As winners of the Saga Furs contest in their junior year, Parsons Fashion Design students Matthew Conmy and Maria Murillo traveled to the Saga Fur Headquarters in Denmark last year. They participated in a week-long workshop, to learn innovative fur techniques from the industry pros. This training provided them with advanced knowledge during a crucial time in the design phase of their thesis collections.
The next phase of the project provided them with the chance to have their fur designs produced, as part of the sponsorship from the Hong Kong Fur Federation (HKFF). Both students were paired with their own factory in Hong Kong, who would produce their designs for Senior Thesis collection. Maria was paired with K.C Enterprises (International) Co. Ltd and Matthew worked with Ace Fur Manufacturing Ltd.
They worked hard this past Fall, creating muslins and flat patterns, and sampled fabric swatches. A set of detailed instructions was created, describing the specific techniques they wished to use. Matthew and Maria carefully prepared their packages and shipped them off to Hong Kong. Waiting patiently for each email, they experienced first-hand the realities which face the fashion industry. It was an exciting process, to communicate design direction with their factories while negotiating compromises along the way. However challenging, the process resulted in the best first prototypes.
In late February, 2011, the students, along with faculty member Fiona Dieffenbacher, flew to Hong Kong to celebrate the project. Over the five days spent in Hong Kong, they attended an industry trade show and were invited to a Gala Fashion Show to showcase their pieces.
Attending the fair was quite exciting for Matthew and Maria. They visited a number of house shows and networked with factories; many of whom made offers of freelance design for their future.
Both students felt that this expanded their view of what it means to be a designer working in a global market place. It taught them how to communicate their design ideas clearly and allowed them to celebrate their finished pieces in a global fashion city.
This two-phase project exemplifies an ideal model for external partnerships within Parsons. Both partners have invested in students over two years time. The training the students received in such a specialized area, along with the real-world experience of working with factories in Asia was truly invaluable. Special thanks goes to Charles Ross of Saga Furs, Brenda Fung of the Hong Kong Fur Federation, Mr. Wong of Ace Fur and Mr. Lam of K.C Enterprises for their support of this project.