INTERVIEW The MPS (Masters in Professional Studies) in Fashion Management, at Parsons Schools of Design is just entering its second year under the leadership of Director Keanan Duffty, but it has already been transformed for its fall semester.
Duffty together with his Assistant Professor, Joshua Williams, have spent the summer rebuilding the program, invigorating the content for exclusively online learning, and breaking lectures into highly produced ten-minute chunks to suit how we consume digital information. “Pre-produced content allows the educators more time to engage one-on-one with students afterwards,” says Duffty.
While they had always intended to build the program into an omnichannel learning opportunity, Covid rushed their plans forward, but Williams says it’s not simply a matter of posting the classroom content online. Aware that the quality must compete with the level of digital content we are accustomed to viewing daily and be representative of the aesthetics within a fashion space, the team engaged a production house to create professional videos. Williams likens the challenges to those of a retailer looking to expand beyond brick and mortar to ecommerce. The deliverable product must be as desirable on screen as when it’s in a physical space. “Students want to be in NYC, on-campus,” says Duffty, “The feeling of being part of the city and the industry is important, even online.”
Tommy Hilfiger to speak to the MPS Fashion Management online class
The program has just graduated its first cohort of 32 students and there are 40 enrolled for Fall which begins August 31, over half of which are international students, many already working in the industry. Duffty says another advantage of the online program is the availability of industry talent. Designers Tommy Hilfiger and Reed Krakoff, CFDA Director of Education, Sara Kozlowski, and Lucy Jones, founder of wheelchair accessories range Ffora, are lined up to speak in the coming weeks. A pre-recorded talk by an industry expert can be followed by a live Q + A session. Says Duffty, “These are busy people, but wherever they are in the world, we can have access to them.”
The course culminates with students creating a capstone project which can be directly aligned with their own businesses should they have them. These are future industry leaders, who will build brands, examine systems, and reimagine them across retail, digital, sourcing, entrepreneurship, says Duffty. “The course offers real-world practical experience, giving students the wherewithal to rethink roles. Some students already have a start-up, some are coming from other industries. The goal is to allow them to luxuriate in big thinking, deconstruction and reconstruction.”
Duffty and Williams consider their online program a template for post-Covid when classroom and online learning will be two complementary halves of an educational program, hopefully in the spring. But for now, to those who are skeptical if one remote learning program differs much from the next, Duffty has this to say: “There is a major difference with our program in that we still bring an access point that is distinctly New York City, allowing students to engage with the leaders of our industry, with CFDA and Fashion Fund members. That’s unique to us.”
Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.
Photos provided by The New School