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Parsons School of Design Fashion Design Department audiovisual recordings

Identifier: PC-07-02-05


This collection is comprised of audiovisual recordings primarily commissioned by Parsons School of Design. Most of the recordings are of the Parsons Fashion Design Department's annual scholarship benefit and runway show. Also included in the collection are recordings of junior year presentations, promotional films about Parsons, and a Japanese-language film created by the United States Information Agency featuring a Parsons fashion student.


  • circa 1960 - 2010



92 Analog Recordings (60:32:16 duration)

Scope and Content of Collection

This collection primarily consists of documentary and promotional footage related to the Parsons School of Design Fashion Design Department's annual benefit and runway show, including the preliminary critic review sessions, where well-known designers discuss students' work and advise them, and jury shows where designs are selected to be included in and awarded at the runway show. There is a single video of a fashion show at Parsons Paris from 1989. Also included is a small amount of Fashion Design Department-related audiovisual material not directly connected to the annual benefit and fashion show, such as recordings of Junior Year presentations, short films promoting the Parsons fashion design program, and news segments related to the department. The collection also includes a Japanese-language film created by the United States Information Agency Television Office featuring a Parsons student.

The earliest recordings in this collection were made on 16 mm film. In the mid-1970s, video recording entirely replaced film. The dominant video format in this collection from the 1970s through the 1990s is U-matic cassette, with the occasional use of Betacam. While this collection also contains a number of VHS cassettes, VHS was commonly used for making dubs from Betacam and U-matic master cassettes. While VHS camcorders may have been the master recording device for some of the events documented in this collection, it is more likely that the VHS cassettes in this collection are dubs of U-matic or Beta masters. Optical media in the form of DVDs appear in this collection beginning in the mid-2000s, replacing all other formats--the original video recording format used to record the events on the DVDs is unknown--it may have been Hi-8, Digital Betacam, Betacam, or miniDV.

Language of Materials

All recordings in English, with the exception of one Japanese language film.

Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use. Researchers must use digital access copies or pay a digitization fee for the five recordings in this collection that are not available in digital form. Access to 16 mm film reels, U-matic, Betacam and VHS tapes is restricted for reasons of preservation.

Use Restrictions

To publish images of material from this collection, permission must be obtained in writing from the New School Archives. Please contact:

Historical Note

Originally named the Chase School of Art, Parsons School of Design was founded in 1896 by American Impressionist painter William Merritt Chase with a focus on the fine arts: painting, drawing, and sculpture. Two years after its founding, the school changed its name to the New York School of Art. In 1907, Frank Alvah Parsons became an administrator at the school and made design an important part of the educational mission. He introduced the first full professional departments in interior design, fashion design, and graphic design. To recognize the growth of the design curriculum, the school was renamed the New York School of Fine and Applied Art in 1909. In honor of Mr. Parsons, who was important in steering the school's development and in shaping arts education through his theories about linking art and industry, the institution became Parsons School of Design in 1941. It became a division of the New School for Social Research in 1970.

The school offered courses in fashion design, then called costume design, as early as 1904. Frank Alvah Parsons enlarged upon these courses to create a full professional department in 1907. Over the next four decades, the program's name was changed several times, as follows: Costume or Clothes Design (1918), Costume Design and Costume Illustration (1921), Costume Design (1922), Costume Design and Costume Illustration (1923), Costume Design and Costume Construction (1925), Costume Design and Construction (1927), Costume Design, Construction and Illustration (1928), Costume Design and Illustration (1937). In 1954, the department was divided to form the Fashion Design Department and the Fashion Illustration Department. As of 2019, Parsons School of Design's School of Fashion offers AAS, BFA, and MFA degrees.

In the early twentieth century, Parsons’ fashion curriculum focused on the creation of sketches of fashion designs that could be sold to manufacturers. In 1915, students also began to work with fabric to produce finished garments. In its current incarnation, as of 2019, the School of Fashion places an emphasis on understanding the entirety of the design process from the initial concept to the final product and its marketing. The curriculum seeks to educate students on the fundamentals of good design, as well as to develop essential skills specific to fashion design, such as model drawing and pattern drafting, which are applied to real-life design problems. Students also research the historical purposes and implementations of fashion design, study business practices, and investigate the environmental and commercial impact on the profession.

