FAQ from MA Fashion Studies Webinar
On Thursday, December 10th, MA Program Director Marco Pecorari and faculty Morna Laing welcomed Fall 2021 applicants for an informative webinar about the MA course in Fashion Studies program.
Prospective students had the opportunity to ask questions directly to the Master’s faculty, supported by Laura Fried, Assistant Director of admissions, and three current year one students, Summer Jun Chen, Renata Hernández and Ilaria Trame.
We collected here all the useful answers that were discussed in case you missed it.
Marco Pecorari: First of all I would like to define what Fashion Studies is. Our course is not about fashion design or a management based program: Fashion Studies focuses on the cultural aspect of fashion, a multidisciplinary field that embraces influences from cultural studies, linguistics, sociology, post-colonial, gender and women’s studies within academia. The course develops critical and analytical skills, with theoretical subjects, but also practical courses that will help students to have a comprehensive understanding of the field in general.
Our students come from all over the world, and each year is usually composed of fifteen or sixteen students.
To always stay updated with our news, I advise you to have a look at what our students write on the Parsons Paris Blog but mostly on our official instagram page @parsonsparis.fashionstudies.
- I would like to focus on where fashion intersects with social justice and race, would I be able to research this?
Marco Pecorari: Of course these are topics that are touched upon as they are vital to the program as well. Many courses, such as the core one, Fashion Studies Key Concepts, touch on these topics without going into too much depth to be able to cover more issues that form the basis of their theory. Even so, these topics can be complemented with other courses such as Fashion systems and Global Perspectives or Fashion, Identity and the Body where professionals and academics are invited to give talks on different topics. Should a student feel that they want to dig deeper into a certain topic, they can do independent studies and conduct an extensive analysis of the desired topic, a student is doing that right this semester.
We’ve also had a student, Rachel Fenderson, who wrote her MA thesis about Jay Jaxon, an Afroamerican designer whose story is often forgotten in the great field of fashion history.
Ilaria: We recently published an article about her current work, you can check it out at this link.
- I would like to understand more about the system of credits. I was wondering if the 42 credits are per year, and how they relate to European credits.
Marco Pecorari: Sure, so the 42 credits relate to the entire program. Each class has an amount of 3 or 6 credits, but they don’t represent the weight of the subject. Usually, 3 credits stand for 40 hours of teaching plus another 20 hours of homework or study on your own.
- How hard is it to get into the program with a background different from fashion?
Summer: I was also intimidated by not coming from an academic background in fashion. I come from multimedia and photography studies, but the truth is that the program, especially the first semester, is intended to form an even basis for all students. Also the variety of our backgrounds is very important, there is someone who studied business, someone who studied economics and another person who studied English literature. The important thing is what each one of us brings from our experience and knowledge. That’s the uniqueness of this program.
Renata: Don’t get carried away by the name of the program, as Marco mentioned, fashion studies is an interdisciplinary field. So for our classes all students, and also faculty, coming from different academic and national contexts, add to the discussions which are enriched by our different contributions and outlook.
Ilaria: Renata and I come from a BA in fashion design, so a totally different approach to the field of fashion: it might sound weird but having a more practical background can also help to better understand some processes that revolve around the subjects. It really is an open field.
- What has the class experience been like during COVID-19? If the pandemic continues, do students still need to move to Paris or can lessons be taken totally online?
Ilaria: So far, we have only experienced the first semester, and it has been satisfying to work remotely too. The first semester is in fact, a more theoretical based one, so all the classes were easily arranged online: we managed to do a lot of discussions and group works too and to continue with our project in collaboration with L’Officiel by accessing the digital archive. We feel lucky to have had the opportunity to experience the in-person classes for six weeks anyway.
Renata: Being the introductory semester, therefore very theoretical, the content of the courses could be easily transferred to online teaching. This does not mean that we lost the opportunity to do a collaborative project since, despite being online, the research project was still developed with L’Officiel team in charge of Stefano Tonchi. We talk about our experience here.
