Designed for Speed
Burton Creative Director Rhonda Summer 89 AP critiques a mid-semester collection board by Colin Locascio 15 AP.
Apparel Design students in Assistant Professor Kathleen Grevers’ Senior Design studio tore it up this fall in a collaborative project with Vermont-based snowboard giant Burton. The partnership came together quickly with the help of the Career Center’s Susan Andersen and Burton Creative Director Rhonda Summer 89 AP, an Apparel Design alumna who was excited to offer current students the opportunity to work on an inspiring industry project.
“These industry projects are so important because they really connect students with the commercial aspects of apparel design,” says Grevers. “They teach them the language of the industry.”
Burton proved to be an ideal partner, with Summer serving as an especially good mentor for students, Grevers points out. In addition to critiquing work in progress and lining up relevant guest lecturers, she coordinated tours of Burton’s flagship retail outlet in New York City and the company’s facilities in Burlington, VT.
“The trip to Burlington was magical,” says Grevers. “There were dogs everywhere! The students really experienced Burton’s whole laid-back vibe first-hand.”
“It felt like Santa’s workshop!” adds senior Colin Locascio 15 AP. “Everyone was so passionate about what they were doing. It was beautiful.”
In addition to visiting the Burton Museum – where they learned about the company’s heritage – students saw snowboards being manufactured, networked with staff and got an in-person introduction to Burton’s apparel line, from colors to fabrics to hardware. “Why is there a pocket at this height?” Grevers asks by way of example. “Or, why does the zipper move in this direction? Before we left,” she adds, “they loaded our bus with boxes of prototypes and fabrication swatches for students to use as inspiration pieces and include in their portfolios.”
Burton divides its apparel offerings into several “silos” – or collections. The Mountain silo, for example, is intended to appeal to older customers, while Brooklyn speaks to a younger, trendier set. Students were asked to study the nuances of each silo before selecting one, developing a detailed customer profile and designing eight to 10 looks targeted towards that customer.
“My collection is inspired by 1970s punk culture – and especially zine culture,” says Locascio. “I focused on prints incorporating black-and-white images and lots of contrast. It’s kind of an irreverent look at snowboarding.”
Another component of the project is what Grevers calls “the toolbox assignment.” Each industry partner shares a real-world challenge the company is facing, giving students the opportunity to flex their critical thinking abilities in proposing solutions. The Burton toolbox challenge focused on designing a snow skirt to connect snow pants to the underside of a snowboarder’s jacket – a kind of shield to keep snow out – without using a zipper.
“The toolbox assignment is like a problem child,” Grevers explains. “Apparel students collaborated with Industrial Design students and other members of the RISD community to come up with unique approaches that would be flexible and comfortable.”
Now that final proposals – along with sketches of all the looks designed during the studio – have been sent to Burton, Grevers is waiting to hear if any of the designs will be incorporated into Burton’s future lines. But whether or not these particular designs make it to the slopes, she says, “the collaboration was inspirational and will hugely enhance our students’ portfolios.”
Locascio agrees, noting that as a senior working on expressing his unique vision via his final thesis, he enjoyed the opportunity to “design into an established language, brand and customer” – to express the essence of his personal style in the context of a real-world assignment.
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