Budding fashion designer Sarah Steger caught a glimpse of her future in New York last summer, thanks in part to remembering what it’s like to be a kid.
Steger, an apparel design and development major at University of Wisconsin-Stout, channeled positive memories of being young to develop a special line of clothing that took first place in the AATCC Concept 2 Consumer Student Design Competition.
After beating out 45 other students from around the U.S. — UW-Stout’s Madeline Bratager took second place — Steger was invited to New York to receive her award, a $5,000 scholarship and other prizes valued at more than $1,000.
Steger was recognized at the Runway of Dreams Foundation gala. She met Mindy Scheier, the founder and a contest judge, and other designers and professionals from the fashion industry in New York and beyond.
“The awards ceremony was definitely surreal,” said Steger, a senior from Mukwonago. “Earning this recognition has certainly reinforced my choice in this industry, and I am glad to help recognize UW-Stout, which has a great program with phenomenal professors. It will be quite beneficial to my career to have something this noteworthy on my resume.”
The contest was inspired by the Runway of Dreams Foundation, which advocates for the disabled in fashion design. Students were required to create a line of clothing for children with special needs or a disability, Everyday Clothes for Extraordinary Kids.
Steger’s entry, Little Voyager, was a gender-neutral design for children ages two to six with visual impairment. The shirts, shorts and socks have tactile features, such as raised screen prints, fringe trim and braille tags.
Drawing from her love of the children’s book “Saturday Night at the Dinosaur Stomp,” by Carol Diggory Shields, the clothing has a dinosaur theme, including raised fabric teeth on the socks.
“The book came to my mind pretty quickly when I saw that the competition was for children's wear. And since kids are almost always the most curious of creatures, I knew that my target market would be the ‘little voyagers’ of the world, searching over land and sea to feed their desires to learn,” Steger said.
“I wanted to create a fun, interactive collection that fulfilled functionality with braille graphics while also allowing each child to show off their bright, unique personality,” she added.
UW-Stout swept the top two prizes, with Bratager’s second-place entry, Jungle Jr., which received nearly $1,000 in awards. Honorable mentions went to students from Florida State University and the University of Delaware.
The designs by Steger and Bratager were developed in the class CAD for Apparel, or computer aided design, taught by Professor Jongeun Rhee.
Bratager said her designs for ages five to 10 “met a lot of different disability needs all while still being cute and fun for children to wear. There are limited, if any at all, clothing brands that provide the functional capabilities these children need for their garments while still being trendy,” said Bratager, a senior from Shoreview, Minn.
“To have this kind of recognition on a national level is quite an honor. It makes all the hard work worth it and gives me new motivation to push myself further,” Bratager said. “I learned a lot about functional garments and catering to a specific market’s needs.”
More apparel design success
Rhee also taught a group of students in the Functional Design for Development class who took second place in the Industrial Fabrics Association International Design Competition.
The students are Anne Cops, Emily Dykstra, Abigail Hess, Anika Hintz and Carley Wells. Their design, Forward Facing Car Seat, uses fabrics that they believe make car seats safer for children. Their entry was in the advanced textiles division.
“Motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among children in the U.S. Our new harness design aimed to make fastening a child fool-proof to improve the distribution force from impact in a collision and decrease the risk of (internal injuries from seat belts),” Cops said.
All five team members have graduated. Cops is working at Coolibar in Minneapolis, Hess at Puma Kids in New York and Wells at Colony Brands in Monroe. Hintz is interning at Creative Apparel Concepts in Maple Grove, Minn., and Dykstra is interning at UW-Stout Cru.
To learn more about UW-Stout’s apparel design and development program, go to the program website.
Top: The Little Voyager apparel line designed by Sarah Steger took first place in a national student apparel contest.
Second: Sarah Steger, left, is joined by Mindy Scheier, center, and Rebecca Baeurle of the Runway of Dreams Foundation in New York. Steger receive a first place for her apparel designs for disabled children.
Third: Jongeun Rhee
Bottom: A car seat designed by UW-Stout apparel students uses special fabrics to improve safety. The design took second in a national contest.