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The Agriculturist

From Field to Fashion

Casi Herber

From Field to Fashion

It starts as a seed. A farmer plants it and soon it becomes a product-producing plant. It produces materials like sheets, towels, jeans, shirts and socks. One farmer, planting one seed, producing one product that has a great effect on the fashion industry.

Texas Tech University students who strive to be fashion designers have been given an opportunity to influence the fashion industry, specifically denim. This opportunity is known as the Denim Runway.

Denim Runway is a competition for apparel design and manufacturing (ADM) students to showcase their skills as they learn to create clothing items from denim. Plains Cotton Cooperative Association established a partnership with the apparel design and manufacturing department to help students gain knowledge about the cotton industry.

The competition begins by allowing students to choose one of three categories"jeans, casual wear, or trend board. They proceed to create a product, which will be critiqued by a panel of judges. The winners are announced at the department"s end-of-the-year fashion show. Winners of the jean category receive a one-week, expense-paid trip to PCCA"s Denimatrix apparel facility in Guatemala. Winners of the casual wear and trend board categories receive a cash prize.

For a student to compete within the jeans category, he or she must create a pair of jeans for either men or women. The casual wear exhibitions include any denim product, such as a skirt, jacket, dress or any other garment the student wishes to create. Finally, the trend board category consists of a display board showcasing the students" research of cotton fibers and apparel. It must include research of current fashion trends and projections of where they see these trends going in the future. Plains Cotton Cooperative Association provides all the denim fabric the students may need for their designs.

A large part of the partnership between PCCA and the apparel design and manufacturing program lies in the education of students about cotton production. PCCA arranges a tour for ADM students at the American Cotton Growers Mill in Littlefield, Texas, and a local cotton farm in order to inform students of the field-to-fashion process of cotton. The students receive a hands-on tour in which they are able to feel the fibers and learn more about cotton production and processing.

John Johnson, director of public relations and legislative affairs at PCCA, said he thinks it is important for people to understand the process of farming because agriculture often receives bad publicity.

"We are under constant attack from environmentalists and foreign countries," Johnson said. "If general consumers see these negative quotations and don"t have something to repute them, it becomes their reality."

Dr. Su Shin, program director of the apparel design and manufacturing program, agrees this project is important because it provides students with knowledge of how the products are created.

"Students wouldn"t know the whole manufacturing process if it wasn"t for this project," Shin said.

Denim Runway is a great opportunity for students to receive exposure and experience, and Shin said many students are interested and excited about the contest.

Johnson said the program does not benefit PCCA financially, but it is creating more awareness and understanding about cotton and denim. He said they have also created a great relationship with the Department of Apparel Design throughout this process.

"It has been very rewarding," Johnson said, "to work with people and faculty who care so much for their students."

© 2012 Texas Tech Department of Agricultural Education & Communications