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Parsons Duo Brandon Suen and Bijan Kazem Have Big Fashion Plans - page 3

By Jeff Ferrantino on August 31, 2006

Suen Kazem; photo by David PackerIn recent years, turning a senior thesis into a business has grown increasingly more common. Jack McCollough and Lazaro Hernandez of Proenza Schouler were actually the first Parsons graduates to have their senior thesis snapped up by a retailer—in that case, by Barney's New York in 2002. But, Kazem and Suen both seem perfectly content to soak up as much knowledge as possible before going at it on their own.

"Working with [J. Mandel] has been amazing just because they have everything, and they have the money to do anything that they want to do," said Suen. "They have an in-house fur factory, and they're world-known for their fur, which is an experience that you cannot acquire anywhere else.

"On top of that, they have a fabulous atelier for dresses and gowns, they're doing couture here, and they have tailors on hand and on staff."

"You get really spoiled working here," added Kazem.

Kazem likes to share the story about the day he was cutting a chiffon circle shirt and slipped a layer inbetween two pieces of paper, which is a very high-end couture method of cutting a piece of fabric. When the cut didn't exactly go as planned, he became embarrassed and slipped out the door to dump the fabric.Suen Kazem; photo by David Packer

Shared Kazem: "I came back in and my co-worker said, 'What happened to the fabric?' I said, 'Oh, I [messed] it up, I slipped it into the trash can.' He said, 'What are you doing, that's $500-a-yard fabric?'

"It's a very interesting experience coming from our standpoint where we have our pennies saved up to produce our own line, where if we wanted to make an extra jacket for our line, we'd have to eat ramen for the next week."

Unlike in suen kazem, today their roles are somewhat switched at J. Mandel with Suen developing sportswear and Kazem designing dresses and gowns.

"It's really interesting to finally see your designs come to life in a commercial sense, not working on your own designs and development," said Kazem.

While they both say that they are "playing it by ear" in deciding when to further concentrate on their own line of middle to high-end women's wear, Kazem and Suen are steadfast in saying that their collections will focus on quality over quantity. They describe their style as "nothing is really in your face."