Next Thursday April 25th, Pratt Institute will be hosting their annual student fashion show. I was impressed by the student work featured in their look book for the event and thrilled to hear about the school’s choice this year for their Visionary Award, an honor previously bestowed on recipients Hamish Bowles, Diane von Furstenberg, and Catherine Malandrino, among others. While I encourage those available to support student work and come see the fashion show and ensuing cocktail benefit, those outside the New York area can catch a sneak peak of student design below, as well as learn more about the event and some upcoming changes in the fashion design curriculum at Pratt. Special thanks to the Assistant Chairperson of the Fashion Department, Shannon Bell Price, for taking the time to chat with me about some of the exciting things happening at Pratt!
Thom Browne, Ensemble, autumn/winter 2012-13. Image via: style.com
Mellissa: On April 25th, when the graduating class presents their thesis fashion collections, you will also be honoring the American fashion designer Thom Browne with the Pratt Institute Visionary Award. Although Browne has already been recognized with multiple design awards, it was not until recently that he’s started to really garner attention from a more global audience outside of the fashion industry. Yet, even before Michelle Obama decided to wear his clothes to the presidential inauguration, and well before his most recently acclaimed Fall 2013 collections were completed, Pratt had already decided on Browne as a recipient for the award. Could you talk a bit about the choice of Thom Browne for this special acknowledgment?
Shannon: I had been aware of Thom’s work for quite a while and for me he represents all that can be great and important about American fashion in this new century. He revolutionized menswear and is now doing the same for womenswear; and skillfully reconciles art and commerce through highly conceptual runway presentations and impeccable craftsmanship. During my first year at Pratt Institute I very much wanted to help Chair Minniti bring attention to the program, and the important curricular changes she is implementing, through honoring someone who represents the aspirations of Pratt Fashion–no one seemed to do it better than Thom Browne. He has set standards for excellence and originality that push fashion forward and will surely inspire our students to do the same.
Sam O’Brien, Ensemble, 2013. Photo by Dominik Tarabanski
Mellissa: The student work that will be shown on the runway was also chosen by a panel, what was the selection process like for the students to participate in this culminating fashion show?
Shannon: The seniors go through a rigorous and regular critique schedule for the entire final year. Along with weekly classroom fittings and critique, we have two formal crits during the fall semester where we bring in a small panel of academics, including professional peers from Parsons and SCAD et al, as well as industry professionals. In the final weeks of the spring semester the students have a formal review with the senior collection faculty and chairs to decide whose collections are in good enough shape, considering concept, cohesion, and craftsmanship, to be presented to the final jury who ultimately decides which seniors will show at the fashion show. This final jury is held outside of Pratt and includes a much longer list of high-level designers and industry leaders who use a very precise grading rubric, the result from which is decided who goes to the runway.
Madeline Gruen, Ensemble, 2013. Photo by Dominik Tarabanski
Mellissa: The lookbook design for the senior thesis fashion show is really striking. How involved were the student designers in the process of putting this together?
Shannon: The look book was designed by Joshua Graver, Pratts in house graphic designer, who worked closely with photographer, Dominik Tarabanski, and us on the concept. The students are so focused on getting their looks done they don’t have much time during this part of the semester to think about the look book so we all bring our years of experience to bear to make sure we produce a professional product that will serve them as they start their careers.
Jefferson Musanda, Ensemble, 2013. Photo by Dominik Tarabanski
Mellissa: The fashion design department at Pratt is about to implement a new curriculum this coming Fall 2013. What catalyzed this upcoming change, and what are some of the immediate differences that currently matriculated and incoming students can expect to see?
Shannon: Pratt Institute brought Chair Minniti in 2 years ago to affect change in the department so Pratt Fashion could remain competitive, and much of that work is done though the curriculum. The immediate differences are a move away from teaching according to markets such as “active wear” or “cocktail”; courses that integrate design and construction education across the curriculum at each class level; and most importantly an emphasis on concept led, craft based collection building.
