic and fashion institution.
They join a prestigious list of past Parsons benefit recipients that includes Donna Karan, Jason Wu, Vera Wang, Kehinde Wiley, Pharrell Williams, Rihanna, Sarah Jessica Parker, Tory Burch and Gucci’s Marco Bizzarri, celebrating the creativity and vision of the past, present and future leaders.
Forbes – Lifestyle