From these classrooms, some of the most influential names in the world of fashion have emerged. The likes of Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs and many others are just some of the reasons that they can always be found amongst the first positions in the rankings for best universities to study design.

The objective of Parsons The New School of Design is to train students not only to work in fashion, but also to be examples in their fields.

Founded in 1896 by the American impressionist painter, William Merritt Chase, since then, it has evolved to become a standard for interdisciplinary and progressive art and design, defying conventions and anticipating trends, striving to improve the world through design.

So Catchy! Where Fashion Begins spoke recently with Erin Stine, director of admissions for the prestigious New York institution, and Fiona Dieffenbacher, Director BFA Fashion. For those of us who see fashion as a form of expression with the potential to change the world, they had some interesting, useful and inspiring things to say.


Photo by James Ewing for The New School

SO CATCHY!: Your institution is considered to be one of the best places to study Fashion in the world…

FIONA DIEFFENBACHER: Our reputation is built on the strength of our curriculum and the context within which Parsons sits as an Art and Design school inside the New School University, offering students a wide array of courses from which to craft a unique approach to their educational experience.

SC!: Which programs are most sought after?

ERIN STINE: Fashion Design, Communication Design and Strategic Design and Management.

SC!: What is the average student applying to your school like?

ES: Our applicants are self-starters who are ready to take on the fast pace of living in Manhattan while immersing themselves in an intense design education.  They’re not only talented designers and artists, but they’re thoughtful and engaged in using design to make the world better.

SC!: How many scholarships do you award each year and what are the requirements to obtain one?

FD: There are a wide array of scholarships open to students via various means: financial aid, individual merit-based scholarships, named scholarships selected based on specific requirements outlined by donors across categories along with the School of Fashion roster of external projects who offer scholarship opportunities to selected recipients.

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Photo by Bob Handelman for The New School

SC!: What do you have to do or need to have in order be accepted into one of the different programs that your school offers?

FD: All students are admitted into the first year experience and as such we are looking for breadth and a cross-disciplined approach to art and design shown via a diverse portfolio and body of work that showcases and individual voice.

Our admissions criteria is listed here.

SC!: What are the requirements to study at Parsons?

FD: See above…Be the best of the best! Stand out amongst the crowd.

SC!: How many students are there in your university?

ES: We have roughly 10,000 students at the New School with about half of those being Parsons Graduate and Undergraduate students.

SC!: Average Tuition – how many scholarships do we award each year?

ES: Tuition is $42,080 per academic year.  We consider everyone for merit scholarship through the application itself.

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Photo by Bob Handelman for The New School

SC!: Which countries do you receive the most applications from and why do you think that is?

ES: We have the largest international percentage of students out of any university in the United States, so the population is quite diverse. Outside of the United States, we see large groups of students applying from places China, Korea, Canada, Western Europe and many others.  Many of our applicants want a design education in New York City to work with some of the world’s most powerful design companies.

SC!: How is the American tradition of fashion, widely know as the capital of ready-to-wear, reflected in the courses that you offer?

FD: Our students enter the global market-place as well as the local industry, into jobs that exist and areas that are yet to be defined.  As educators we craft a curriculum that focuses on developing holistic skills for life- both in terms of the design and professional context along with establishing individual research methodologies that cover a wide variety of traditional and conceptual approaches to fashion design.

SC!: Do you have any advice for people who want to study at Parsons?

FD: Establish your own voice, be ready to engage with a culture that is going to push you beyond your limits to be your best self.

Expect the unexpected.

We have a saying around Parsons- the only thing that is constant is change itself!


Photo by Kasia Broussalian for The New School

SC!: How well is Parsons positioned now in the world of fashion and how do you see it moving forward in the near future?

FD: We are regularly ranked amongst the top three international schools for fashion design. Parsons trains students for a wide array of fashion design experiences post- graduation; the traditional and the non-traditional.  We continue to build on our reputation for training top talent to enter the industry at every level, but we will are also engaged in training students to lead the industry forward. Integrating new technologies, such as 3D printing, merging traditional craft with new approaches to materiality towards innovative outcomes that will impact the future in terms of how we think about fashion design, dress and identity.

SC!: Are there any social or cultural trends that you can see developing in the study of fashion?

FD: Several themes are emerging culturally and socially that seek to challenge established norms within the fashion system in terms of diversity, body size, beauty and aging. We are seeing modes of thinking shifting both within the design community and among consumers. These themes are gaining momentum towards implementation of change.

SC!: Name some of the greats who’ve come out of Parsons.

FD: It’s an extensive list of designers who span decades and have been key contributors to defining fashion, beginning with Gilbert Adrian and Claire Mc Cardell, creator of the American Look, moving on to Bill Blass, Donna Karan, Marc Jacobs, Anna Sui, Isaac Mizhrahi, Reed Krakoff, Derek Lam and Peter Som.

More recently, Lazaro Hernandez and Jack McCollough of Proenza Schouler, Prabal Gurung, Alexander Wang, Jason Wu, with the latest emerging talent including: Michelle Ochs and Carla Cushnie of Cushnie et Ochs, Sophie Buhai and Lisa Mayock of Vena Cava, Alexa Adams and Flora Gill of Ohne Titel and Gigi Burris, milliner.


Photo by Matthew Sussman for The New School

SC!: What sets you apart from the rest of the universities that, like you, are at the top of the list for best schools in the world of fashion?

FD: We see New York as a lab/extension of the classroom, and have a unique approach to teaching Fashion design that is differentiated from our competitors in terms of an integrated model that seeks to constantly evolve to not only meet the industry where it is but anticipate where it needs to go.

We are situated in a university, offering our students a myriad of courses that sit adjacent to the fashion context allowing them to create nuanced suites of skill-sets. Lastly, we have a robust roster of external partners who generously support our students, foster emerging talent and offering them unparalleled opportunities to collaborate, innovate and engage with leading luxury brands prior to graduation.

SC!: Fashion is in need of


Main image by Bob Handelman for the New School

Special thanks to Josephine Parr, Director of Communications, Parsons The New School of Design


Translation and Layout by Michael Padilla