Senior fashion, dress and merchandising students Sarah Gordon and Catarina Breithoff, as well as Kaitlyn Kreuzer, a December 2019 graduate, were awarded $5,000 each for projects based on creative collaborations between fashion and non-fashion companies.
The YMA Scholarship is an industry-funded scholarship awarded to 211 students across the country.
Focusing on her passion for adaptive clothing, Gordon decided on a collaboration with Columbia Outdoor Apparel and Hyperlite Mountain Gear.
“The project prompt was really fun and really creative. It gave me an opportunity to kind of explore something that was lacking in the fashion industry,” she explained. “I spent months and months working on this project and I have such a better understanding now that fashion is not linear, that it can be applicable in so many different ways for so many different people.”
Her collection, Take a Hike, consists of six pieces such as a raincoat that turns into a tent and a puffer jacket that turns into a sleeping bag.
“The concept is really just so the consumer could travel with less and have a more meaningful experience with nature,” Gordon explained. “All of my garments transformed into something else to help make the hiking and camping experience easier.”
The process of choosing the companies, designing the pieces and detailing the partnership took about six months of work.
“When it came to this project, I had to kind of think more beyond just solely aesthetics and just more on the functionality of each piece and how it was going to benefit someone when they are doing physical activity in the outdoors,” she said.
Although the scholarship application did not require physical garments, Gordon is prototyping a few of her pieces now as part of a work study course.
Kreuzer, however, does not need to prototype her pieces. Her project was a collaboration between two companies that actually came to fruition - Levi’s and Star Wars.
“This is a crazy story. I was waiting to turn in my project on Triple Force Friday. That’s the day they release all the new Star Wars products for the year. In anticipation of the new movie, I thought it would just be like a good luck charm to turn it in that day. Well, the day before Levi’s announced an actual partnership with Star Wars,” she said.
After months of work, for Kreuzer, the announcement was bittersweet.
Some of Kreuzer’s ideas were the same as the collection in stores. For example, Levi’s Jeans is known for laser engraving their jeans, so Kreuzer designed jeans with different Star Wars icons laser engraved.
“It was honestly kind of devastating when I saw it at first because I put five months of hard work into researching and coming up with this,” she said. “But then, once I saw the actual collection come out and I saw it in stores, I was like, ‘Wow. I came up with that idea’.”
She’s taking encouragement from her family and friends that she had the same “million dollar idea” as top executives in the industry
In Breithoff’s project, she chose a different direction with an emphasis on sustainability. Her partnership was between Urban Outfitters and Goodwill, creating the collection Urban Goods.
“I began thinking of the most sustainable ways to shop, and Goodwill immediately came to mind. I thought Urban Outfitters would be perfect because of their thrifty aesthetic,” she explained. “In doing research, I found they already offered an upcycled vintage line, so the two just really clicked. I came up with some new ideas, so it wasn't exactly the same as Urban Renewal, the existing line.”
Her plan consisted of Goodwill staff upcycling clothing to be sold at Urban Outfitters. Urban Outfitters, in exchange, would sell a clothing pattern that would be sourced from Goodwill and replicated in some of their existing styles.
She theorized this would enhance the profit percentages of Goodwill and allow Urban Outfitters to offer a fully ethical and sustainable line.
Not only did the three scholars receive a scholarship, but they attended a gala and career fair in New York where they met with top fashion companies. The YMA Scholarship also comes with mentorship opportunities, which Breithoof, Gordon and Kreuzer plan to use.
Photo Caption: Sarah Gordon (left) and Catarina Breithoff pose under a WVU sign during the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund gala and career fair.