Obama, who hosted the workshops and luncheon, emphasized the importance of education in getting ahead. "I know that many of you are hoping to one day pursue a career in fashion, and that's why we invited you here today, because we want you to really understand what it's going to take to be successful," Obama said. "We want you to see firsthand that a solid education and the willingness to work hard is really at the core of what it's going to take to achieve your goals: education and hard work. It's that simple."
Von Furstenberg, who designed the famous wrap dress, echoed that message and told the participants how she made her dreams come true. "When you are young, it's most important that first you study, that first moment of studying, that is what will stay with you forever," she said. "But keep your eyes opened. And be open. Be open to everything. Be curious."
Parsons students were asked to do a special taskThe students represented more than a dozen schools from the East Coast and participated in five workshops, where they heard from dozens of experts on the topics of construction in fashion, entrepreneurship, and fashion journalism.
A group of sixteen students from Parsons the New School of Design had the task of edecorating the entire East Room of the White House, an intimidating assignment made even more so when Diane von Furstenberg, Thom Browne, and Phillip Lim are looking on. Fellow Parsons alumni, including Zac Posen, Jenna Lyons, and Jason Wu, were on hand, too.
“It was so exciting, so extraordinary, so unbelievable chic and polite and so much more,” said Laura Alexandra Suppan, a student of interior design from Vienna, Austria who is currently completing her MFA at Parsons.
A panel that included several top designers like von Furstenberg, Jenna Lyons of J. Crew, and Jason Wu, gave students advice, too.
Obama, whose dress was designed by FIT student Natalya Koval, assured the fashionistas that hard work and perseverance are essential to succeed. "I want those stories to show you that there's no magic to being successful in fashion or in anything else. What is required is a willingness to work long nights, to suffer through rejection and failure, to rise above all of that, all the doubts and fears and anxieties, whether you come from, you know, the city, the suburbs, no matter where you come from, all those feelings are natural," said the first lady.