Michelle Obama wears a Tracy Reese dress during the 2012 Democratic National Convention


For students in the new MPS in Fashion Management at Parsons, orientation week provided them the opportunity to learn from industry leaders during panel discussions, visit innovative retail spaces, and engage with their professors.

In addition to experts including designer Lucy Jones, Fashion Design ‘15, influencer Natalie Zfat, and public relations leader James LaForce, students also heard from celebrated designer Tracy Reese, Fashion Design ‘84, who delivered the keynote address at the end of the week.

Reese shared advice about managing a business, what sustainability means to her, and where she thinks the fashion industry is headed in the future. She also spoke about her new fashion line based in Detroit, Hope for Flowers, which is focused on sustainability, ethical production, and handwork.

“It’s critical for designers to get business skills, as designers become managers,” she said. “No one tells you that in schools, but you have to understand the mechanics of everyone’s jobs.”

She cast a critical eye on fast fashion, and questioned how much longer the industry can support low prices, cheap materials, and dangerous working conditions.

“The biggest problems in our industry include scale,” she said. “How big is big enough? Does it have to be world domination? Can the planet support this mass everything?”

Reese ended her talk by encouraging students to gain real world experience, visit stores, and talk to customers.

“Not everything is on the screen, you have to balance out the data with your own intuition,” she said. “So many businesses are operating on a playbook that is 50 years old. You have the chance to rewrite it.”

*This article originally appeared on The New School Blog on Sep. 6th, 2019.