As children growing up on opposite sides of the country, Brandon Suen and Bijan Kazem faced similar battles at home as they considered their future career aspirations.
"I grew up in kind of a strict Chinese household, where pursuing anything in the arts field wasn't really allowed," shared Suen, a 24-year-old native of New Jersey. "I've always known that I wanted to be in fashion, but I was kind of in denial my whole life."
The same could be said of Kazem, a native of Pacific Palisades, Calif., who also was raised in a family that frowned upon careers in the arts.
In the case of Suen, it meant attending three different colleges before he finally followed his heart and went to study at the renowned Parsons The New School for Design. However, once he enrolled, he knew that he had made the right decision.
"After I started doing [fashion], I fell in love with it and it was completely natural," Suen said. "I've always known, but I was always running away from it."
Oddly enough, Kazem and Suen's lives collided when both aspiring designers met for the first time during their sophomore year at Parsons. Forming a unique friendship built upon their similar childhood experiences, Kazem and Suen teamed up in their senior year to form their own line, suen kazem, which went on to capture the program's prestigious Designer of the Year award in May.
"It was a shock, but actually one of the best experiences of our lives," the 23-year-old Kazem explained of winning the coveted honor. "It was like this validation for all of our years of struggling.
"Both Brandon and I had problems with persuading our parents to let us go into the art field. It was huge relief to be able to walk away from school proving to our parents that we're very serious about it and that we're capable of accomplishing anything that we put our minds to."
While Parsons has been turning out top designers since its founding in 1896, it has captured even more of the limelight of late thanks to the hit Bravo TV show, "Project Runway," which is filmed at Parsons and features the chair of its fashion design department, Tim Gunn.