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Tom Handley Q&A

Written by Fashion Publishing | Mar 29, 2010.

Tom HandleyYou recognize his name.  You know of his Public Relations class. You’ve heard of his guest speakers: Glenda Bailey, Tory Burch, Narciso Rodriguez, and Kate and Andy Spade to name a few. But did you know Tom Handley can recall nearly all past students names, hometowns and undergrad colleges?  A great feat for someone who is currently teaching his tenth semester in the AAS Fashion Marketing program.

Tom and I met for coffee at his favorite neighborhood haunt, JOE.  Tom’s enthusiasm extends outside of the classroom with his willingness to help out former students by making introductions and connections whenever possible.  To date, he has helped secure over 70 internships and 20 jobs for Parsons’ students.

How did your previous job experiences prepare you for your teaching position?

At Ralph Lauren, I worked in Men’s, Women’s, Home Collection, and Footwear, which allowed me to be really well versed.  I learned about merchandising and sales education.  I then worked for Mark Badgley and James Mischka, two Parsons grads, where I learned about couture. For the last 3 years, their interns have specially been AAS students who have all gone on to do amazing things.  And then working at a PR firm really taught me about day-to-day PR, handling multiple clients, and global clients.

One of the biggest clients was Wolford. Still to this day, my favorite overall big thing I got to do with Wolford was to curate a Helmut Newton photo exhibit in New York that garnered a full page review in Women’s Wear Daily because it was so amazing.  It was an experience that to this day I still think how did I do that?  I understood I couldn’t do it all and I had to surround myself with the right people.  Building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships is the key to my success today.

Are you currently involved with any projects outside of Parsons?

I consult with Harrison &Shriftman, and LaForce + Stevens, both of which constantly take Parsons interns and have hired AAS grads. I produced Adrienne Landau’s Fall 2010 presentation, which had Parsons interns as dressers.  Also, I’ve been working with a former student (Dianna Sohn) to help her launch her beautiful Fall 2010 collection.

Have there been new additions to your Public Relations course curriculum?

Now, in the Anatomy of a Magazine project, a video is required. The New School offers state-of-the-art video equipment and incredible assistance in producing the video. The reason I added this component was thanks to Suze Yalof Schwartz, a wonderful editor at Glamour.

My class allows students to walk away with a Public Relations portfolio and that is why the work is intense– it isn’t for me, it is for the students.  Specifically to use to land a job!

Do you have any advice for Parsons Fashion Marketing graduates regarding job searching?

Yes! The job market is definitely opening up and has a need for new, fresh help.

I would start with creating a job search spreadsheet. Go after companies that you would like to work for. Research the people you need to connect with.  Create your brand. And most importantly, send hand written thank you notes to everyone with whom you interviewed. This was firmly reiterated by Fern Mallis and Bobbi Brown when they spoke in my class.

Anything you would like to add?

The best thing about teaching at Parsons is empowering others and giving students a head start to enter into stellar careers.

–Katie Shipp, AAS Fashion Marketing

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3 Responses Subscribe to comments


  1. Jenna Gabrial Gallagher

    Tom is a friend to everyone in fashion. He not only inspires and advocates for all of his students, but he is a networker extraordinaire and a great asset to the industry. I hope someday he earns a CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award… when he’s much, much, much older.

    Mar 29, 2010 @ 3:00 pm


  2. Shradha Mehta

    Tom has to be my favorite go-to professor regardless of what the issue may be. As a recent Parsons graduate I can state the numbers in terms of successful internships and jobs he’s helped land hold true. Tom continues to play a large role in his students lives and we all truly appreciate all the guidance and energy he provides us with in and out of the classroom. We love you Tom!

    Mar 30, 2010 @ 5:02 pm


  3. raffles

    what a great interview! internships are very important not just for learning but for opening of career opportunities!

    Apr 14, 2010 @ 8:56 pm

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