After suffering heavy losses in recent budget cuts, UC Davis design students still manage to rank highly among industry competitions.
Christina Johnson, senior design major, recently ranked runner-up in Project OR, a design competition sponsored by the Outdoor Retailer Winter Market Expo in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The three-day competition showcased the nation’s top handpicked design students as they spent three days creating an original garment prototype that was both performance and eco-friendly. The garment also had to be appropriate for the outdoor industry, meaning it had to be appropriate for activities such as hiking or skiing.
Johnson was chosen as a representative of UC Davis after the organizers of Project OR reached out to the design department looking for participants.
“They asked me if UC Davis would like to participate in the January challenge,” said Susan Avila, associate professor of the UC Davis Design Program. “I consulted with Adele Zhang, who teaches our beginning and intermediate fashion design courses, and together we came up with a short list of six excellent students.”
Shortly after Avila organized a “sew-off” where students had three hours to create an outdoor appropriate vest with nothing but what they found in sewing lab. Johnson emerged as the winner.
“I got picked to go and they put me in direct contact with the Project,” Johnson said, “[The Project] sent me the flight and the hotel confirmation. Then they were just like ‘bring your sewing supplies and be ready to go.'”
After arriving in Salt Lake City, Johnson and four other competitors had a day to design their individual garments. Once the drawings were complete, the designers had two days to collect materials from the participating supplier exhibitors. This left the remaining 48 hours to put together their pieces at their workstations.
A film crew covered the fast paced competition, mirroring the popular television series Project Runway.
Although Johnson was ultimately bested by Philadelphia University’s Faith Anderson, Johnson’s design was purchased by prAna, one of the judging companies.
prAna, which makes sustainable clothing for yoga, rock climbing, travel and outdoor adventures, approached her after the competition with an offer to buy and purchase her design. Johnson said that she is most likely going to accept the offer.
“The most memorable moment was right after they told us to put the scissors down,” she said. “We were finally done – it was such a relieving moment and we were all so proud of what we had accomplished in such a short amount of time.”
Johnson’s success can be attributed to her history with fashion alteration. Her parents own a bridal alteration shop, so she learned how to sew at a really young age. The puzzle-like aspects and the precise science of engineering a garment attracted Johnson to design. When she got to UC Davis, she knew that she was going to major in something that she really loved doing.
“Christina is a student of mine, [and] she does very good work,” Avila said. “She also has a lot of interesting design ideas that you don’t see every day.”
Kim Bui, a junior sociology and psychology major, is Johnson’s roommate. She also praises Johnson for her design abilities.
“She’s the designer for our apartment,” Kim said. “She is just amazing at sewing, and she makes all our costumes for us when we go out. She just has this amazing way of making everything flow together.”
Unfortunately, the program that Johnson was so excited to join is not doing well at UC Davis. With cuts to fundamental classes, such as the introductory sewing class now offered only during the summer, Johnson hopes that Davis gets good press for its design students as department alumni excel in their chosen fields.
Johnson’s future plans include working at her parent’s alteration store, but she also aspires to make custom clothing. She doesn’t rule out designing and selling more outdoor style clothing, and hopes to make it for at least a couple of years.
ANASTASIA ZHURAVLEVA can be reached at email@example.com.