For Fitzsimmons, 26, that old "if you don't succeed" adage couldn't ring more true. In just a few short years, he went from having his application portfolio rejected by Parsons to graduating with one of the school's highest honors, Designer of the Year for womenswear. Fitzsimmons, who has also worked as a carpenter and painter, tells us that his sci-fi-esque collection was inspired by Maureen Dowd's book, Are Men Necessary? and explores a scenario of "polarized femininity, aggressive and delicate" in saturated hues and laser-cut lapels. (Debut's owner, Lisa Weiss, was actually sporting one of Fitzsimmons's designs, a blue shift made from an embossed technique he created by fusing three layers of fabric.) "Most important for me is to work under someone whose ideals I admire," says the designer, who's currently interviewing with fashion houses. "Namely, an entrepeneurial spirit and a conviction about keeping production in New York."
Fall might be the season to bring back the 80's, but the 23-year-old Cohen is taking it a step further. Inspired by the cult documentary Paris is Burning, Cohen, a San Diego native, finds his muse in some of NYC's most celebrated drag queens of that period. With exuberantly colorful dresses, coats and skirts in sexy, dance-friendly silhouettes, the collection has enough personality to last another decade. But don't be put off by Cohen's fascination with the edgy drag subculture. He loves its "excessive and upbeat" attitude but updates it with materials such as neoprene and feminine prints. Although he eventually would like to start his own line, "I want to work for a fashion house for a few years first," he says, mentioning Marc Jacobs, Christopher Kane, Phoebe Philo and Oscar de la Renta as a few designers he admires. "I'm sending out resumes and waiting to see what happens."
Arias, 22, is the only designer in her class to have launched her own line while still at school. While completing her final year at Parsons, she sold her first ready-to-wear collection to Ikram, Michelle Obama's favorite Chicago boutique. "Ikram Goldman has been incredibly supportive," says Arias, who was born in Havana and raised in Miami. Arias's touchable dresses -- romantic confections of square, pixilated fabric -- reflect her background as a painter and were one of the standouts of the evening. Says Arias, "My goals for myself now that I've graduated are to expand my brand to women who view themselves as a visually composed collage of art, elegance and fantasy."
Read more about this year's standout Parsons grads HERE