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Denim is Walking the Fashion Runway

By Mica Graybill

Becca Pierce

Becca Pierce captured the top honor in the women’s jean category.

PCCA, in collaboration with Texas Tech University and Cotton Council International (CCI), recently sponsored a local competition that will help send two Tech students on their way to fulfilling a career in the fashion industry.

Based on the Lifetime reality TV series “Project Runway,” Denim Runway was a similar contest created for students to put their design skills to the ultimate test. Twenty-six students studying apparel design and manufacturing at Tech had the opportunity to make a dream come true.

Students in the apparel design and manufacturing course at Tech created a pair of jeans from denim provided by ACG in Littlefield, Texas, to submit for the contest. This course teaches students how to work with a variety of materials, textures and techniques.

The winners with the top men’s and women’s designs traveled to Guatemala and toured Denimatrix to see how denim is made into high fashion jeans for name brand companies such as Abercrombie & Fitch. The winning students also met some top designers and networked with other people in the industry. Students in the class say this is a goal that many of them strive to achieve.

Stephanie Hartwig

Stephanie Hartwig won the men’s jean competition.

CCI, co-sponsor of the competition, also contributed a trip for the winners to travel to the ColombiaModa Apparel Sourcing Show, the most important fashion trade show in Colombia.

John Johnson, PCCA’s director of public and legislative affairs, and Emma Matkin, PCCA’s communications specialist, helped coordinate Denim Runway.

“When we started this project, I really did not think it was going to be anything like what it became,” Matkin said. “Denim Runway escalated into a project that is a once in a lifetime opportunity for students.”

PCCA first contacted Interim Chair and Associate Professor Dr. Cherif Amor from the Department of Design at Tech. Dr. Amor said he knew from the beginning that partnering with PCCA would be a positive opportunity.

“The first time I spoke with PCCA and was shown the denim approach and their importance of being green and sustainable, I knew this was a group with which we could become partners,” Dr. Amor said. “We have the same ideas and goals in terms of how we can better take care of the environment by being green and sustainable.”

Amor said that working with PCCA and CCI has helped bridge the gap for students between theory and practice. Students had the opportunity to take part in a hands-on project that will prepare them for their professional lives.

“Creating an assignment that students like is very attractive,” Amor said. “I saw energy and enthusiasm from the students who are involved in the project, and it helps them attain the target goals that they have set for themselves.”

Larry Lundberg

ACG Product Development Manager Larry Lundberg explains washing techniques to Denim Runway contestants.

Apparel Design and Manufacturing instructor Laura Haynie also agreed that there was much excitement about the contest by students in the department.

“Each of the designs were wildly different,” Haynie said. “There was tremendous excitement shown from the students, and every individual designer was out to win the ultimate prize.”

Haynie believes that the students involved with the contest had the advantage of learning about professional construction and techniques that can be carried with them outside of the classroom.

The students put many hours into developing their designs and creating the jeans. After they had sewn and constructed their designs, they had the opportunity to travel to ACG to finish their garments. Demonstrations of certain finishing techniques were presented to the students. They then used the equipment to add destruction, rivets, and buttons to their designs. According to Johnson, many of the students had never been to a textile mill and asked to be taken on a tour of ACG while they were there.

“The students got to use equipment that they have never used before in creating apparel,” Johnson said. “They found it fascinating to see how fashion denim is created.”

A panel of judges selected the winning designs on April 19, and the winners were announced April 24 at the department’s TechStyle Fashion Show at Tech’s Allen Theatre. Junior Stephanie Hartwig was named for her winning pair of men’s jeans, and Senior Becca Pierce’s jeans won in the women’s jeans division.

“This is such an honor,” Pierce said. “But as excited as I am, I can’t accept the honor without recognizing all my peers who competed in this project. It was a tough competition, and I’m truly overwhelmed.”

Through this process, it seemed to be a unanimous opinion among all involved that everyone would like to see Denim Runway continue.

“We have thoroughly enjoyed being partners with PCCA in this experience,” Amor said. “We value and admire our relationship with PCCA, and hope to see more of Denim Runway in years to come.”