Today Simon Collins, the dean of the School of Fashion at Parsons the New School for Design in New York and Associate Professor of Fashion Design, officially announced his plans to step down from his position.
For the last six years Simon Collins has been an inspirational leader to the students of Parsons Fashion School in New York and his vibrant, positive spirit will surely be missed. Originally from England, Collins had a sterling career before his tenure at Parsons began. As a seasoned creative director with over 20 years of experience, worked with brands ranging from Polo Ralph Lauren to Fila, Zegna, and Marks and Spencer. Most recently he directed Nike’s Asia Pacific division, a $900-million apparel business. Yet on his appointment to dean of Parsons’ School of Fashion in 2008 he says, “I felt like my whole career was preparation for this. It’s my job to be the brand guardian and connect Parsons to the fashion industry at every level all over the globe. I know what the industry needs, what students know and don’t know, and what is required to train them.”
True to his word Collins encouraged preparing the students of fashion design to give as much importance to fashion as a business as to an artform and was integral in creating collaborations with companies such as Kering with the “Empowering Imagination” student design competition, Condé Nast and even the Ford Motor Company.
In his time with Parsons Collins has been credited with organising the fashion programs for undergraduates and introducing their first master’s degree in fashion as well as revamping the curriculum and guiding the school’s recent move to a better building.
His CV adds up to an impressive list of career experiences that it seems he is keen to continue with. In January he will step down as Dean and go on to work as a consultant for various firms. Speaking with the New York Times, Collins said :
“I’ve had the great good fortune of spending six years reflecting on design, I’ve had an amazing time here, but I think you can’t stay anywhere forever.”
Speaking about his efforts to make his students more business-savvy he said:
“If we look at what success means to a Parsons graduate, it’s Jason Wu or Alex Wang or Proenza Schouler — it’s companies that turn over tens of millions of dollars. That’s what success looks like. In the U.K., for instance, success is being written about by a particular journalist, and if you can make the rent, you’ll still be around next month. We’re very conscious of the fact that we’re the fashion industry…One of the challenges to us and to all design schools is keeping pace with technology and with millennials, with their skills and desires. You can never relax your vigilance for one minute because it’ll get away from you and you’ll be stuck in the past. I’m sad to say that many schools are stuck in the past.”
Words of wisdom that all emerging and established designers can consider for the future of their businesses. To hear more advice from Simon Collins check out this video from a presentation at Fashion Forward Dubai where he talks about design thinking.
Simon Collins has also written a book celebrating the wealth of talent that has emerged from Parsons over the years which is filled with beautiful images, interviews and exclusive archival sketches from Donna Karan, Alexander Wang, Jack McCullough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler, and many others. THE SCHOOL OF FASHION 30 PARSONS DESIGNERS is available to buy online at Assouline