Sew savvy: Only one could be crowned the winner of Project OR

Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 23-26. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives. Today we take a look at all four days of coverage of Project OR, the 48-hour, design-to-prototype competition.
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Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 23-26. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives. Today we take a look at all four days of coverage of Project OR, the 48-hour, design-to-prototype competition.

DAY ONE
Project OR: Priceless contributions

This Outdoor Retailer Winter Market designates a milestone for Project OR. It’s the 10th cycle of the 48-hour, design-to-prototype competition.

With every cycle comes a change. For the 10th anniversary, Project OR Director Eric Steele said the contest will now add an emcee, Gregg Bagni, of Alien Truth Communications, and will focus more on the contributions of judges and sponsors in addition to the talent of the contestants.

“The designers are a big deal, but the judges are a big deal, too,” Steele said.

While judges only spend four hours at the 48-hour contest, that’s still precious time here at Outdoor Retailer. The executives are giving more than 10 percent of their 33 hours on the trade show floor, Steele noted.

“It’s a lot to ask for a CEO-level employee to take 10 percent of their time of a show they’re spending upward of $100,000 to attend,” Steele said.

Normally there are five judges, but for Cycle 10 there are six: Poppy Gall, co-founder of Isis and owner of Poppy Gall Design Studio; Annemarie Furey of Product Think Tank; Abe Burmeister and Tyler Cleman of Outlier; Skip Yowell of JanSport; and Haysun Hahn of Fast Forward Trending.

Still, the competition really is about the emerging design talent. Wednesday at 2:30 p.m., the designers will present concept boards to the panel of judges, who then will choose the winners for that portion of the competition.

This year’s contestants are Jillian Miranda of Kent State University; Terresa TK Pritchett of California State University; Alycia Gillaspie of Tennessee State University; and Brynn Williams of the University of Delaware.

As in previous cycles, contestants will be given their assignment Wednesday and then have 48 hours to design and construct their garments.

It’s always fun to stop by and watch the designers work, Steele said, so Outdoor Retailer attendees are more than welcome to visit the design center during the competition.

Project OR has provided young designers an opportunity to show what they can do, Steele said, and has provided them with a lot of great opportunities, such as job offers from big outdoor companies.

One contestant from Cycle 7 is designing at Aventura, and two other contestants from previous cycles are currently at Cabelas as designers.

“A lot of kids are landing really solid jobs out of this [contest],” Steele said. Project OR is “a great place if somebody is looking for design talent.”

DAY TWO
On your mark, get set, sew!

Fashion and function are two words we’ve heard all over the industry for several seasons, and they’ve made their way into the Project OR’s design assignment for Cycle 10.

The five student designers in the show’s 48-hour, design-to-prototype competition were charged with creating a women’s backcountry ski jacket that could move easily from the slopes to the streets. The jacket must have one convertible element and an accessory that covers the customer’s ears.

“I want to create something that can go from the mountain to the streets, but I don’t want to lose any of the technical aspects,” said Jillian Miranda, a contestant from Kent State University.

Miranda was busy at work on her design concept board for the jacket, in which she’s incorporating a slot for a CamelBak.

“I called one of my friends who does backcountry skiing and asked what he’d like in a jacket, and he said he couldn’t ever do without his Camelbak,” Miranda said. Her friend added that if there were some way to incorporate the reservoir into his jacket it would be perfect.

Contestant Alycia Gillaspie doesn’t have a buddy to bounce such ideas around with. The contestant from Middle Tennessee State University said one of the biggest challenges of getting started on her design was “understanding exactly what a backcountry skier needs.”

Brynn Williams said she’s never worked with technical fabrics before, so that will be her toughest task. But the contestant from the University of Delaware, who generally focuses on evening wear, said she’s got a secret weapon: bows.

Teressa “TK” Pritchett said she’s trying to pack her design with the maximum amount of versatility.

“I want her to be able to do everything in this one outfit without having to change,” Pritchett said. She anticipates the heavy detail that goes into the construction will pose the largest challenge in the competition.

It seems that with every cycle the student contestants are calmer. Project OR Director Eric Steele said that’s partly because he spends the previous three months preparing the students for what they’re about to experience, sending them links, articles and video clips.

Steele said he and the judges are looking forward to seeing the fresh take on “convertible garments” from the five contestants.

Poppy Gall, co-founder of Isis and owner of Poppy Gall Design Studio, is judging the competition for the second time. (Her first go was at Winter Market 2012.)

“What I love is the creativity that comes out of this group of student designers,” Gall said. “They’re not used to looking at our world the way we do, so they offer a fresh perspective.”

The winning design will be announced Friday, Jan. 25 at 4 p.m. in the Design Center (#155).

“This competition is mindboggling,” Gall said. “To design and create something within 48 hours — I don’t even know if I could do that.”

DAY THREE
Sew savvy: Project OR pits contestants against the clock, their sewing machines and each other

The research Jillian Miranda conducted to determine what backcountry skiers really want is paying off.

The Project OR contestant from Kent State University won the design concept board competition and is busy putting together her flashy, fashionable backcountry ski jacket for women at the Design Center.

But on Thursday, not everything was going as smoothly as she’d like in the 48-hour, concept-to-design contest. First of all, the zippers she picked wouldn’t work with the Cordura fabric she chose, so she had to add extra flaps to cover them. Plus, she ran out of black fabric. Surprisingly, she was completely calm.

“It just snowballed,” she said, matter-of-factly. Winning the design board competition was a pleasant sur
prise, though. “I didn’t even realize it was part of the contest. I was like, ‘Oh no, I’m going to get graded on this?’”

The other contestants were cool as cucumbers as well, even taking a break to eat lunch. Some said they felt more confident after researching what backcountry skiers want in their apparel.

“I roamed the vendor floor and asked anybody and everybody,” about backcountry skiing, said contestant Alycia Gillaspie. “I asked them what they thought about my design. The judges critiqued it, and I made the changes, but I think the biggest challenge is going to be getting the convertible hood to fit inside the pocket.”

Brynn Williams felt calm because she had outlined her plan and was all set to start sewing after lunch on Thursday.

“It’s going very well now because uncertainty was the most nerve-wracking thing,” she said.

“I’m excited to see what everybody’s finished product is,” she added. “The girls and I are such a team. Even though we have different ideas and different knowledge, we’re all helping each other out.”

Cycle 9’s winner Katy Jessee said she’s grateful to have won Project OR and that the honor has afforded her the opportunity to do some freelance design work.

“It gave me recognition within my program as well,” she said. When Jessee won, judges told her she most likely could land a job right after graduation, but she said she simply couldn’t turn down the graduate assistant position she got to attend Missouri State University’s School of Business. She’s studying project management.

Her advice to this cycle’s contestants: Get some sleep. “And talk to people — make those connections,” she added. “Those connections can get you jobs and help you in your career.”

DAY FOUR
Comeback kid: Alycia Gillaspie comes from behind to edge Jillian Miranda for first place

A dark horse stormed Project OR. After Jillian Miranda won the design concept board contest, she seemed poised to take the overall competition, especially since the judges had offered a tough critique of Alycia Gillaspie’s design board. But Gillaspie made up ground to nose out Miranda for first place.

Her victorious garment: a fashionable, drop-tail, backcountry skiing jacket with pleated pockets and a removable hood. “I’m on the verge of tears right now,” Gillaspie said. Judge Haysun Hahn said the final decision was difficult, but a magnificent, late-in-the-game improvement gave Gillaspie the edge. 

--Ana Trujillo

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