Summer: We were really lucky to have had one month on campus classes. It provided the opportunity to get to know our instructors and classmates in person. However, when Paris went into lockdown, our classes had to switch back to online. Some of our classmates (like me) stayed in Paris, and some of us decided to move back home. Since we are at different places and time zones, being on Zoom made the class schedule more flexible. Outside of the class, we do have to arrange other meetings for group projects. Overall, being online didn’t decrease the value of the courses.
Marco Pecorari: For the second year instead, it wasn’t that easy. We usually arrange an event at the end of the year to showcase their works in a prestigious gallery in Paris, but we had to delete that. Anyway, we did a publication instead! So we always have a “plan B” for this kind of situation, and try to value the students’ work as much as possible. The university is prepared with contingency plans for any situation that may occur concerning the pandemic that will not diminish the value of the course, its contents and projects.
- Can you share, if possible which are the considerations taken by the Parsons Admissions Team to give the scholarship?
Laura Fried: Usually, new applicants can be awarded with the Dean’s Merit Scholarship. This does not require any additional paperwork, just by applying for admission to any program at Parsons automatically makes you a candidate for a scholarship. This scholarship is very selective and competitive and it implies a maximum of 20% discount on all University Fees. All applicants are considered for this scholarship: we strongly suggest putting a lot of effort and thought into your application because we base the decision on the strength of the overall application, not just one aspect of it.
Marco Pecorari: Also consider other types of scholarships, many governments offer financial support to students.
- How heavy is the workload? Approximately, how many hours do you spend per day doing work related to your masters?
Ilaria: Right now, we are in the week of the submission of our final papers for each subject, so we are very busy at the moment! Anyway, the workload is very diluted during the whole semester: we have regular meetings and occasions for feedback with all the professors, and usually a lot of hints and ideas of the papers are discussed during the lessons. Also, throughout the whole semester, you are asked to arrive in class with all the readings required for that specific lesson, in order to be able to participate and discuss several issues.
Renata: Basically the first semester is about reading and writing, which helps you to generate a knowledge base in the existing theory and also to be able to start learning how to apply it. For each session we have to do some reading to arrive with some understanding and also doubts about the topic to be discussed. And although it may seem like a lot of reading I think the key is to know how to organize your time and learn how it is that you are more comfortable to read, learn your own ways of learning.
Summer: The first semester we have readings that are related to each course and different subjects. It helps to build up the foundations of fashion studies. I would say I spent 2-3 hours on the readings everyday. Furthermore, the readings will help develop the practical projects we work on in the future semesters. The readings have already been uploaded on canvas since the beginning of the semester. Therefore, we can start reading based on our own path. Since I am a slow reader, I try to start the course materials early so I can take my time to understand the readings. Also, one of the things I learned after this semester is time management. It helps a lot to improve your efficiency.
Marco Pecorari: First year has more workload but it is also something recommended in order to have the flexibility and opportunity to do an internship in the second year and focus on the thesis even with the possibility of joining both.
- Is there a possibility to defer your acceptance into the program?
Marco Pecorari: We try not to encourage that since each time we select applicants for a class we try to create an environment that speaks for diversity, in terms of both background and places. But we understand that the situation is difficult, especially now, so it has been an option a few times in the past.
Laura Fried: With the current situation we understand that many things can happen and so we are a little more flexible about it but ideally, as Marco said, groups are created thinking of them as a whole. So deferring would not be the best thing, but it is possible.
- You mentioned something about internships, could you elaborate on that?
Marco Pecorari: There are two types of internships that are usually done by our Master students. The first one, before the COVID-19 situation, was on occasion of the fashion week: we try to keep that week free from classes so that students can have the opportunity to have a little glimpse of what the field is about, by interning backstage or at showrooms. The second is the longest and recommended one, and it usually happens during the second year, or in summer: it is an experience of at least two months, and it can be connected to the thesis the student might want to write.
Morna Laing: We strongly advise to relate the internship to the thesis, since it can be a practice based activity useful for a better understanding of the topic. It also gives the opportunity of having a tutor from the internship and one from Parsons faculty. So for example, a student decided to do an internship at an archive and one of her tutors was the director of that archive.
Laura Fried: You can also get credits for the internship.