Last night, the Parsons Benefit reunited friends and fashion folk to celebrate the work of recent graduates and honor visionary leaders who serve as not only members but also mentors in the creative community.
Designer Tory Burch, Moda Operandi’s Lauren Santo Domingo, Ford Foundation president Darren Walker, and artist Kehinde Wiley all received recognition for their outstanding commitment to upholding the four pillars of the university’s mission: creativity, innovation, sustainability, and inclusivity.
For the 73rd annual award ceremony, Liz Rodbell of the Steve Madden Group and Gena Smith of LVMH co-chaired the affair, held at The Glasshouse in Chelsea. A cocktail reception filled with fashion finest like Donna Karran, Kate Young, Fernando Garcia, Wes Gordon, Alejandra Alonso Rojas, and Jonathan Cohen kicked off the fabulous festivities. The venue’s panoramic windows offered staggering views and a perfect backdrop to the exhibition of work by Parsons graduates. As the sun began to set, attendees sipped Champagne and nibbled on caviar canapés as they circled mannequins dressed, quite literally, in the future of fashion.
First to accept her Parsons Table Award was Burch, who was introduced by long-time friend Samira Nasr. Dressed in an effortlessly chic number from her Fall 2022 collection, Burch addressed the crowd filled with her colleagues, close friends, and family. “So many people doubted me in the very beginning,” Burch began. “They called my idea charity work, and one of our early investors actually said to never use the words business and social responsibility in the same sentence. Today, I’m extremely happy that businesses are not considered innovative unless they are purpose-driven.”
Since the beginning of her career, Burch made it clear that her passion for building a global fashion brand will always be rooted in her dream to change the dynamic for women. And thus, building a foundation that fosters and empowers women was a natural extension of Burch’s vision beyond her collections. Given the current social climate around women’s rights, Burch made a point to address the conversation at large and the barriers women face when it comes to equality, specifically in terms of access to funding. “The irony is that women are actually the best investment,” Burch smiled. “Women’s equality is the evolution of humanity and as long as women are being held back, we are all being held back.”
Following a brief intermission with a live musical performance from the New School’s School of Jazz and Contemporary Music, Walker took the stage to accept his award before exchanging his post with Derek Blasberg to introduce Santo Domingo. A former Vogue editor, street style icon, and innovative businesswoman, among her many other accolades, Santo Domingo graciously thanked the room for her award. “It’s been my joy to discover and nurture young design talent,” Santo Domingo explained. “To help them grow their business and to connect them to my customer. I wanted to give everyone access to designers, to their showrooms, and the runway.”
Last but not least, Wiley was recognized as the final Table Award recipient but, unfortunately, was stuck overseas and couldn’t attend the evening in person.
After a hiatus due to the pandemic, this year marked the highly anticipated return to in-person programming, including a fashion show filled with designs from recent grads. To cap off years of hard work, seven graduates, including Cole Durkee, Tianqi Chen, Shuxaun Li, Kou Yanga, Zisu Tak, Karen Hesh, and Zoe Gustavia Anna Whalen, debuted select pieces from their collections on a runway through the center of the gala for the lively crowd.
A gala wouldn’t be complete with a few flashy auction items and a competitive race to raise additional funds for student scholarships. The most coveted lot was access to Valentino’s upcoming Haute Couture show in Rome—which helped garner the astounding $2.6 million total raised throughout the night.
Some say a reunion after hard times brings out the best in everyone, and this year’s Parsons Benefit proved exactly that.