In 1919, to supplement its core group of instructors, the department initiated a program to invite professional designers to critique student work. By 1954, students in their junior and senior years worked under the supervision of visiting critics from the professional fashion industry to design and create garments. The department’s curriculum was revised in 2001, such that the critic mentorship program was confined to the junior year, while seniors worked independently to produce a thesis collection that exhibited their own individual style.

Notable fashion designers who attended--although they may not necessarily have received a degree from--Parsons School of Design include Gilbert Adrian (1923), Claire McCardell (1928), Donald Brooks (1950), Willi Smith (1969), Donna Karan (1969), Anna Sui (1973), Isaac Mizrahi (1982), Marc Jacobs (1984), Tracy Reese (1984), Mark Badgley (1985), James Mischka (1985), Derek Lam (1990), Narciso Rodriguez (1991), Behnaz Sarafpour (1992), Peter Som (1997), Lazaro Hernandez (2002), and Jack McCollough (2002).

Parsons began organizing annual fashion collection shows at prestigious venues to present graduating student work probably in the mid-1920s. The event was regularly recorded on 16mm film, and later on video, from 1966 onwards. In 1974, the name of the event changed to Critics' Awards Show, and, in 1993, to Critics' Awards Benefit. From 2002 it was called Parsons Benefit & Fashion Show.

Beginning in the 1940s, visiting designer critics nominated students to receive awards at the annual fashion show (from 1960 called the Gold Thimble Awards). The Student Designer of the Year Award began in 1967, and was given annually to the best student. Since the 1970s, the annual fashion shows have also honored outstanding contributors to the fashion industry, with the Parsons Award presented to recipients as part of the annual show. For several years, the Mohair Council of America, the National Association of Men's Sportswear Buyers, the Scandinavian Mink Association, and J.C. Penney Company, among other fashion businesses, also awarded students at the annual show.

Each year a 'jury of selection show' preceded the annual fashion show, where the audience often selected which designs were presented at the annual show, and the jury committee decided which designs received awards. The first 'jury of selection show' recording in this collection is from 1969.

Probably beginning around the 1980s, the Junior Year Presentation were also recorded, where some junior students were awarded Silver Thimble Awards. The first Junior Year Presentation recording in this collection is from 1981, the last from 1999.

Organization and Arrangement

Organized chronologically by recording date.

Custodial History

The custodial history of the analog recordings forming the bulk of the collection is unknown. The New School Archives possesses no documentation on the acquisition or transfer of these recordings into the Archives' custody.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The staff of the New School Archives and Special Collections assembled this collection from legacy recordings found in the Archives without provenance. More recent recordings on DVD transferred from what was then Communications and External Affairs (as of 2019, the Marketing and Communications unit) in 2014, although it is unknown which individual or sub-unit compiled the discs. One disc transferred directly from the School of Fashion, 2014.

Related Materials

The New School Archives holds the records of the Parsons School of Design Fashion Design Department (PC.02.02.01), which includes documentation related to the annual fashion show, including a comprehensive collection of printed programs and student drawings of ensembles featured in the fashion shows. Additionally, the Parsons School of Design fashion critic direction audio recordings (PC.07.02.01) document the relationship between designer critics and students in the semester prior to the fashion show. A 1994 oral history interview with Parsons School of Design alumnus, faculty member and Fashion Design Department chair Frank Rizzo in which he recounts the history of the annual show will be found in the Parsons School of Design Centenary oral history project (PC.07.01.01).

Textual records created by university administrators in the process of planning fashion shows will be found in the following record groups: John Everett records (NS.01.01.02), New School Office of the President records (NS.01.01.03), Albert Landa records (NS.03.02.07), Allen Austill records (NS.02.01.03), Charles S. Olton records (PC.02.01.03), and Parsons School of Design administrative and other offices collection, Special Events series (PC.03.01.01).

Visual documentation of the annual fashion show from the 1940s to the late 1960s will be found in the Parsons School of Design Alumni Association records (PC.03.02.01). The mid-1970s through 2000 will be found in the Parsons School of Design photograph collection (PC.04.01.01) and in the New School Marketing and Communications photographs (NS.03.01.09).

Processing Information

The New School Archives undertook digitization of the majority of this collection. The digitization project was partially underwritten by The New School's University Development and Alumni Relations department. All but five recordings listed in the collection inventory are available as digital files. These un-reformatted recordings are identified in the collection inventory.

Guide to the Parsons School of Design Fashion Design Department audiovisual recordings
New School Archives and Special Collections Staff
October 2, 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description