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Supima offers design grads platform to shine in dark times

By Jackie Mallon


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Amid the upheaval wrought by a global pandemic Supima in a superstition-defiant move has decided that its 13th  Annual  Supima Cotton Design Competition must proceed. In fact the organization felt that it was more important than ever to stage the competition this year as fashion graduates across the country struggle to secure jobs or even just find industry-recognized platforms to share their work. The only difference to the  competition that challenges student designers from the nation’s top fashion schools to create capsule collections using Supima cotton fabrics is that the presentation will take a digital format. This year’s six finalists are Amanda Forastieri, Drexel University; Sakura Mizutani, Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising; Jenny Feng, Fashion Institute of Technology; Jennie Nguyen, Kent State University; Terrence Zhou, Parsons School of Design; and Kyra Buenviaje, Rhode Island School of Design. Supima also announced that fashion designer Bibhu Mohapatra will be returning for the sixth time as mentor to the finalists throughout the process. 

In our email interview with Buxton Midyette, VP Marketing and Promotions at Supima, he discusses the challenges of creating a digital version of the high-profile NYFW show and the importance of maintaining the standard of presentation and design talent that attendees have grown to expect despite the shifting format. “We have livestreamed our live fashion show for many years but this year will be the first time that we will be hosting completely in a virtual format,” he says. “We’re working with our incredible production teams to shift to digital, and the show will be simulcast on Instagram Live using a mix of pre-recorded and live videos, and will air in September timed with New York Fashion Week.”

While it would have been understandable to suspend this year's competition, for Midyette this wasn’t even a consideration, especially at a time when jobs are so scarce and graduate shows cancelled. He believes young designers have come to rely on the Supima contest as a doorway to success and saw no reason to disrupt the tradition. “We’re committed to working with our partner design schools and helping their recent graduates with their first step into the fashion industry,” he says. “We’re honored to be able to continue giving this talented group of designers the resources and guidance they need to bring their designs to life knowing that many of their peers are struggling during this time.”

Supima Design Competition 2020 goes digital

Reviews of the students' collections are being carried out remotely which will certainly impact the process, but the panel of judges made up of industry experts are already in place. The jury will review each collection via pre-recorded video.

The technical expertise of Mohapatra will be less hands-on this year, but this has created no problems, says Midyette: “We’ve already started the fittings, which are being done virtually for the first time with the designers and are going well. We worked with our production teams to stream a live feed of the designers on a large screen and, with their guidance, their designs were meticulously pinned and marked to achieve the best possible fit according to their overall vision.” School-assigned mentors partner with Mohapetra to provide virtual support for the finalists along the way and ensure that they have the guidance they need throughout the design process.

The Supima Design Competition fashion show has always been about introducing emerging talent to industry and Buxton believes that this year might offer the designers more exposure than ever before. “The digital presentation is exciting as it gives us the opportunity to showcase their work to so many more people! We are working closely with our team to spread awareness about the new digital format and the incredible finalists who will be showing their collections.”

However with all the change afoot there are a few all-important features of the competition that remain the same. The winner who will be announced live will receive a cash prize of 10,000 dollars and Supima still plans to present a piece from each of the SDC finalists' collections during Paris Fashion Week as part of the Supima Design Lab, which is slated to be in a digital format as well.

Fashion editor Jackie Mallon is also an educator and author of Silk for the Feed Dogs, a novel set in the international fashion industry.

Photos Supima

Fashion graduates