Simon Collins is the Dean of the School of Fashion at Parsons, the New School for Design. Previously, he was a creative director, working with Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren, Zegna, and Marks and Spencer. He is currently working on a book about Parsons alumni.
As you complete your third year as Dean of the School of Fashion at Parsons, what has been the most challenging part of your job?
One of the best parts of the School of Fashion is our participation and partnerships with industry in New York City, as well as internationally. These opportunities are a fantastic platform to showcase our students’ work, provide scholarships, and introduce students to some incredible people and companies. There is really no other university that I know of that provides these sorts of opportunities to its students and acting as a representative for our school to help facilitate all these requests requires a great deal of attention and time.
Design education isn’t really very complete if it is only a classroom experience and wouldn’t be very good preparation for their lives after graduation. Maintaining a high standard for both the traditional academic experience while also giving them the best possible experiences outside of the classroom is certainly a challenge, timewise to coordinate but also a very fortunate problem to have.
How have your corporate experiences enabled you to influence students going into the work force?
I’ve been lucky that I’ve had the opportunity to work with large corporations as well as on smaller independent projects, and I hope I can give students an idea of the challenges and benefits of both. I also worked in environments overseeing young designers and hope I can provide them with a bit of perspective about the traits that will be the most beneficial to them as they move on to their careers.
You’ve recently collaborated with Loomstate on Zero Waste Fashion, a project through which students developed patterns which produces no fabric waste. Will sustainable fashion be a new focus at Parsons? What are some future projects/collaborations we can look forward to?
Sustainable design shouldn’t just be the focus of Parsons but something every designer and design company should be thinking about. We are very committed to providing our students with the best possible education for the future and we would be totally remiss to not make sustainable fashion a focus, as this is where the industry is inevitably heading. We recently wrapped a project called “Why Wash Cold?” in collaboration with the advertising firm Droga 5, where our marketing students created a campaign to encourage people to wash their clothes in cold water.
At this year’s graduation runway show, you showcased a short film tracking your research for a new book you are working on featuring prominent alumni of parsons. How many designers will be included? Anyone you think readers will be surprised to learn graduated from Parsons?
We originally set out to profile 25 designers but the participation has been so incredible that we will probably include at least five more designers; there are simply too many options. It’s thrown up so many fascinating facts. The costume designer for Dorothy’s ruby slippers in the Wizard of Oz, Gilbert Adrian, attended Parsons!
What has been the most rewarding part of your job?
Working with students at such an impressionable point in their lives is the most rewarding part of my job. I am most proud of them when they are proud of themselves; when they finally present their final thesis collection, get a competitive internship or job, or challenge themselves to create something new. Additionally, meeting the parents of our students and hearing about how they have evolved in their eyes is always a particularly moving experience.