On Wednesday, May 10, Pratt Fashion held its 122nd annual runway show at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn. The event showcased innovative ready-to-wear collections from 21 graduating seniors from Pratt Institute’s Fashion Design program and honored journalist Robin Givhan with the Pratt Fashion Visionary Award. The show was covered by WWD, Vogue, New York Magazine’s The Cut, and other media outlets.
Pratt President Frances Bronet welcomed guests to an evening that offered a “glimpse into what our future of fashion looks like,” citing an adage by the Institute’s founder, Charles Pratt: “The present life of the young is an outline of the future.” This sentiment was echoed in the announcement of Pratt Fashion’s growing faculty with the appointment of fashion designer and 2014 Visionary Award recipient Byron Lars as the next Jane B. Nord Professor of Fashion Design, recognizing his achievements in pushing contemporary American style forward with creative, inclusive, and playful design.
Titled ASSEMBLAGE, the annual Pratt Shows: Fashion runway show showcased the next names in fashion to an audience of over 350 guests, with students each presenting collections composed of eight to ten complete looks, including accessories. As pulsating music reverberated throughout the bright sunlit venue, models walked through the crowd on the winding runway, wearing head-turning designs that incorporated everything from colorful knits to airy tulle. Silhouettes varied from sculptural to tailored, loose and flowing, and the designs reflected creativity, technique, and exciting perspectives.
The designers who presented their collections included Camille Bavera, Cameron Bourne, Justin Cavone, Zoë Crane, Dominique Fiorino, Mekinsa Emi Firth, Shuming Gu, Kristin Guo, Jo Lu, Yichen Lu, Annie McWilliams, Phoenix Mei, Mackenzie O’Mara, Heather Ortiz, Aimee Schmale, Haozhe Wang, Mingyi Teresa Wu, Peiling Helen Wu, Yue Wu, Eden You, and Xiran Zhao.
In addition to introducing fashion’s next guard of innovative designers and leaders, the evening celebrated the importance of fashion as communication by honoring Washington Post critic-at-large Robin Givhan for “her thoughtful criticism, her expert eye, her unwavering celebrations of diverse voices and perspectives in fashion design.”
The award was presented by Givhan’s longtime friend and peer, Teri Agins, an author and former fashion reporter for the Wall Street Journal, who helped develop the fashion beat for the newspaper. Agins, who has known Givhan since 1992, spoke on the trajectory of the honoree’s career, from her time as fashion editor at the Detroit Free Press, to assuming the role of fashion critic at the Washington Post in 1995, to being awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her work in 2006, becoming the first and only fashion journalist to win a Pulitzer.
Givhan thanked Pratt for the award, inspiring students who are about to embark on their own career paths with insights from her professional journey. “I want to accept [this honor] on behalf of all the journalists that the fashion industry welcomes into its midst, knowing that sometimes the stories will be critical, or skeptical, or tough. And I thank you for that generosity and graciousness,” said Givhan. “Fashion has never been more powerful as a form of communication. It helps people tell their stories when their voice fails them or when society simply doesn’t want to listen to their words. Fashion helps us sort out our identity, define our power, and find our place in the world. And we all need a little bit of fashion. … But we also all need to understand it. And so, to every student embarking on a career in the fashion industry, my wish for you is that you find satisfaction, joy, and meaning. … And I also hope that you make the industry more inclusive, more sustainable, and that you continue to graciously welcome the journalists who would chronicle this business with fairness and sensitivity.”
Before introducing the student collections, Pratt Fashion Chair and inaugural Jane B. Nord Professor of Fashion Design Jennifer Minniti thanked Givhan for continuing to write and craft pieces that inspire and challenge the Pratt Fashion community, and announced the creation of Pratt’s new Master of Fine Arts in Fashion Collection + Communication, which will launch in the fall semester of 2024. “Robin is one of the foremost fashion writers and critics of our generation, and her insight into fashion as culture reflects the ethos of the Fashion Department and our new MFA program,” said Minniti. “She is an inspiring woman: her thoughtful critique and examination of politics, race, and the arts will guide and inform the next generation of creative leaders in fashion practice.”
Said Minniti of Pratt Fashion’s graduating seniors: “This year’s class is the first to have completed the foundational years of their studio education remotely, learning how to cut patterns and sew on Zoom. Many students were several time zones away from each other, necessitating the program to develop a sense of communal flexibility, students and instructors alike. Despite these challenges, students devised techniques that push the boundaries of the textiles with which they work, such as using 3D knitting machines to create garments out of technologically enhanced recyclable fibers, and explored sustainability as a guiding design principle, combining innovation with traditional craft methods, such as quilting. Thematically, the concerns of their generation reverberate poignantly in their work—besides using clothing as a medium to interrogate the tension between perpetuating a material culture and caring for the planet, the designers parse motifs of gender nonconformity, identity, and, crucially, interpersonal connection.”
At the event, senior Yichen Lu was presented with the Christopher Hunte “On Point” Award, a $5,000 prize selected by the Fashion Department faculty. “Building this collection is a challenging journey, and I couldn’t have done it without the support from my teachers, classmates, friends, and families,” said Lu. “I am truly grateful for everyone who believed in me and encouraged me along the way.”