Simone Kurland, Ensemble, 2013. Photo by Dominik Tarabanski
Mellissa- There are many strong fashion design programs in the U.S., and New York City alone has multiple colleges that offer this major. However, different schools have established reputations for emphasizing specific aspects of the design process in their curriculum, such as a focus on business and industry practice or perhaps veering in a more theoretical direction. Where do you see Pratt falling into the pedagogical equation, and in what ways does the program at Pratt seek to distinguish itself from others?
Shannon- We are in a city with a number of fashion design programs but as New York is such a large fashion epicenter we feel that there is room for all of us and encourage “collaborative competition” with our peer schools. In addition, Brooklyn has come into its own as a cultural center for the city and Pratt is in a wonderful position to tap into that energy. Pratt Fashion was the first program of its kind in the country and our 125-year-old intimate campus in Clinton Hill offers a unique experience for students looking for an alternative to Parsons or FIT. Our classes and student body are smaller, which provides an opportunity for closer individual attention. From a pedagogical perspective because we are smaller we are also more nimble and can integrate exciting things into our curriculum quickly, such as a deconstruct/reconstruct project we did with the sophomores to celebrate Miguel Adrover’s work and visit; and participation in the Costume Institute annual College Design Competition, this year using the PUNK show as inspiration. In general, we are heavily critique based; emphasize the research aspect of the design process whether related to concept development or new approaches to construction. We ultimately want the students to be able to understand the importance of working towards a cohesive collection early in their education, which includes being able to think, write, and speak critically about their work, the work of their peers, and fashion in a historical , global, social and theoretical context.
Miguel Adrover, Photo by Germán Sáiz, via El País
Mellissa- Are there any other upcoming events at Pratt that readers should know about?
Shannon- Besides the senior fashion show on the 25th which is our annual fundraiser this Wednesday we are showing a film not seen in the states yet on Miguel Adrover, he is here for our final senior critique and will be at the screening to do a Q&A with Chair Minniti! Next year we will run our fall lecture series again and also be holding an international symposium on research and practice in fashion education. Louise Wilson, from Central Saint Martins, has graciously agreed to give the keynote so you can see we have a great line up of some of the most important fashion educators. Please like us on FB or check our website for updates!
From Pratt: Tickets to the 6 PM fashion show and the 7:30 PM cocktail benefit honoring Browne are available for purchase at pratt.edu/fashionshow. Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit student scholarships and Pratt’s Department of Fashion. Members of the press should contact Amy Aronoff at 718-636-3554 firstname.lastname@example.org to attend. Credentials will be required.
After a decade in music industry management, costume design, and fashion styling, Shannon Bell Price entered academia through The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. As Associate Research Curator at the Met, she collaborated with Harold Koda, Curator in Charge, and Andrew Bolton, Curator, on exhibitions, publications, acquisitions, and education. Since 2000, exhibitions on which she participated included: “Extreme Beauty: The Body Transformed” (2002); “Wild: Fashion Untamed,” which she co-curated (2004); “Anglomania: Tradition and Transgression in British Fashion” (2006); “Superheroes: Fashion and Fantasy (2008); and “Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty” (2011). In addition to co-authoring “Wild: Fashion Untamed,” Price has contributed to the Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion (2004) and the Met’s award-winning Timeline of Art History. She is co-editor for the upcoming journal on luxury to be published by Berg and serves as an editorial board member for the Fashion, Style & Popular Culture Journal (PCA/ACA, Intellect Books) slated for 2013. She has taught and lectured at New York University and Parsons, with research interest areas that include twentieth-century avant-garde fashion and sub-cultural style, non-western costume as it relates to contemporary fashion practice, issues of sustainability, and postwar decorative arts and design history. Price is currently pursuing her doctorate in decorative arts, design, and culture at The Bard Graduate Center in New York City.
Special thanks to Shannon from WT!