Senior Apparel and Textile Design majors Abigail Jones and Whitney Howard both earned a trip to New York Fashion Week with their winning designs created for the Michigan State University Spartan Fashion Design Collection Competition.
The theme of this year’s contest was sustainability where participants were tasked with using recycled Michigan State University clothing provided by the Spartan Bookstore to create a unique look. Rebecca Schuiling, Director of the competition for the Apparel and Textile Design program, said the judges deemed the fashions made by Jones and Howard as the most original and creative sustainable concept designs. Both these winning creations are now on display through Feb. 9 at the Spartan Bookstore located in MSU’s International Center.
Drawing inspiration for her design from vintage MSU athletic uniforms, the ensemble made by Jones features a green and white striped top with a pattern that continues onto a pleated skirt. The outfit is interspersed with large swathes of white fabric, reminiscent of MSU cheerleading uniforms. Completing the outfit is a white and green jacket, modeled after MSU marching band uniforms, and a series of white ribbons for added flair.
“It’s a great feeling when you can repurpose something that was already produced and give it new life and meaning,” Jones said.
Meanwhile, Howard drew inspiration from the university’s greenhouses and the lush, plant-filled spaces on campus. She sought to incorporate natural elements and to create a dress that was both sustainable and powerful – something that “Mother Nature herself might wear.”
“It’s a great feeling when you can repurpose something that was already produced and give it new life and meaning.”Abigail Jones
Her vision culminated in a dress with green and white stripes of varying sizes and patterns that is adorned with plants and flowers, threads of gold wrap around the torso, and a golden headdress tops it all off.
“Plant life is so important. It’s what keeps us alive and the world going round,” Howard said. “I wanted this garment to look powerful and beautiful. I added gold accents to portray this and the green plants to really emphasize the Mother Nature aspect.”
The competition gave both designers a chance to reflect on the role of sustainability in fashion. Jones emphasized the importance of resourcefulness in creating sustainable fashion.
“Resourcefulness is always crucial in ensuring sustainability,” she said. “It can be easy to overconsume materials when it comes to fashion design, so being mindful of the materials you are buying is very important. I keep scraps of everything (fabric, yarn, thread, ribbon, etc.) to try to ensure that I am creating as little waste as possible. I also believe reusing materials from other projects can help to keep the creativity flowing.”
Howard advocated for the principle of “less is more” in sustainable design.
“Sustainability should appear like less is more and that at first was hard for me to do,” she said. “I always like to go over the top with my work, but I think this time I was able to do that without adding too much unnecessary materials.”
“This trip will be life-changing for me and my future career…My family and friends know how passionate I am about fashion design. I really cannot wait to go!”Whitney Howard
Both designers also highlighted the importance of change in the fashion industry. Jones advocated for the use of upcycled and non-mass-produced textiles, while Howard underscored the detrimental impact of fast fashion and the need for long-term fashion trends.
“The best way to drive positive change is for designers to really push themselves to use upcycled, deadstock, and really any non-mass-produced textiles for their designs,” Jones said. “Thrifting is a great way for anyone, not only those of us who are directly in the fashion industry, to be a little more sustainable when it comes to consuming apparel.”
Howard echoed those remarks, saying “Our generation needs much more sustainability when it comes to fashion. Fast fashion is overtaking our generation and it’s a very negative thing. Being more sustainable means using long-term fashion trends and not buying clothing that’s made to wear for a month or two before it goes out of style. Using those fast fashion pieces to make new ones is a great idea.”
As winners of the competition, Jones and Howard eagerly anticipate their VIP experience at New York Fashion Week. They will travel to New York City Feb. 9-11 and receive a behind-the-scenes look at fashion week while gaining invaluable insights into the global fashion scene. Excited for the opportunity, Howard expressed gratitude for the transformative experience ahead.
“This trip will be life-changing for me and my future career,” Howard said. “I called my mom first thing when I won and we both started dancing around and laughing; that was one of the best feelings. My family and friends know how passionate I am about fashion design. I really cannot wait to go!”
Jones eagerly anticipates immersing herself in the vibrant atmosphere of New York City.
“It’s such an honor and truly an indescribable feeling,” she said. “I feel so incredibly blessed to have this opportunity, and I couldn’t have asked for a better support system around me during this whole process. I have actually never really been to New York City, so I’m just so excited to take it all in.”
The New York Fashion Week trip is sponsored by University Licensing Programs at MSU and paid through the royalties generated from licensed products. The trip also is made possible through University of New York Fashion Week (UofNYFW), a unique academic enrichment program offered by Collegiate Licensing Company (CLC), MSU’s exclusive trademark licensing agency, and IMG, the official organizer and operator of New York Fashion Week: The Shows.