The 69th Annual Parsons Benefit

The 69th Annual Parsons Benefit

The honorees with leadership from The New School. From L-R: Burak Cakmak, Kay Unger, Rihanna, Karen Katz, Eileen Fisher, Joel Towers, David Van Zandt

Rihanna on the Red Carpet

Rihanna on the Red Carpet

Rihanna wore a custom suit by Matthew Dolan, a recent graduate of the MFA Fashion Design and Society program.

Mazdack and Zanna Roberts Rassi

Mazdack and Zanna Roberts Rassi

Zanna Roberts Rassi interviewed Rihanna for E! on the red carpet, and is pictured here with her husband Mazdack, co-founder of Milk Studios.

Linda Fargo and Steven Kolb

Linda Fargo and Steven Kolb

Linda Fargo, Senior Vice President and Fashion Director at Bergdorf Goodman, with Steven Kolb, CEO of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).

Ken Downing and Carolina Herrera

Ken Downing and Carolina Herrera

Ken Downing, Fashion Director of Neiman Marcus, with celebrated designer Carolina Herrera.

Chop & Quench

Chop & Quench

Chop and Quench is compromised of band members from the musical FELA! The group performed throughout the evening, and provided entertainment for the after party.

Andrew Bolton and Thom Browne

Andrew Bolton and Thom Browne

Andrew Bolton, Head Curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute with acclaimed designer Thom Browne.

TK Wonder, Cipriana Quinn

TK Wonder, Cipriana Quinn

Singer TK Wonder with her twin sister, blogger Cipriana Quinn.

Rihanna

Rihanna

Rihanna was honored for her commitment to charitable initiatives that support the development and education of young women worldwide. She has also supported a number of recent Parsons grads throughout the years by wearing their designs to award shows, for performances, and on her own fashion line for Puma.

Karen Katz, CEO and President of Neiman Marcus

Karen Katz, CEO and President of Neiman Marcus

Karen Katz accepted the award on behalf of Neiman Marcus for the retailer's commitment to supporting charitable initiatives that support young women.

Eileen Fisher

Eileen Fisher

Eileen Fisher, who was honored for her exceptional commitment to sustainable design, was presented by designer and Parsons Fine Arts alum Mara Hoffman.

Jiwon Choi

Jiwon Choi

Jiwon Choi won the Yooxygen Award from Yoox. Choi will spend six months working in Milan to create a sustainable collection for the sustainable section of the Yoox site, which will debut in January, 2018.

Jacob Olmedo

Jacob Olmedo

Jacob Olmedo won the Future Textiles award for his collection which featured jackets and vests that can support the growth of grass.

Tianjiao Qu

Tianjiao Qu

Tianjiao Qu won the Social Innovation award for her "Non-Sized" collection which aims to challenge conventional ideas about sizing and aesthetics with garments that fit and look differently on various people.

Cen Si

Cen Si

Cen Si won the Fashion and Technology award for a collection that blended traditional design elements with music.

Olivia Leblanc

Olivia Leblanc

Olivia Leblanc won the Creative Systems award for her collection which featured oversized puffer coats, and jumpsuits mixed with unique materials.

Kering Empowering Imagination Awards

Kering Empowering Imagination Awards

Emma Cleveland (pictured runway look) and Jiwon Choi won the 6th Annual Kering Empowering Imagination Award, which rewards the most innovative and sustainable collections. The winners will spend time in Milan this summer, and also receive $10,000 to invest in their brands.

Urban Zen and Clara Lionel Foundation Partnership

Urban Zen and Clara Lionel Foundation Partnership

Joel Towers, Executive Dean of Parsons, Rihanna, and Donna Karan announced the winners of the Design Fellowship, an initiative that sends student to work at the D.O.T. Center in Haiti each summer. Three Parsons students will partner with Rihanna's Clara Lionel Foundation, Karan's Urban Zen Foundation, and Haitian artisans to develop a merchandise line.

Fashion Show

Fashion Show

Models walk the runway during the Parsons Benefit at Pier Sixty.

Rihanna Inspires Student Designers at 69th Annual Parsons Benefit

Rihanna had a clear and powerful message for Parsons School of Design students gathered at Pier 60 last week.

“You should be celebrated for your creativity, for your fearlessness, for your persistence and determination,” she told the audience, which also included fashion executives and members of the media. “You should be celebrated for all of the work you put into building your future, for being different, for not being given enough credit. My point is, we often tear our youth down when we should be building them up. At the end of the day, our future is in their hands.”

The world-famous singer and actress made her remarks at the evening show of the 69th Annual Parsons Benefit, an event that raised more than $2 million for student scholarships and which featured a runway show of innovative and socially engaged designs by recent graduates of the BFA Fashion Design program.

Rihanna’s message of support was underscored by her oversized pantsuit, a custom creation by Matthew Dolan, MFA Fashion Design and Society ’14. She has worn him on several occasions, along with a number of other recent Parsons graduates.

Rihanna was honored by Parsons for her commitment to initiatives that educate and empower young women. The leading art and design school also recognized designer Eileen Fisher, a champion of sustainable design. Fisher recently hired two Parsons graduates to work at her headquarters after they finished a CFDA incubator program culminating in a capsule collection of redesigned pieces sold at a Brooklyn pop-up. Neiman Marcus, which was represented at Benefit by company CEO and president Karen Katz, also was honored.

Prior to the evening show, select graduates from the BFA Fashion Design program showed off their collections in a provocative runway show. Reflecting its ever-evolving curriculum, Parsons revamped its Benefit awards format this year to feature four new categories. The winners were:

  • Social Innovation: Tianjiao Qu
  • Fashion and Technology: Cen Si
  • Future Textiles: Jacob Olmedo
  • Creative Systems: Olivia Leblanc

Winners of design competitions with prestigious partners also took home awards. Jiwon Choi won the sustainable Yooxygen Award, while Emma Cleveland and Jiwon Choi won the 6th Annual Kering Empowering Imagination Awards.

The evening capped off with an appearance by Donna Karan, an honoree at last year’s Benefit, who was on hand to announce the winners of the Design Fellowship. A partnership between Parsons and Karan’s Urban Zen Foundation, Design Fellowship sends students to the D.O.T Center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti to work with Haitian artisans over the summer. This year, students — Helena Bajaj Larsen, Valentina Ramirez, and Ishita Mehta — will work with Urban Zen Foundation and Haitian artisans to develop a merchandise line for Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation.

Concluding her speech, Rihanna gave students incentive to keep working — and innovating.

Said the singer, “I’m here to say that I’m listening, I’m watching, and you’re up next.”