Travis Scott, Kerby Jean-Raymond & Gabriela Hearst Are Honored at The Parsons Benefit

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Last night in New York, guests gathered (gathered!) in lower Manhattan’s Seaport District for a very special occasion: the 72nd Annual Parsons Benefit. This year’s gala was poised to be a standout in the event’s decades-long history for two reasons: First, the pandemic put the kibosh on 2020’s festivities, making the overdue feting that followed as anticipated as ever. Second, this year’s gala also falls on Parsons’ 125th birthday, an occasion that the design school pulled out all the stops to commemorate.

Guests spilled into the golden hour sun that drenched Pier 17’s waterfront rooftop, all buzzing about the inspiring group of Table Award recipients that the School of Design had lined up: multi-hyphenate innovator Travis Scott, Reebok and Pyer Moss creative director Kerby Jean-Raymond, Chloé creative director Gabriela Hearst, visual artist Carrie Mae Weems, Macy’s chairman and CEO Jeff Gennette, and Apple and Burberry alumna Angela Ahrendts. While honoring their contributions to innovation, inclusivity, and sustainability, the benefit also offered the noble opportunity to empower young design hopefuls by raising funds for their education at Parsons.

Of course, all great trailblazers draw a crowd—as evidenced by the very-starry attendee list. Among them? Kylie Jenner (in vintage 1987 Jean Paul Gaultier), her littlest, Stormi Webster, actor-writer Lena Waithe, Harriet’s Cynthia Erivo, as well as designers Wes Gordon, Kay Unger, and Donna Karan. Everyone seemed to have one thing at the top of mind: an excitement over this glimpse of re-emergence, shared under clear evening skies along the East River. 

“I’m just excited to be out in the world—with real people in real clothes and real shoes,” Kenneth Cole tells Vogue. “Tonight is a tribute not just to the school, but to the students. This is a new beginning for them and for all of us in New York.” Rachel Schreiber, Executive Dean of Parsons, agrees: “We’re super excited! It feels like the first party—and you really feel this energy that everyone is just so happy to be together.” 

After walking the carpet, guests took their seats, where burrata amuse-gueules and “Parsons Sbagliatos” waited for them. All the while, presenters waxed poetic on each honoree’s sparkling contributions to the fashion industry. 

Jeff Gennette was credited for introducing the Macy’s Endowed Scholarship Fund for Parsons undergraduate students of color, which has raised as much as $1 billion to date; while Angela Ahrendts brought purpose-driven executive leadership to Apple, Burberry, and beyond. MacArthur Foundation Genius Grant recipient Carrie Mae Weems was praised for centering issues of race, class, and gender identity in her photography, while Gabriela Hearst was lauded for her eagle-eyed focus on sustainability, both at her eponymous line and at her new post at Chloé. In a montage exploring his “timely social experiment,” speakers admired Kerby Jean-Raymond’s Pyer Moss for reconciling fashion and activism to achieve greater sociocultural change. 

The final honoree of the evening (and one that sent 3-year-old Stormi “storming” over to the stage in her unreleased Travis Scott x Air Jordan 1 x Fragment Design sneakers) was Travis Scott, whose Cactus Jack Foundation joined forces with Parsons to bring fashion education to creatively underserved high school students in Houston. “I think the important thing is to remember that kids rule the world,” shared Scott with an emotional audience. “To every young kid out there having that weird frustration, because you’re either too young or don’t have the means to do what you want to do: There’s going to be that point in life. Just take full advantage of it — you have everything in your hands so I just think you go hard with that.”

At the close of the evening, designer Kay Unger announced a major win for Parsons and the entire fashion community: the benefit had raised $3 million for Parsons student scholarships—the true mark of a successful night!

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