The Fashion Project
Gwinnett County Public Library, Ga.
This program was selected as a special Audience Choice Top Innovator by attendees of the 2019 ULC Innovations Celebration, held on October 17 at the Salt Lake County Viridian Event Center.
The Fashion Project is an innovative, seven-week fashion design program culminating in a runway show. The program was a cooperative effort brought together by the Learning Lab and Youth Services, Development and Marketing Departments. Throughout weekly sessions, students were split into junior and Senior categories and assigned different tasks related to the fashion design process, like illustrating their concept, creating fabric swatch boards and eventually sewing their garments together. The library was able to provide a workspace, sewing machines, basic sewing notions and mentoring.
When the Learning Labs first acquired sewing machines, community interest was unknown. Initial sewing programs at the library provided quick and easy projects for beginners. The unprecedented popularity of these classes indicated an opportunity for a deeper level of engagement. Driven by a lack of home economics education in school, teen participants were engaged and self-motivated to develop their design and construction skills. The teens involved created a small community within the program, helping each other outside of the designated class times and encouraging each other to pursue bigger ideas.
The Fashion Project gives teens the opportunity to develop a creative concept from ideation to realization. Weekly workshops provided structure to the process, as well as a time for participants to come together to work on their designs and get advice from the mentors. Collaboration across disciplines integrated Teen Advisory Council members into the project as DJs at the culminating runway event. The runway event provided an end goal, source of inspiration and celebration to keep teens motivated as they worked through their design challenges.
The Fashion Project started out with 40 registrants, of which 14 persevered through to the runway show. The industry professional judges represented a variety of backgrounds, from a theater costume designer to a sewing school owner. Mentors brought expertise in fashion design, illustration and construction to the design studio. Participants developed self-motivation to work through a major creative project from beginning to end, as well as confidence in their own ideas and ability to bring them to reality. Parents grew in enthusiasm as well, offering their support for continued programming opportunities like the Fashion Project.