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Rockport and Supima tap RISD talent

Rockport and Supima tap RISD talent

As the biggest names in fashion convene in New York forMercedes-Benz Fashion Week, two big brands – Rockport andSupima – invited students fromRISD’s Apparel Design department to inject originality and a sense of play into two of the week’s presentations in New York.

As part of the Fashion Night Out opening events on September 8, the Massachusetts-based comfort-shoe company teamed up with RISD and über-trendy Manhattan hot spotDylan’s Candy Bar for an event to celebrate Rockport’s new, fashion-conscious Fall 2011 line. “We thought that partnering with RISD for a candy shoe design contest… would further create an out-of-the-box concept that is both creative and fun for consumers and the fashion set alike,” saysDaniel Tschuemperlin, senior vice president of Product & Brand Management at Rockport.

Front and center at the event was the work of 17 Apparel Design students, who created fun shoes constructed almost entirely out of candy. Students were invited to design shoes based on one of two 2011 styles – a women’s pump or a men’s wingtip – using any of the 7,000 items in the candy store’s inventory. The colorful candy shoes – including a stunning pair of licorice and candy corn pumps, glistening shoes made from crystalline rock candy and red gummy wingtips – will remain on view through the end of September in the windows of Dylan’s flagship store on the Upper East Side.

The contest, called May Each Step You Take Be Sweet, was co-hosted by Dylan’s Candy Bar founder and CEODylan Lauren, daughter of American fashion titan Ralph Lauren, who worked with RISD trustee and artist Lisa Pevaroff-Cohn 83 TX to assess the entries and select the winner. Based on a shoe made from jelly beans, Banana Runts and Licorice Allsorts,Sarah Richards 11 AP won the top prize – a $5,000 stipend from Rockport, a year’s supply of Rockport shoes and a one-year membership to Dylan’s Candy of the Month Club.

“I was inspired by the Jazz Age and New York City checker cabs,” says Richards, who used tin foil and molding clay for the shoe structure. “It took me at least two weeks to make the shoes, working from the time I would get home from work until late at night.”

Not far away, at New York’s Lincoln Center,Connie Weng 12 AP and Rachel Pullman 12 AP competed against their counterparts from three other leading art schools in the fourth annual Supima Design Competition, part of the luxury cotton brand’s 100th anniversary celebration.

A nonprofit that promotes 100% US-grown Pima cotton for use in apparel and home fashion design, Supima invited RISD, the Fashion Institute of Technology, Pratt Institute and Savannah College of Art and Design to nominate two graduating seniors for a competition to design a collection of five evening-wear looks using Supima denims, knits, corduroys, twills and shirting. A total of 40 designs were presented during Supima’s Fashion Week runway show on September 8.

Fashion industry leaders Nicole Miller 73 AP and Charlotte Ronson, along with Canadian model/entrepreneur Coco Rocha, served as judges for the sho, selecting a student from FIT to receive the $10,000 competition prize. Modeled after the 1954 Wool Secretariat competition that launched the careers ofYves St. Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld, Supima launched its own design competition in 2008 to provide emerging designers with essential runway exposure.

“We are very excited to present these talented students’ designs to the world’s top press during New York Fashion Week, while showcasing the strengths of Supima cotton,” notes Vice President of MarketingBuxton Midyette. “We are also thrilled to be supporting the emerging talent of America’s top design schools.”

For the RISD students and recent alumni who participated in both competitions, being in New York was a chance to rub elbows with industry stars, from celebrity stylistRachel Zoe, who hosted the Supima show, toVogue editor and Fashion Week front-row regularAndréLeon Talley, who attended the candy competition. For Richards especially, who works as a design assistant for edgy New York fashion labelDoo.Ri, it was a whirlwind week.

“Our fashion show for Doo.Ri was the day after the event at Dylan’s,” she says, “and I was an hour late to the event because I was still running around town getting the collection finished. It was incredibly surreal to win the contest and watch the collection go down the runway within the same 24 hours – exhilarating!”