"The job itself is a perk": A profile of fashion designer and Uni alum Bálint Bognár
Published: Wednesday, June 9, 2010 - 9:43pm
Our Uni education prepares us for a wide array of possibilities. Yet at times I have wondered if there were other Nina Paley's among us, students who go on to follow career paths not typically associated with our school.
Bálint Bognár, who is a designer based in New York City, draws inspiration through his photography. Photo courtesy Bálint Bognár (click to enlarge)
Fashion designer Bálint Bognár graduated from Uni in 2002 and went off to The Parsons School of Design in New York, where Paley, noted for her cartoons and animation work, has taught.
At Uni, Bálint was known to carry a notebook full of his inspirations at all times. When I asked him to describe his experience at Parsons he responded, “extremely rigorous.”
He went on to say, “Comparing my undergraduate experience with friends in nondesign-based fields, I would say design school is on the extreme end as far as pure workload goes. In many respects it was a test of endurance as much as it was an exercise of design capacity.”
Not surprisingly, about 20 percent of students at Parsons leave after their first year, and further attrition occurs each year — in fashion design, more than 50 percent of students leave after two years.
This is not necessarily a bad thing since a degree is not vital for success in the fashion industry, as long as one is well apprenticed or not afraid to be a go-getter. Fashion can be notoriously nepotistic.
Bálint is thriving in this fast-paced, cutthroat world, where skills in art, psychology, and business are vital.
His typical workday entails sketching clothing, going to garment fittings, meeting with fabric vendors, and traveling for research, fashion events, and factory visits. His duties can vary on a daily basis, and the job is not as glamorous as its stereotype.
He explains, “I should point out that the one unifying theme of my day-to-day is that at least 65 or 70 percent of my time is spent on e-mail correspondence and general administrative obligations.”
Bálint loves his work and the perks it includes, such as travel, shopping, languages and general vocabulary expansion, and keeping up to date on cultural trends.
He says the biggest perk is not free clothes, though he gets so many he doesn’t really shop and gives lots away, but that “I am fortunate to have found a field that I love; one could say that the job itself is a perk.”
Unlike lots of Uni students, and in particular, designers, when Bálint was young he was not sure what he wanted to do. He always had a “subconscious” interest in human form and design, but never thought much of it until he attended an intensive introductory course at The Parsons School of Design in New York the summer after his junior year.
Bálint’s parents were fully supportive of their son’s interests.
Although his Uni education did not specifically train Bálint to enter an artistic industry, he said it was helpful, providing him with skills in research, critical thinking, presentation and debate. These skills are vital to clothing, a global industry directly related to culture, the economy, and product innovation.
Bálint has always been attracted to creative endeavors, especially photography. For him, part of the beauty of fashion is that it’s measured by sales and numbers.
“I enjoy the challenge of understanding a consumer's psychology and attempting to address a need or function — it's really the exercise in simultaneously addressing aesthetic and functional parameters that I find engaging.”
As mentioned, Bálint is currently working for Armani Exchange, designing a menswear collection in New York. But 10 years from now, where does he hope to be? Designing his own clothing label, beginning with menswear and perhaps even making a women's line, drawing inspiration from culture, photography, and architecture.
Despite his impressive résumé, Bálint hopes his proudest achievements are yet to come.
Bálint's advice to those interested in fashion is to immerse themselves in music, theater, art, and other cultures.
“A designer's challenge is to constantly create newness in clothing, which on many levels can be a rather formulaic medium. So, the ability to dissect concepts from a variety of seemingly disparate topics and translate them into one's own design vocabulary can be helpful in driving the creative process.”