From backstage, junior Tim Parent watched as his brainchild, “Project East,” unfolded into a beautifully orchestrated display of art and fashion before a crowd of 500 people.
The scene offered a stark contrast to Parent’s other passion. Less than a week after the show, Parent competed in the 200 butterfly and 200 individual medley in the Harvard men’s swimming and diving team’s season opener against Cornell.
“I think it’s awesome that he’s swimming and pursuing fashion,” captain Sam Wollner said. “We like to support people who branch outside the typical jock mold, and the whole team was really supportive.”
Project East, a fashion show Parent organized with classmate Kristin Kim, featured a total of 13 designers, including seven who showed their collections at New York Fashion Week.
“We wanted to bring real high-end designers to school so students could see actual collections,” Parent said. “We didn’t want to have any middleman in the fashion.”
Parent can now be considered a full-fledged fashion guru. He was recognized as one of the 25 most stylish Bostonians by The Boston Globe and has hobnobbed with execs at Gucci North America during his summer internship with the Italian fashion giant.
Yet Parent’s interest in fashion did not develop as smoothly as his talent for swimming.
He picked up the sport at age four, because his mother wanted to “make sure [the family] was safe and comfortable around water,” but Parent’s involvement in the sport deepened as he improved.
By age 14, Parent was ranked first in the country for 13 and 14-year-old boys in the 400 IM, a position previously held by none other than six-time Olympic gold medalist, Michael Phelps.
Around that same time, Parent made the difficult decision to leave his home state of Washington to move to Florida to continue training with his coach, who had relocated there, and to attend boarding school.
“I moved to Florida to stay with my swim coach because he was a really great coach,” Parent said. “I kind of plateaued in high school but that was actually good that I did because I otherwise would have gone to a big swimming school like [the University of Florida].”
Parent’s appreciation for fashion also began early, but it wasn’t before he arrived at Harvard and spent a summer abroad in Korea and Japan that his interest became something tangible.
“I think that I’ve always enjoyed [fashion] but I didn’t get really into before I got more access to it,” Parent said. “I went to Korea and Japan and I got to see some great designers there and I went to New York a lot freshman year. Going to big cities fostered an innate passion for fashion in me.”
Upon returning from his trip, Parent set about turning his ideas into a reality.
Along with Kim, he spent about a year and a half recruiting designers to show, raising money, and increasing publicity for Project East.
Indeed, the show garnered a lot of national and international press, and was even featured in Women’s Wear Daily.
“[The show] ended up costing us, like, $500 per minute,” Parent said. “You couldn’t get away with not raising enough money or not having the collections together. It ended up being the first priority for a lot of us for a while.”
Looking ahead, Parent sees himself finishing his swimming career at Harvard before pursuing fashion after graduation. Already, Parent has lined up an internship with a small designer for this summer in Shanghai.
“I enjoy fashion because it’s easy to communicate to a lot of people and I want to go into it because it’s really interesting and I think branding is a really interesting idea,” Parent said. “It’s a completely different world from what we do in school.”