UW-Stout News Story

Apparel student uses new skill to win national contest

May 30, 2012

As classes go, CAD for Apparel Images was an especially challenging one this spring for Leah Becker and her classmates at University of Wisconsin-Stout.

First, the apparel design and development students had to learn a new professional skill — designing clothing via software, or what’s known as computer-aided design. Second, Professor Jongeun Rhee had students put that skill to the test immediately and design clothing for a national contest. Third, the contest rules required students to work with aspects of design that were out of their comfort zone.

It’s safe to say Becker passed all of the challenges, and the class, with flying colors. She took first place in the AATCC Concept 2 Consumer Design Competition. AATCC stands for American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists.

As a result Becker received $1,000, a valuable Pantone Cotton Planner book for designers and a major career boost.

“Placing first in this competition is a big honor,” said Becker, a junior from Eden Prairie, Minn., who will intern this summer at Target corporate headquarters in Minneapolis. “It really helps solidify my confidence in my decision to major in apparel design and development.”

One of Becker’s classmates, Wynn Farley, of Menomonie, received an honorable mention, giving UW-Stout two of the top four places. Farley received $100. The contest drew 34 entries from 13 colleges and universities.

“I’m very proud of them,” Rhee said. “It’s one of the biggest contests in the country for apparel print designs.”

The contest called for activewear designs for women ages 50-65. Becker had never designed for that age range or given much thought to clothing styles worn by women at least a generation older.

She and other class members first did market and trend research to see what women 30 to 45 years older than themselves might want to wear while out for a walk. “It was definitely a challenge to make it age appropriate,” said Becker, who previously had designed women’s wear for other UW-Stout classes but for women in their late teens or early 20s.

Becker designed three sets of pants and tops that can be mixed and matched. The tops incorporate her three print designs — paisley, feather and geometric — all of which build on the contest theme “Birds of a Feather.”

Because patterns “can get busy and overwhelming” on clothing, Becker said she varied them with enlarged fabric cutout details at the neckline that give the appearance of jewelry. Her research, which indicated a tendency for women in the age range to wear similar jewelry, supported the decision, she said.

Along with designing the clothing and prints, students had to choose a color palette for their collection, adding six complementary colors to three that were predetermined. The three set colors were brighter than what Becker usually likes to use.

“I decided to embrace it and go with a bright color scheme, and I’m glad that I did,” Becker said.
Rhee said Becker’s “color combination is really great. Her designs are fresh and different and her prints are very creative.”

Students in the CAD for Images Apparel class worked for about three weeks on their entries. Department faculty then voted on the top five projects to represent UW-Stout in the contest. Becker’s entry also won the department vote.

Rhee said Farley’s honorable mention entry, “Madam Mallard,” which includes matching jackets, is “very wearable and very marketable.”

Students spent about the first six weeks of class learning computer-aided design.

“I loved it. It’s definitely challenging at first and takes a lot of time, but I really enjoyed being able to put my designs into the computer and elevate them to the level the industry uses for its designs. It was nice to have that clean, finished look,” Becker said.

At Target this summer, Becker will work in apparel and accessories technical design for children’s clothing, an area she hopes to pursue when she graduates in 2013.

“I feel very confident that I’m learning the correct skills and knowledge to be successful when I enter the industry. It solidifies how happy I am that I chose Stout. I love the program,” Becker said.

Rhee’s students also fared well in the 2011 AATCC contest, taking second and an honorable mention. The AATCC is based in Research Triangle Park, N.C.

For more information on the apparel design and development program, which has concentrations in apparel design, apparel development, and apparel product management, click here.

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