For a collaborative project between Parsons and 1 Granary, stylist Katie Burnett enlisted three photographers – Marton Perlaki, Paul Kooiker and Jack Davison – to interpret the collections of 15 graduates
Since its inception in 2010, the Fashion Design & Society MFA course at Parsons, New York, has seen seven ‘generations’ – the name given to its annual cohort – graduate. The programme takes a unique, holistic approach to teaching fashion design, with other disciplines like photography and filmmaking explored as supplements to the core design studies. In Paris over the recent Autumn/Winter 2019 show season, photographs of the 15 graduate collections created by Generation 7 were exhibited and have been published in a limited-edition book, created in collaboration with 1 Granary. The culmination of six months of shooting and producing by stylist Katie Burnett and photographers Paul Kooiker, Marton Perlaki and Jack Davison, the printed publication presents the three photographers’ idiosyncratic takes on the graduates’ creations.
“It was a fun approach to work with Paul, Marton and Jack all together,” explains Burnett, who had previously worked with 1 Granary on the inaugural edition of VOID. “I also think with student collections you often take more of a fashion approach – students will do their lookbooks and it might try to be this elevated fashion image – and with this project it was something very playful, experimental and fun.” The idea of collaboration and teamwork is central to the project, and highlighted through the book’s design: Kooiker’s, Perlaki’s and Davison’s images are interspersed and unlabelled, as are the students’ designs. “We had started with the idea of team building and community, and what it is to go through your years at Parsons and build this sense of community and creativity,” Burnett continues. “With Generation 7, there are quite a lot of threads throughout all of their work – so you can kind of see when you’re looking at the collections, it feels like quite a collective. I wanted to approach it as one collection more or less – like Parsons in general, so to be free to mix all of the designers together.”
The three photographers lent their distinctive slants to the collections, each taking the same playful approach Burnett describes. For Perlaki, this took the form of inviting the models to engage in team-building exercises (various shots see them in the midst of “a contest to build a spaghetti and marshmallow castle”, for example); Kooiker’s images lean towards the surreal with plasticine props, obscured faces and sticky googly eyes; and Davison chose to make his Bedlington whippet Radish the subject of his series. “Within fashion sometimes you kind of forget at the end of the day we are just creating something really fun. It’s not all so serious so I think that was also an important tone we wanted to set,” says Burnett. “When I spoke to Jack about wanting to shoot his dog, it was also this kind of child-like element that sat well with Paul’s and Marton’s images, a really interesting dynamic that gave a light-hearted stability to it.”
The project establishes a fresh connection between Parsons and 1 Granary, and between New York, London and Paris graduates. For Burnett, the idea that the photographs are not necessarily grounded in a specific season was important. “It was interesting at the exhibition people kept saying these images look like they could be from the 30s. We also liked there is this timeless sensibility, that is something I am always after – that felt exciting, and that for me was quite a compliment, for it not to feel old or new.”
Parsons MFA Generation 7 is available now.