An MTSU senior will compete with four other college students this month in a national contest to determine who can design the best clothing for outdoor activities.
Alycia Gillaspie, an apparel design major from Murfreesboro, will put her skills into practice in “Project OR – Cycle 10” at the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market Jan. 23-26 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Gillaspie’s challenge will be to create a garment that will achieve the objectives and aims assigned to her project before the 48-hour time limit expires. In other words, she and the other competitors will be told to design for a specific season, target market, cost range and practical application.
Gillaspie and her competitors will make initial sketches and source materials from the fabric and garment component manufacturers on the show floor.
“I’ve been snowboarding twice and I’m an avid hunter (and) have been since I was 12,” Gillaspie said. “So I understand what kind of clothing is preferred in extremely cold weather.”
A panel of design, supplier and manufacturer industry professionals will review each stage of the contestants’ work. On day three of the trade show, each designer will deliver a final presentation, and the judges will declare a winner. The grand prize is a design profile in a national magazine and a return trip to next year’s show.
Gillaspie, who has worked part time at Hancock Fabrics in Murfreesboro for nearly three years, is fond of versatile garments with convertible design features, but she struggles in trying to define her “style.”
“It’s definitely not preppy or super-girly or tomboy,” said Gillaspie. “I mean, it’s kind of eclectic.
“I’m very inspired by fantasy-type pieces, things that almost don’t look like they can be worn. More practically, and also more recently, I really am drawn to jewel-toned colors and Steampunk.”
For the uninitiated, Steampunk is a mixture of Victorian-era styles with 20th century, 21st century and futuristic science-fiction technological features. Characteristics of Steampunk fashion include bodices, corsets, eye-loupe goggles and timepiece jewelry and accessories.
While Gillaspie cites her MTSU professors, especially Dr. Gina Pisut, as influences, her family has been a major factor in her love of apparel design. Her paternal grandmother, who sewed for a living, guided her during her middle-school and high-school years.
Moreover, her cousin, Johnathan Kayne, was one of the stars of season three of the fashion reality TV program “Project Runway.” Kayne now runs his own Nashville-based fashion design business. His brand of shoes, dresses and lingerie can be found in more than 3,000 stores in more than 40 countries, according to www.johnathankayne.com.
Gillaspie’s fellow competitors hail from Kent State University, the University of Delaware, Missouri State University and California State University-Long Beach.
Outdoor Retailer determines which schools will be invited in any given season, and university departments are allowed to pick which students they wish to send in any manner they deem fit.
However, Gillaspie says she’s less concerned with competitive fervor than she is with availing herself of this unique national networking opportunity.
“My goal is to learn as much as I can and hopefully land a job,” Gillaspie said.