Monday, January 29, 2007

Op-Ed: The New School for Marketing



Written by Alyssa Green, guest contributor, and illustrated by Jeremy Schlangen

It's this time of year when high school seniors are waiting with anticipation to hear back from numerous colleges about the rigorous applications they spent their last four years preparing for and months slaving over. So at this time of bountiful applications, how many has The New School stacked up?

Parsons, The New School for Design, is at the forefront of design and is in competition with New York schools like FIT and Pratt. However, it has the largest enrollment of fashion design students in the United States. There is a new generation of students coming to New York; in addition to the usual musicians, actors, and models, more and more young people come as aspiring fashion designers.

This budding interest in the design field and in Parsons has come from the increasingly popular Project Runway. The Bravo Television series, wherein designers compete to have their collections shown at New York's fashion week and in an ELLE magazine photo shoot, racked up 3.4 million viewers per episode last season. Incidentally, applications to the fashion program at Parsons have increased to over 900 in 2006, a 20% increase since 2004. Fashion design, now Parsons' most popular major, has doubled its enrollment in 2005 compared to 2001.

The newfound interest is not only with Parsons, or even New York; schools around the United States are having increases in their fashion design applications. Is this sudden surge of interest a question of timing or a sign of the need for designers? Or have the New School advertisements during commercial breaks had an effect on Project Runway viewers? One Parsons freshman told me: "Project Runway has created this buzz about Parsons that lured me to the school and be a part of the exciting atmosphere."

The parallel rise in Parsons admissions and the popularity of the reality television show is more than just coincidence. Project Runway's huge audience has made Parsons a recognizable brand and a household name.

Pre- or post- Project Runway, Parsons has a good reputation. A modernized fashion department with new technologies, curriculum, famous alumni and a possible graduate program has helped put Parsons on the map. Chair of the fashion design department at Parsons since 2000 and a new television icon, Tim Gunn was the mastermind behind filming the show at The New School.

But could Project Runway have discouraged people from applying to a school with such an intimidating reputation? Fashion design major Jordan Richards was surprised to hear she was accepted to Parsons, because of its superior standing in the world of fashion design education. Nonetheless, the applications keep coming in.

The only question now is whether design schools are still taken seriously, considering the fluffily dramatic nature of reality television. Youth flock to the increasingly competetive field of fashion design, thinking it is a life of glitz and glamour. After the novelty wears off, however, drop out rates increase. The freshman I spoke to left the school because it was not what the television show depicted. Richards knows that being fortunate enough to study at Parsons means putting in a lot of time and work.

Unfortunately, contrary to popular belief, Heidi Klum will not be there to kiss you goodbye if you get "auf'd."

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