Gain Exposure in Student Fashion Design Contests

One of the most difficult challenges a new designer faces is gaining recognition. In the competitive world of fashion, designers cannot rely on talent and vision alone. No matter how brilliant your design, the key to success is exposure. One way to get an early start on your career is through fashion design contests. In addition to a monetary reward or a scholarship prize, they often offer something that will turn out to be far more valuable in the long run: contacts. Many of the big names you see today on the runway are past contest winners.

Most design schools run contests each year, and these are followed with avid interest by the fashion media, always hungry for what's next, new, now. Generated media buzz can take on a life of its own, creating a larger than life image even for a young designer.

Another avenue to consider is corporate or theme sponsored contests. Such venerable institutions as GM and LG have stepped into the world of fashion in the last few years, tying into the highly visible world of fashion for crossover publicity with great success.

What exactly does being a fashion designer entail?

Here are some examples of competitions open to design students.

For the past six years, the annual GM Student Design Competition has showcased automotive-inspired garments, inspiring young designers to draw inspiration and creativity from automobile designs. Each student winner receives a $500 check, the opportunity to showcase their creations at the International Academy of Design and Technology annual fashion show and have their results and production videos online at GMnext.

Each year for the past five, the International Fur Trade Federation in collaboration with MIFUR, the Milan based international fur and leather exhibition, has sponsored a fur design competition for students. In 2008, three top winners each received a cash prize of $ 3,000 for gold; $ 2,000 for silver and $ 1,000 for bronze. The prize package for eight finalists included a trip to Milan, introductions to both fashion and fur trade members, and public relations support for a year.

Project Earth Day sponsors a green contest each year in search of innovative ecological design. Entries are judged on aesthetics, execution of design and incorporation of ecological design principles. The grand prize is $1500, a profile of you and your design in a major publication, and a gift bag from the sponsors.

International Talent Support offers some impressive prizes to senior design students, judged on several different levels. The Fashion Collection of the Year prize winners take home €20,000 to be used to produce an individual runway collection with all fabrics provided for free by Puntoseta, and an all expenses paid trip to Europe for the show. The Diesel Award offers a cash prize of € 50,000, for the designer to use without limitations to promote their work and further their career plus an internship with the Diesel Creative Team in Italy. Four smaller but significant competition prizes are also assigned each year.

These examples are only a few of the competitions out there. There is no better way for an emerging student designer to make a splash in the fashion world. Buzz is everything.

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            Fashion Design (BFA)
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
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