At 10 a.m. on a sunny mid-May day, I lie on my bed, my left hand tingling, bent backwards propping up my head. My computer screen flashes with images of Parsons program directors of vague familiarity. Monotone voices read rehearsed remarks, an alarming contrast evident between hopeful words and anxious inflections. The ceremony isn’t all that different from a traditional graduation. Names are mispronounced, industry leaders ply optimism in futile attempts to discourage the known inferiority of adulting to college life. The only thing missing, ironically intangible- the visceral camaraderie that graduation brings to the surface.
This isn’t my first University graduation. But when I graduated from the University of Michigan three years ago, it felt different. I was gainfully employed, looking forward to a job I never started (a story for another time), and yet all the more emotionally precarious. Then, I had finished the last chapter- leaving behind the index’s safety net for the blank pages ahead. Not to say I don’t feel lost now. Trust me, I do. But now, the uncertainty plaguing my brain is a shared experience far beyond my graduating peers. Blank pages still confront me, but with three years of experience filling them under my belt.
I actually forgot there would even be a virtual ceremony until halfway through, my own delusion of not caring to blame. At 10:43 a.m., I checked my phone to realize the ceremony was already well underway, almost over for that matter. A brief tinge of disappointment rippled through my brain, quickly put to rest by the discovery that I could in fact, rewind. Ah yes, graduation On Demand.
Back in October, I attended a talk at Parsons with up and coming designer Emily Bode and industry vet Derek Lam. Lam displayed an emotion best described as hopelessness, for the future of fashion. The presentation was part of The New School’s “Festival of New” celebrating the school’s centennial, yet both designers undoubtedly struggled with their contribution to fashion’s greatest plagues. Lam perfectly captured the current conundrum of design: he could never fabricate another piece, and the world wouldn’t skip a beat. The sheer volume of clothing in existence and addition each day is too grand to fathom augmenting. His words validated my own disheartened feelings towards my impending vocation.
The deeper I’ve ventured into the depths of fashion’s darkest secrets, the more disgust I’ve built for my chosen career path. Shame for contributing to a materialistic process, along with mortification for my desire (still) to be a cog in the wheel of a dated system that honors few elites while concurrently harming the greater masses. An underlying desire to be a changemaker, discredited by an absence of epiphanies and industry shaking ideas. Reluctant to let go of the desired glamour of reaching the top. I found myself on the brink of an existential crisis- verklempt over my self-appointed career path.
The past two months have initiated changes that are slowly rippling through facets of the fashion industry and destined, I hope, to leave a lasting mark. With halted production forced to slow the entire system, the rigorous cycle that first gave rise to my conflicted feelings, has now triggered a turning point in my long term relationship with fashion.
Back to the blah-blah of my computer screen and my graduation-from-bed commencement. Fast forwarding to the G’s, I wait to hear my name. To my surprise, none other than- you guessed it- Derek Lam announced it.
Despite the world’s amplifying uncertainty, I feel more hopeful now, I wonder if Derek Lam does too. With my chronic self negativity dwindling, I find the balance between worry and excitement tipping towards the later. Although unsure of what this new world has in store for fashion, I feel more eager than ever to join.
I’m struggling to spell out how exactly this industry change might evolve. Slower, more mindful and transparent are some words that come to mind-loosely describing what I want the future to look like. Nor am I sure what my role is to play. Yet, despite no job leads in sight, I remain surprisingly optimistic. I’m entering an industry more aligned with my values than ever before. My subconscious should be screaming, but it remains consistently appeased by proposals for change flashing across The Business of Fashion. The conversation has not only started, but it’s gaining momentum.
As the credits on my virtual graduation roll by on the screen, I consider where I stand. At this point, I’m dividing my time between developing tools for being open, accepting my current state, and honing skills to maintain this current eagerness to join, contribute, and most importantly, participate in fashion’s future workforce. One thing I’m sure of: I am more equipped for this new world than the last.
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