Now You Know: Why Marc Jacobs Still Loves His Alma Mater, Parsons

67th Annual Parsons Fashion Benefit
Photo: Andrew Toth/FilmMagic

Welcome to Now You Know, InStyle fashion news director Eric Wilson’s column that will help you become a fashion know-it-all in one easy read. Each week, he’ll take a look at an endearing fashion influence and why it’s relevant right now. Enjoy!

Walking into the annual Parsons Fashion Benefit on Tuesday evening – it’s that time of year again, when all the graduating design students are showing off their work for the industry at lengthy gala dinners – I bumped into Robert Duffy, the deputy chairman of Marc Jacobs and co-founder of the designer’s business. The sun was setting over the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, making it look like a big glass airport terminal, which was fitting, as Duffy reminded me, because it is here where many designers’ careers take off.

It had been 31 years since Duffy, as a young buying executive, attended the Parsons dinner, back when it was a tiny affair, held on campus, and was impressed by the work of a young student, Marc Jacobs. That was in 1984, when Jacobs won the student designer of the year award. Duffy immediately hired him to work on the sportswear label Sketchbook, creating one of the most spectacularly successful business-creative partnerships in the industry (though not without its share of setbacks, but that’s another story).

Jacobs, who returned to the benefit this year to receive the Parsons Table Award, celebrated his partnership with Duffy in his acceptance. He recalled how he came to Parsons in the first place – a fortunate encounter with the designer Perry Ellis when Jacobs was 15 years old led to this bit of advice: "Go to Parsons." But his guidance counselor at the High School of Art and Design, citing the school’s exclusivity, suggested Jacobs have a Plan B.

"I, without hesitation, said, 'No Plan B,'" Jacobs said. "I will go to Parsons or work in a video store. Luckily for me, I got accepted to Parsons. After all, I wouldn’t have had a very long career as a video clerk, given the fact that there are no video stores in existence anymore."

Describing his own senior show, Jacobs said, "That night was to be the luckiest night of my life. It was then that Robert Duffy recognized the talent in me, and began the longest and most wonderful relationship I’ve ever known."

PARSONS 2015 Fashion Benefit

Watching the Class of 2015, it was not hard to imagine the next Jacobs (or Proenza Schouler, or Jason Wu, or Donna Karan) among them, given the remarkable strength of the senior collections (pictured, above). Actually, many of them were so good that it was more challenging to pick out the best among them, so we’ll leave that to the judges of Parsons. This year’s winners were Lucy Jones for women’s wear, Jun Max Goh and Sungho Kim for men’s wear, Jennifer Lia Kim for children’s wear, and Steffi Tsz Wing Lau for accessories. Blair Moore and Michael Kwok Yan Yip shared the prize for portfolio of the year.

PHOTOS: Runway Looks We Love: Marc Jacobs

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