Supima Design Competition: Emerging Designers Shine at NYFW - Chitown Fashionista

19 September 2012 / By Gabriel Charles Tyler

Supima Design Competition: Emerging Designers Shine at NYFW


It’s no secret that I have a soft spot for emerging designers, especially fashion design students, which is why I was particularly excited to see the Supima Design Competition at this season’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. What I love most about emerging designers is that they take more liberties trying to find their voices, and they tend to be more passionate about the art of fashion and have yet to be tainted by commercialism.

Eight students from various schools (Fashion Institute of Technology, Savannah College of Art and Design, Rhode Island School of Design and Pratt Institute) were given the task of designing evening gowns using Supima cotton, America’s luxury cotton grown only in California and the Southwestern U.S. and prized across the world by designers and retailers who value its luster, strength and superior softness.

Using ‘made in the USA’ Supima cotton fabrics — knits, twills, corduroy, denim and shirting — these emerging designers had to find ways to craft Pima cotton into formal attire. The panel of judges included industry heavy hitters Buxton Midyette of Supima, Tadashi Shoji, Cindy Weber-Cleary of InStyle, Alexandra Wilkis Wilson of Gilt Groupe and Aslaug Magnusdottir of Moda Operandi.

Many of the designers used  solid colors to bring their designs to life, with hues of orange and yellow being the predominate shades on the runway. Abigail Glass of RISD opened the show with a soft salmon jersey halter, staying on trend with the high-low hem for the upcoming Spring. Her other pieces were bolder and more striking, like the sunshine and peach ombre hand-tucked corduroy gown.

Another one of my favorites, Kyle Pearson of FIT, showed multiple variations of the corset, in origami-styled structures that defined the shape of each model. Hand bleached denim, silk organza and fan laced leather accentuated his gowns.

While I pegged Glass or Pearson as the winners, the panel of judges differed in opinion, choosing Kate Wilkoff of Pratt as the winner. Pratt earned $10,000 to help start her career. Her collection used deconstructed jersey as well as hand-dyed and painted treatments to create texture and dimension with the Supima cotton. Although Pratt was not one of my top picks, I appreciated the detailed construction and intricacies of her designs.

What really impressed me about all eight of the designers was that they understood the number one rule of a runway show: the first piece must set the tone, the middle piece must connect the individual designs and the last piece must wow the judges. If they keep up this momentum, I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of them soon.

View my favorite looks from the runway below:

Abigail Glass, RISD

Abigail Glass, RISD

Abigail Glass, RISD

Kyle Pearson, FIT

Meredith Lyons, Pratt

Meredith Lyons, Pratt

Yvonne Luong, FIT

Yvonne Luong, FIT

Kate Wilkoff, Pratt

P.S. Rachel Zoe hosted the show, and sat across from me the entire show, sneering at each runway look in a true Anna Wintor-esque fashion. Although the picture below is not the best quality, I couldn’t help but notice that it appeared she was looking directly at me. So our connection is not just in my mind.

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About The Author

Gabriel Charles Tyler

Gabriel Charles Tyler is a journalist, fashion blogger, consultant and Chicago native. A recent graduate of DePaul University, where he majored in journalism, Gabriel has developed a methodological approach to finding stories in the most obscure places. This budding journalist is looking to make his mark on the world through news writing, with a focus on cultural and social issues, race and religion. He has been published in a number of print and digital publications, including The DePaulia, CS Modern Luxury, NS Modern Luxury, CS Brides, Time Out Chicago, The Red Line Project, CY Magazine and R. Legacy. Among his many positions, this young journalist currently serves as the Editor-at-Large of R. Legacy. He is a member of the National Association of Black Journalists, as well as a Fohr Card verified blogger.

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