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Longevity and potential were both given top billing at Monday night’s Parsons Fashion Benefit at Pier Sixty in Manhattan, which raised $1.2 million for the school.
This year’s honorees, Vera Wang and Li & Fung Ltd.’s group managing director William Fung, were feted by a crowd that included Jason Wu, Chris Benz, Behnaz Sarafpour, Vena Cava’s Lisa Mayock, Tracy Reese, Patricia Field, Vivienne Tam, Kay Unger and Jay Godfrey. Both winners emphasized the importance of the future of design as much as they acknowledged their respective pasts — with one exception.
The fact that Fung was fresh off an overnight flight after running Sunday’s London Marathon was only offered by LF USA’s president Rick Darling, who presented his award. Fung was more forthcoming about his role in a 106-year-old company. “I was asked earlier, ‘What is it like to be the third generation in a company?’ Unfortunately, there is a Chinese saying that wealth never passes beyond the third generation, so I think my kids are worried,” he said.
Kidding aside, Fung is banking on design to be a key part of the company’s growth going forward. “First of all, design doesn’t have to be costly. That is something I learned early on, especially in the hard times we faced in the last year or so. We found that many firms in our business have used design as a way to differentiate their offerings and products in order to gain market share in a very difficult market. The only way for you to grow is by doing something different,” he said. “As Philippe Starck told me, ‘I’d rather have a million Chinese [people] using my stackable chairs than to do one or two big hotel projects in Dubai.’ That’s really what we’re talking about today — the democratization of design.”
Upon accepting her award from Candy Pratts Price, Wang said, “I have loved fashion for 50 years. I have worked in fashion for 40 years, and for 20 years this September I have both owned and sustained my own fashion company.”
While that milestone is no small feat and the designer has amassed her share of famous clients in that time, Wang impressed upon students how crucial it is to uphold the traditional and tactical design skills in this age of celebrity fashion and celebrity designers. “Nothing prepares you more for a career in design than an education in design….Your education at Parsons will sustain you,” she said. “It is an industry and a world I am so proud to be a part of.”
Thanks to a $250,000 donation earmarked for scholarships from Li & Fung USA, Parsons The New School for Design will be sustaining more students. In his remarks, the New School’s outgoing president, Bob Kerrey, said the gift established the LF USA Kathy Van Zeeland scholarship to support fashion students with a focus on accessories, and the LF USA Parsons Scholars, a program that will allow low-income students from local public schools to attend Parsons’ three-year college preparation program. With students from 200 different countries, the school has at about 35 percent the largest percentage of international students of any university in the U.S., Kerrey noted.
After a two-part fashion show that featured the work of 180 seniors, three students were singled out — Niloufar Mozafari for women’s wear, Dylan Taverner for men’s wear and Susan Kay for children’s wear. Apparently, Mozafari has been swift to immerse herself in the fashion scene. Aside from being a Donna Karan intern, she had already won three accolades from the CFDA — the Geoffrey Beene Scholarship, the Liz Claiborne Scholarship and a CFDA general scholarship.