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New Kids on The Block

Pratt honors Thom Browne and celebrates the class of 2013 with a fabulous fashion show

Thom Browne and Hamish Bowles

Thursday evening in Chelsea’s Center548, Pratt Institute’s 114th annual fashion show honored award-winning designer, Thom Browne, who is known for testing the boundaries of fashion and gender, and celebrated the innovative designs and hard work of 17 graduating students. When industry tastemaker and Vogue‘s international editor-at-large, Hamish Bowles, took to the stage, he began by pointing out what it is about a designer, like Browne, that makes the fashion world take note: “Every now and then, a designer appears and makes you sit up and think or re-think. Whether it’s by transforming the ankle into a new androgynous zone, or getting people to see differently. Thom Browne is that designer. He now works on four own-name men’s collections, four own-name women’s, four for Brooks Brothers, and two for Moncler, by my rudimentary reckoning, that is a collection every 26 days. Time management is obviously key but it doesn’t hurt that Thom runs eight miles every morning and lives in an apartment that has been likened to a century deprivation tank.”

It isn’t every day that a group of young unknown design students have the opportunity to show not only in New York but have Bibhu Mohapatra, Fern Mallis, and Bill Cunningham in attendance and for Hamish Bowles to smile and nod at your looks. Unlike the students at Pratt, Thom Browne received a degree in Economics from Notre Dame, but when speaking with DuJour, pointed out that the path you take to realizing your dreams isn’t what’s important and gave some sage words of wisdom for the young crowd: “I wasn’t at a disadvantage [because of my degree] and it wasn’t an advantage, it was just my path,” he explained, “I think everyone has to be true to themselves. Go after what they want to go after, whether or not you’re in fashion school, design school, business school, life sometimes works out differently and as long as you’re open to different things, you should try and do whatever you want to do.”

A look from Madeline Gruen’s collection

Emma Hastil, one of Pratt’s lucky 17, couldn’t even begin to articulate what this past year—and the opportunity to showcase her graphic floral designs, that pay homage to her hometown of Brooklyn, Wisconsin and current residence Brooklyn, New York—has meant to her. “This experience,” she said, “I’m in awe and I can’t really process it. It’s a wonderful learning experience and being able to have a show in New York, which is something so hard to obtain in life, is such a blessed gift.” Students like Emma and Madeline Gruen, the winner of the $25,000 Liz Claiborne Award, gave up sleep and their social lives this past year for a chance of a lifetime, and many were rewarded when Thom came to their studios a few weeks ago with internships offers.

A look from Sam O’Brien’s collection

Jennifer Minniti, the Department of Fashion Chair, dressed head-to-toe in Thom Browne, was glowing with pride for her students and told us why Pratt, America’s oldest and first fashion design program, stands out from the crowd of fashion design institutions like Parsons and F.I.T.: “We’re a smaller program and we’re in Brooklyn where everything is happening, but we can give a lot of individual attention to each of our students. As a concept-led, craft-based, pedagogical platform that focuses on collection development and making, I think that underpins all of that and I think that’s where we might differ, I respect my colleagues at my peer institutions, but I hope that Pratt’s maybe raising the bar and bringing New York fashion back to life in terms of its young and emerging designers!”

After the show, students, their families, Thom Browne and Hamish Bowles, all headed downtown for a cocktail party at the Top of the Standard’s exclusive Boom Boom Room. “This is so incredible,” gushed one student, staring out at the lounges infamous view of the New York skyline, “It’s my first time ever getting in!” But something tells this journalist, that after the success of their show, it won’t be their last.