Designers Go Back to School at Parsons Fashion Benefit

Donna Karan Reed Krakoff

Photos courtesy of Parsons School of Design

Reed Krakoff and Donna Karan.

"You never leave Parsons," proclaimed a wall-sized sign at Pier 60, adorned with black-and-white photos of Alexander Wang, the Cushnie et Ochs girls, and the Proenza Schouler boys, among others.

That "Hotel California"-esque sentiment was certainly true for many of last night's Parsons benefit attendees, who included honoree Donna Karan (still sporting her knee brace), Reed Krakoff, Behnaz Sarafpour, Ashleigh Verrier, Lisa Mayock and Chris Benz—all alumni of the school. But the question is: were they good students while there?

Karan replied with a deadpan, "I failed draping...It's my metaphor. Donna Karan failed draping." Reed Krakoff admitted, "I was not the best student. I was pretty quiet, because I had gone to liberal arts school before. [Krakoff attended Berklee College of Music.] So I was kind of boring. I loved school. And all I did was take classes. I think I took as many classes as I possibly could." And the greatest lesson he learned at Parsons? Balancing art and commerce. "Without crushing [your] creativity, they teach you that fashion is a business, and I mean, it really is a business," the designer said. "It doesn't mean you lose your point of view and you can't be experimental and creative."

Parsons Fashion Benefit

Photos: Dan Lecca

Runway looks from Lizzie Wright (left) and Jin Kay (right) at the Parsons graduation show.

Fern Mallis told us, "I was a very good student...but you know, it was so long ago that it's really hard to remember." Chris Benz, who's presently hard at work on a "tropical-inspired" resort lineup, also fell on the nose-to-the-grindstone side of things—illustration was his favorite class—while Threeasfour's Gabi Asfour was self-taught: "I was in architecture and engineering school. I never studied fashion." Asfour added that he and his Threeasfour partners are working on a video project that will be exhibited at Salon 94 on June 6.

Along with Karan, the evening also honored Parsons board chair Sheila C. Johnson.

Earlier in the day, former Designer of the Year honorees Carly Cushnie and Michelle Ochs, of Cushnie et Ochs, MC'ed an entertaining and elaborate student runway show, also held at the pier. Some of the standouts included Logan Samuelson's sporty mesh looks, Lizzie Wright's avant-garde pastel pieces, and Jin Kay's minimalist eveningwear.  The Designer of the Year awards were netted by Kay for women's wear, Christy Jeehyun Lee for men's, and Giuliana Raggiani for children's (modeled by some, we have to say, adorable toddlers.) You might want to take those names down—after all, one of them might just become the next Karan, Jacobs or Krakoff!