Project OR puts spotlight on young apparel designers at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market

"It's a party in that jacket, and everybody's invited." Timmy O'Neill is never at a loss for words, and he summed up nicely the jacket created by Ron Rod, winner of the Project OR design competition held at the Salt Palace Convention Center during Outdoor Retailer Winter Market. Rod, a student from Colorado State University and a telemark skier, got top prize for his jacket dubbed "The Rocker," which had a sound system built into the hood and volume control on the sleeve.
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"It's a party in that jacket, and everybody's invited."

Timmy O'Neill is never at a loss for words, and he summed up nicely the jacket created by Ron Rod, winner of the Project OR design competition held at the Salt Palace Convention Center during Outdoor Retailer Winter Market. Rod, a student from Colorado State University and a telemark skier, got top prize for his jacket dubbed "The Rocker," which had a sound system built into the hood and volume control on the sleeve.

O'Neill served as MC for the entertaining Project OR awards ceremony held the afternoon of Jan. 25 in a Salt Palace ballroom -- click here to view a video of the finals. An event launched during Summer Market 2008, Project OR is a competition in which designers come up with a design concept and build a prototype during the Outdoor Retailer trade show. For Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2009, five designers were tasked with creating a women's mid-layer piece that was performance-oriented and incorporated eco-friendly materials.

In addition to Rod, this year's competitors included Curt Sousa from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising; Luba Lowry of the Savannah College of Art and Design; Lucy Brooks of the Fashion Institute of Technology; and Stephanie Sandstrom of the California College of the Arts.

The judges were Neide C. Cooley, a retired designer; Alan Yiu of Westcomb Outerwear; Luke Pezzimenti of Ground; Pam Theodosakis of Prana; Renee L'Abbe of Promostyl; and Skip Yowell of JanSport.

Of the designs, Rod's most closely resembled what you would expect to see in a booth during Winter Market. Some designs appeared to stray far from the judges' guidelines, such as Sandstrom's soft-shell dress that leaned a little too far to the fashion side. But overall, the young designers were lauded for their clever ideas and out-of-the-box thinking.

As the winner of the competition, Rod received an all-expenses-paid trip to Summer Market 2009, and he will be profiled in Textile Insight (www.textileinsight.com).

Throughout the trade show, the designers were filmed to produce reality TV-style videos that you can check out on the Outdoor Retailer website. Click here to view.

--Marcus Woolf

SNEWS® View: First of all, it's great to see our industry celebrating fresh ideas from young designers, even if some of the ideas are pretty out there. There would be no outdoor industry if it weren't for out-there people with wild ideas. And we love anything that keeps the show from getting staid and stodgy. Second, congratulations to the folks at Outdoor Retailer who organized Project OR. Over the past several years, the show has grown so much that it's difficult to pull people from the show floor to attend an event during the day. But dozens of people gathered in the afternoon for the Project OR awards, so the organizers obviously worked to generate some buzz and pull a crowd. And it was smart to have an energetic MC liven up what could potentially be a low-key event. (When one designer revealed that he designed his jacket for his girlfriend, O'Neill started prying out the details. "Oh yeah, how old is she? What does she look like? Let's hear more about this girlfriend.") And, finally, the "reality TV" aspect gave Kenji Haroutunian and Larry Harrison a good excuse to put on those purple pimp outfits they sported at the OIWC Poly-Esther party this past summer. Gotta love that.

--SNEWS® Editors

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