A panel of more than 20 industry veterans, editors, designers and stylists named Drexel University’s Carla Pierini the winner of the 16th annual Supima Design Competition Thursday.
The competition tasked Pierini and finalists chosen by other top design schools with creating eveningwear capsule collections entirely from Supima’s American-grown cotton. The students presented their final designs Thursday at a live runway show at The Prince George Ballroom as part of New York Fashion Week.
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Pierini, a Venezuelan immigrant herself, said she drew inspiration from her experience visiting a refugee camp last year. Her collection ultimately looks to tell the story of the ongoing refugee crisis, of rebuilding oneself and starting over.
“I wanted to tell this story, but it wasn’t only about me,” Pierini said during her acceptance speech. “It’s about my people. I’m just representing people working for what they want in life.”
In addition to Pierini, graduating seniors from seven other schools participated in the event: Amber Kuia from Academy of Art University, Alexander Ziemba from L.A.’s Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, Hee Jin Hwang from Fashion Institute of Technology, Wendy Wang from Kent State University, Tianze Wu from The New School’s Parsons School of Design, Sahara Clemons from Rhode Island School of Design and Mariana Espinosa of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Each designer was assigned a faculty mentor in May and provided material from Supima’s fabric partners, including Albini, Colorich, Metro Dyeing LLC, Olah Inc, Olimpias, Rainbow, Tintex and KAIHARA Denim. Supima tasked participants with creating five looks from five types of fabric: twill, shirting, jersey, denim and velveteen. CFDA Award-winning eveningwear designer Bibhu Mohapatra mentored this year’s finalists—his ninth time doing so—offering insight, support and counsel throughout the program.
Former Moschino creative director and “Making the Cut” judge Jeremy Scott, the host of this year’s fashion show, said the competition is “a great space” for up-and-coming talent to find mentorship and gain exposure.
“I think there’s a lot of potential,” Scott told Sourcing Journal. “I mean you have a room full of professionals who are able to talk about it, get their names out there.”
Each collection was evaluated by a panel of more than 20 judges, including Scott and Mohapatra. Designs were evaluated on originality, execution and “ability to showcase Supima.” As the winner, Pierini will receive a $10,000 cash prize.
Scott had a chance to meet each of the finalists one-on-one Wednesday and learn about the intricacies and passion behind each cotton-rich collection.
“It was so sweet to hear all their different stories, the passion behind what they were doing, what they were trying to say,” Scott said. “Each one… has a story that was very heartfelt.”