The 69th Annual Parsons Fashion Benefit was held last night at Pier 60, and this year’s special honoree was none other than bad gal style icon, Rihanna, who was honored for her fashion influence of course, but also for her impactful philanthropic work. The singer was recognized alongside seasoned designer of her eponymous brand, Eileen Fisher, in addition to Karen Katz, president and CEO of Neiman Marcus Group. An unexpected trio indeed.
Guests and media waited in anticipation for RiRi's arrival, expecting the pop star to step out of her black SUV in a highly architectural ensemble (and probably something unwearable for anyone else in the world) similar to this year’s iconic Met Gala look. Instead, Rihanna arrived in a khaki suit exaggerated only in its oversized silhouette, and designed by Matthew Adams Dolan, a 2014 graduate of the MFA Fashion Design and Society program at Parsons whom she has worn on previous occasions.
The evening kicked off with a cocktail hour, followed by a seated dinner and lengthy program including the annual runway show of select collections by graduating Parsons students, a special tribute concert by Chop & Quench who performed a funky compilation of Rihanna’s greatest hits, and an auction to support scholarships to The New School. An auction is normally a snooze (unless Scarlett Johansson and Harvey Weinstein are in a back-and-forth war), but the superstar got involved and grabbed the mic to help auction off tickets to her very own Fenty Puma fashion show at September’s New York Fashion Week. Numbers jumped after she kept asking the crowd, “Anybody want to beat that?” The night garnered a total of $2.3 million!
The audience was visibly anxious for Rihanna’s speech, which was slated last on the lineup. She eventually took to the stage and shared an inspirational message to millennials and aspiring designers, avowing, “You should be celebrated for all the effort that you put into building your future, for being different, for not being given enough credit—for not having to use eye cream! My point is, we often tear our youth down when we should be building them up. At the end of the day, our future is in their hands." To the young creatives out there: Rihanna’s eyes are on you!
Ri was seated with her long-time stylist, Mel Ottenberg and best friend, Melissa Ford. Other notables in attendance included Brittany Underwood, Chris Gelinas, Thom Browne, Carolina Herrera, Linda Fargo, Zanna Roberts Rassi, and TK and Cipriana Quann.
To cap the night, Rihanna and Donna Karan presented a new Parsons initiative, the Parsons Design Fellowship: a competitive program which sends three students to work in Haiti with local designers on a fashion line for Rihanna’s non-profit organization, Clara Lionel Foundation.
Click through to see Rihanna’s look and other best dressed guests!
[Photos by JP Yim and Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for The New School]