Thom Browne, Bethann Hardison and J.Crew’s Libby Wadle to Be Honored at Parsons Benefit

With the commencement gowns and university gala season nearing, The New School is gearing up to honor three pivotal figures in the fashion industry at its annual Parsons Benefit in New York City.

Designer Thom Browne, advocate and luxury brand consultant Bethann Hardison and the J.Crew Group’s chief executive officer Libby Wadle will be the guests of honor at this year’s event on May 21 at Cipriani Wall Street in New York. Just as Parsons specializes in interdisciplinary design and collaboration, this year’s honorees excel across different platforms. Each one is also being recognized for contributing to design, retail, fashion, philanthropy and social justice.

Browne is not just founder and chief creative officer of his namesake company that he started in 2003. In January 2023, he also took on the lead role at the Council of Fashion Designers of America as its chairman. The New York-based creative’s two-year term is said to have started on a strong note including enhancing inclusivity.

Having worked in the fashion industry in multiple capacities such as modeling (including a Gap campaign last year), starting a modeling and management agency, a stalwart advocate of diversity in fashion, Hardison also champions emerging designers of color. With the CFDA’s support, Hardison started The Designers Hub to guide and empower Black designers. If all of this sounds like the making of a movie, well, it is. Last year Hardison codirected a documentary about her life, “Invisible Beauty,” with Frédéric Tcheng, whose portfolio includes “Halston” and “Dior and I.” 

Meanwhile, Wadle, a Boston College graduate, has led the J.Crew Group since the fall of 2020, overseeing its J.Crew, J.Crew Factory and Madewell divisions. With 25 years of experience in the retail sector, she also serves on the company’s board of directors.

Libby Wadle

Libby Wadle

Browne, a three-time CFDA winner, has been in the spotlight more than ever as of late. Earlier this month, he debuted sheets and blankets by Frette with a performance on Milan’s Via Gesù. Called “Time to Sleep,” it was held at Palazzina Appiani, a neoclassical building designed in 1805 within the Parco Sempione, which was the official gallery for the family of Napoleon Bonaparte, and near the Civic Arena, modeled after the antique Roman stadium. Last month, Browne touched down in Los Angeles for his first major event there in nearly 20 years — a celebration of his women’s collaboration with Saks Beverly Hills that includes an exclusive capsule of young, wearable tweedy sportswear pieces like pleated miniskirts, shrunken varsity jackets and summery slingbacks. Last fall, the Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts honored him and Andrew Bolton, curator in charge at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, for the exemplary preservation that was given to their Georgian town house renovation.

Attendees at next month’s Parsons Benefit will be welcomed by the evening’s emcee Nicole Ari Parker. Like the honorees, she is a multihyphenate, working as an actor, producer and the creator of Gymwrap, a fitness sweatband developed with EvapoCool. Parsons is expecting between 400 and 500 guests at this year’s extravaganza. They will also see some of the students’ talents up close — through a fashion show by the BFA Fashion Design students and work will also be displayed by MFA Fashion Design students.

To keep the celebratory spirit high and to amplify other creative aspects of the school’s community, there will be performances by The New School Gospel Choir and Artlex String Quartet, which hails from The New School’s College of Performing Arts.

Revealing this year’s honorees, Yvonne Watson, interim executive dean of The New School’s Parsons School of Design, highlighted how Parsons “was founded upon the idea that great design can positively change the world.” Watson said the honorees’ impact has “helped reshape the creative and commercial landscape in subtle and profound ways that have helped inspire a new generation of design thinkers and leaders.”

The Parsons Benefit raises funds for scholarships for students interested in art, design, liberal arts, music, technology and social innovation.

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