Parsons Students Create Work Inspired by Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty Exhibition at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Students in Parsons’ new MFA in Fashion Design and Society won and were finalists, in a competition organized by The Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in conjunction with the current exhibition Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty. The Costume Institute invited fashion design graduate students from across the country to participate in the competition, which honored McQueen’s lifelong dedication to supporting students and emerging talent in the field.
Students were challenged to create fashion-forward works inspired by McQueen’s pivotal role in shaping millennial fashion through technique, narrative, collaboration, and showmanship. Sarah Burton, creative director of Alexander McQueen, and Andrew Bolton, Curator, The Costume Institute, judged the resulting work. The competition winner, Paula Cheng, received an internship at Alexander McQueen, a private tour of the exhibition, a catalogue, and membership at the Met, among other items.
Parsons finalists and competition winning designers:
Competition Winner: Paula Cheng
My dress originates from my personal obsession with knitting, and the formation of loops and structure. Unlike woven fabric, knitting mimics the growth of bacteria, where the intertwining of yarns and joining of loops form fabrics and the twisting of the loops form three-dimensional structures. I began my research by exploring different types of techniques of knitting, manipulations of fibers, as well as colors of yarn. As the patterns derive from organic shapes and lines like trees and branches, I had to go through many trials and errors to translate the amorphous patterns of nature into knit samples. I was trying to elevate the surface of the flat fabrics by short rowing, tucking and manipulating the knits with hand and machine knitting. So this project was really about my obsession of plying and mixing metallic hues, the pulling loops into loops to form fabric, texture and ultimately structure. It was just as complex yet as simple as is my own journey of what it is to create, to make, ‘to fashion.’,
My piece is about natural beauty. It symbolizes living things that grow without rules and evolve into new forms that blend with our surroundings. The dress was fashioned of pieces of various shapes that were draped on the stand and incorporate different handcraft techniques.,
For the McQueen project, it all started with an MFA assignment to recreate an ordinary trim technique in a new, modern way. I became interested in flower making and started dissecting silk flowers. I also was inspired by the ornamental work of the Scottish designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh to create wire flowers. Ultimately, I wanted the dress to express the ancient Greek story of Demeter and Persephone, in particular Persephone’s mixed feelings when she sees her mother for the first time after being kidnapped by Hades. Her joy and happiness as well as grief and mourning of knowing she has to go back to the underworld. The flowers on the dress bloom but wilt at the same time and some flowers are trapped onto the fabric creating the drape on the dress.,
“‘I recognize how this has been done historically but this is now how I do it.’ This competition challenged me to address the most fundamental of elements when designing a collection: that of craft, technique and making. I used pleating and knitting to create my garment into a new way, which I practiced and eventually reinvented into a contemporary fashion context.,