Creating a fashion that will be popular with the next generation is full of unknowns. But students in UNC Greensboro’s Department of Consumer, Apparel, and Retail Studies (CARS) got valuable feedback from a group of young customers.
In the Fall 2023 semester, the apparel product design class APD 443 presented custom garments to 11 students at Oak View Elementary School in High Point, North Carolina. They will wear these outfits during their daily Morning News Scholars show, and on February 24, they get to show them off at the Gallery Walk: UNCG Threads Fashion Show.
“This was a wonderful opportunity to see their student voices materialize in an outfit,” says Oak View Principal Bennie Bradley.
The clothes were the culmination of a semester-long senior collection project. Oak View STEM Teacher Candace Scott first pitched the idea of making blazers for the news team to CARS Department Chair Nancy Hodges in 2019, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the project until 2023.
Assistant Professor Grace Bang expanded the project to complete outfits, a fitting challenge for seniors who are ready to put their coursework to practice. “It was a great opportunity for our students, as designers, to see the progress of their product,” says Bang.
“It helped us to understand the fit of the garment on their body,” says senior Rachel Estrera, who wants to go into apparel design. “Seeing the whole process of garment-making was a great firsthand experience.”
The Oak View scholars were also excited to see how clothes are made, according to fifth grader Ashir Khuwaja. “I knew there were sewing machines, but I didn’t know they have other machines, like to measure the length,” he says.
The UNCG students each started with a “mood board” to visualize themes and color palette. Then they made changes based on feedback from the elementary students, who Bang regularly referred to their “customers.” “It was crucial to remind my students that they were making a customized, one-of-a-kind product. It sets them apart from general ready-to-wear clothes,” she explains.
Jada Curtin and Yujin Ko worked with fifth grader Mehak Muddassar, who explained that she does not wear skirts for religious reasons. They retooled their original skirt design into pants and a jacket with patches that express Mehak’s personality. “There’s her school emblem, the grizzly bear,” says Curtin, “And she wanted a heart because she wants to respect and be kind to others.”
Built to Last
The UNCG seniors not only participated in service but engaged in research. Professional designers regularly use the FEA model – functional, expressive, and aesthetic – to fashion new styles. Bang had her students use those three elements and add a fourth – sustainability.
Bang says sustainability is more than using environmentally-sound materials or upcycling older clothes. It’s about making clothes last longer. “They can make something transformable. You can have a single item of clothing and create two different looks with it,” she says. “I emphasized the dynamic nature of the children’s sizes. They considered adjustable features, using stretchable or flexible materials, leaving enough hem for the pants, skirts, or sleeves so that the wearers can make adjustments as they grow.”
Estrera, Briana Goode, and Douglas Jones found ways to add versatility to the coordinated outfits they made for Oak View’s weather anchors. Third grader Thomas Griffin can accessorize with a red poncho, and fourth grader Aryan Pohlman’s vest is reversible – with blue and yellow sides representing sunny and rainy days. Estrera hand-sewed hexagonal patches for the vest, using fabric scraps from other CARS projects and from Reconsidered Goods, a non-profit in Greensboro that collects unused fabric supplies donated from manufacturers and sells them to local artists.
Jones was just days away from receiving his diploma when he presented the outfit to Thomas; he graduated in December 2023. “I recently applied to Carter’s, which is kids wear,” he says. “So, this project was definitely helpful to see what it’s going to be like in the real world.”
Eye for Fashion
Letting their personal styles shine has always been the intent of the Morning News Scholars. Bradley created the show to replace his traditional announcements over the school PA, seeing it as an opportunity for students to learn about leadership. He says, “I told the scholars, ‘You have something that I can’t coach or provide, which is your personality.'”
As a parting gift, each Oak View scholar received a sewing kit and patches to maintain the garments over the years. Bang says, “I want them to play with them, explore them, and become more interested in fashion design.”
Bradley says it was eye-opening for his scholars to see how everything they wear – from shoes to sweaters – starts on a piece of paper.
“For third to fifth graders, college can seem far away,” he says. “But now they’re asking more questions, such as if there are programs to create video games or create a new lip gloss that tastes like bubblegum. We’re taking the things they experience every day and giving them the global picture of how it gets to that point.”
Story by Janet Imrick, University Communications
Photography by Sean Norona, University Communications
Video by David Lee Row and Grant Evan Gilliard, University Communications
Video editing by David Lee Row, University Communications