THE GRADUATES | LUCY JONES ON WINNING PARSONS X KERING’S “EMPOWERING IMAGINATION” DESIGN CONTEST

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Lucy Jones, 23, is one of the two winners of the fourth annual “Empowering Imagination” competition, sponsored by Parsons and Kering. The competition saw 12 finalists from Parsons compete before a panel of judges including Parsons’ former Dean of Fashion Simon Collins, Style.com’s Nicole Phelps, Kering’s Laurent Claquin, Alexander Wang, editor Giovanna Battaglia, actress Aimee Mullins, and Colleen Sherin of Saks Fifth Avenue. With the promise of a chance to visit Kering’s Materials Innovation Lab in Novara, Italy, which supplies sustainable fabric options to Kering brands, the competition was spirited. Evaluated for their use of creativity, conceptual vision and technical skill in their thesis collections, the 12 finalists impressed. Plan de Ville caught up with winner (and Parsons Womenswear Designer of the Year) Lucy Jones to learn more about the beginning of her fashion education in her native Wales, an academic challenge that forever changed her perspective on fashion, and hugging Marc Jacobs. – Catherine Smith

TELL ME ABOUT YOUR TIME AS A STUDENT AT PARSONS.

“Being accepted to Parsons is kind of like receiving an acceptance letter from Hogwarts! My time at Parsons has been an emotional rollercoaster, but I wouldn’t have changed it for the world. At Parsons we are encouraged to involve pressing issues into our design practice, such as sustainability, social innovation, and technology. From day one at Parsons it has been non-stop hard work, but I feel I that I’ve had a once in a lifetime experience, and made amazing friends whom I will no-doubt end up working with in the future. My favorite memory – perhaps because it’s most recent – was when collecting my award, forgetting to shake Marc Jacobs’ hand due to nerves, then running back for a hug!”

Lucy Jones, Winner of the Parsons x Kering Empowering Imagination Competition, and Parsons Womenswear Designer of the Year, 2015.

HOW DID YOU BEGIN DESIGNING THIS COLLECTION? WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE DESIGN PROCESS?

“I was taking a class called Design Communication, and we were assigned to ‘design a project that will change the world.’ I remember thinking, how the hell can I change the world with fashion, when it can be seen as such a shallow and cutthroat industry? However, a Skype conversation with my cousin, Jake, is how my collection really began. Jake has Hemiplegia (this means he has restricted mobility along his left side of his body) he told me that he ‘wished he had more independence with dressing (himself),’ because he can do most daily tasks, but dressing proved to be very challenging for him. This is when I realized what fashion is, and what it can be. I will never forget that sentence, and I realized fashion does have the power to change the world and be more inclusive. You see, everyone wears clothes, whether we put much thought into it or not, and to some people dressing can be very challenging. As designers, we have to consider this always; it should never be an afterthought when designing a collection. That comment changed my opinion about fashion, and knowing that whatever it is I am working on or designing, I am working towards a greater end goal, which could take me many years! The problem solving that comes with it is what I love most. I love a challenge!”

HOW HAVE YOUR DESIGNS EVOLVED SINCE YOU STARTED AT PARSONS?

“When I first started at Parsons I would say my designs were fairly avant-garde. I was interested in more ‘difficult-to wear’ pieces, such as rope dresses and dresses that were upholstered to look like Chesterfield chairs. So I can easily say that I have done a complete transformation in that now ‘wearability’ and practicality come first. My designs absolutely must be functional and comfortable without compromising the overall aesthetic appearance. For me, form has to go hand in hand with function.”

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TELL ME ABOUT YOUR INTERNSHIPS.

“My first internship was at Milk Studios during fashion week. I remember thinking, So this is fashion? I found it all quite exciting, and though my only role was to greet people and escort people to their seats, it was all great experience and I absorbed everything. My favorite internship was with a set designer, designing the props and set for an ad campaign. I think I loved this the most because it was different from anything I had done previously.”

WHO HAVE YOU LEARNED THE MOST FROM IN YOUR CAREER THUS FAR?

“There isn’t one person in particular that I have learned most from. Rather, I would say there are several people who have certainly supported, encouraged, and inspired me and I am so grateful to have met them. In my foundation year in Wales, I had a fashion teacher who pushed me so far out of my comfort zone and gave me tasks that were designed to allow me to think differently. At Parsons I have had a number of teachers who have given me freedom to ask questions and take risks, and show me alternative design approaches. Of course one of my mentors is Ronnie Ellen Raymond, who is the lady who let me test my designs on her for this current collection.”

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WHAT DOES WINNING THE PARSONS X KERING EMPOWERING IMAGINATION COMPETITION MEAN FOR YOU AND YOUR BUSINESS?

“Winning the Parsons X Kering Empowering Imagination is such an honor,” said the designer, who tied with Blair Moore for the prestigious award. “I feel so appreciative and it has been a big confidence boost. To have our work featured on style.com has been extremely helpful, and has allowed me to connect with people whom are working on similar projects with similar missions, and that is very exciting for me.”

TELL ME ABOUT THE MOMENT YOU HEARD YOUR NAME ANNOUNCED AS THE WINNER OF THE WOMENSWEAR DESIGNER OF THE YEAR AT THE PARSONS BENEFIT.

“I remember I was in total shock and my heart was beating so hard that my ears were ringing! I was thinking, I hope I don’t trip in front of all these people on my way to collect my award, and I couLdn’t believe it was actually happening. It was nerve-racking and such a blur. But I am over the moon!”

WHAT ARE SOME CHALLENGES YOU FACE AS A YOUNG DESIGNER? HAVE THESE CHALLENGES EVOLVED?

“There have been many challenges that I face as a young designer. Personally, I feel that young designers have it especially difficult because the overall impression is that this is a very saturated industry with a huge variety of designers. I believe that as young designers we have a duty to offer an alternative approach to design and fashion. We need to be more innovative with our design outcomes. 
For me, the main challenge is letting go of the pressures of what I thought was expected of me, and channeling what I feel is right. Trusting my instinct has been the most important challenge to overcome.”

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WHAT’S NEXT FOR LUCY JONES?

“Honestly I have to touch the ground first. These last few weeks have been truly exhilarating. I feel so honored, and I never would have expected this outcome when I applied to Parsons 4 years ago! I would love to work in a company to start off my career so I can gain more hands on experience and confidence. Then I’d like to commit to my own work, and perhaps start a brand or consultation service.”

This story is part of Plan de Ville’s series, THE GRADUATES, which features the stories of young alumni of Parsons The New School for Design.