This interview with Ralph Lauren explores his life growing up in the Bronx and how he started his career in the fashion industry. He provides insight to his design process and the company products, which vary from clothing to furnishings and linens.
This interview opens with Mollie Parnis talking about her latest project, a prize for three young journalists that she began in memory of her son. She then segues into the origins of her company and her early biography. She commenced her career by designing blouses after being frustrated at the quality of the designs while working in a design showroom on Madison Avenue. The Parnis-Livingston company began in a studio Seventh Avenue about five-years after Mollie Parnis and Leon Livingston married in 1930, with Mollie designing and Leon managing the business needs. After her husband died in 1960 she closed the business for three-months. Diana Vreeland convinced Mollie to stay open by putting two of her sketches in Harper’s Bazaar. The name of the business remained Parnis-Livingston until 1970 when it changed to Mollie Parnis. She now has three divisions: Mollie Parnis, Inc.; Mollie Parnis Studio; and Mollie Parnis at Home. Upon success, she began doing philanthropic work, including a grant foundation called “Mollie Parnis Dress up Your Neighborhood”; scholarships at FIT and Parsons; and the aforementioned journalistic prizes. Topics touched on include: the impersonalization of the current fashion industry; her friendship with various First Ladies, including Mamie Eisenhower, Lady Bird Johnson, and Nancy Reagan; how the changes in the industry have necessitated changes in her business-model, including the prevalence of licensing from designers in the 1980s.
April Calahan, Curator of Manuscripts at the Special Collections and College Archives unit of the Fashion Institute of Technology library, interviews street style fashion photographer Jamel Shabazz. Mr. Shabazz talks of his life growing up in New York City as a child of divorce. He recalls how he started learning photography in Germany while serving in the armed forces. He began documenting his world in 1980 when he began taking photographs of young people who reminded him of his own life growing up, and found his camera facilitated his ability to engage with and mentor young people. He talks about the importance of mentorship, the trust that he honed between him and his subjects. He discusses how discounted clothing was often purchased from stores around Delancey and Orchard streets in the 1970s as well as other hubs where urban fashion originated from. He compares the photographic work he's done in the studio to his preference to shooting on the street. Calahan and Shabazz review the specific processes behind a number of Shabazz's favorite photographs. He finally discusses his respect for FIT, and his reasons for donating a collection of photographs to FIT's archive, and how important he believes photography is for documenting history. Alex Joseph, editor of Hue Magazine, joins in as interviewer to ask Mr. Shabazz about his personal clothing collection, which consists of pieces he designed himself or has kept over several decades, and which he uses in his fashion shoots. Finally, Mr. Shabazz recalls how fashion has changed over time.