After 11 years, the Supima design competition just keeps getting better and better. The competition asks student designers to rethink the conventions of different types of cotton fabrics (including denim, jersey, and heavy twills) to create a capsule collection of eveningwear for women. Earlier this week, the seven student finalists, hailing from some of the top fashion schools in the country, showcased their final work.
“I love them all equally,” gushed Bibhu Mohapatra, who acted as a mentor for the fourth year in a row. So what advice does he have to give them now that it’s show time? “Relax,” he said. “You have professionals here. When all these amazing hands, and minds are around you, why worry? I get asked all the time, how are you so calm backstage? I owe it to my team to remain calm and be chilled out.”
The backstage area certainly was relaxed. Supima pulled together a dedicated team, all looking to give its student competitors the real, professional New York Fashion Week experience. In the end Lili Shi from the Fashion Institute of Technology took home the top prize of $10,000. Shi’s collection interpreted the cotton into avant-garde wears, and involved an intricate series of hand-dyed pieces. In a particularly impressive piece, she rendered the Mona Lisa into a cocktail dress.
“I am a huge fan of this program,” said returning host June Ambrose. “I think that what Supima is doing with this design competition is one of the single most important aspects of our industry in terms of incubating, and harnessing, and nurturing talent. The talent is so impressive, and they’re performing at such a high level. It makes me feel as a mom, I can tell parents your money is well spent.”
As the talent continues to get better and better, it’s exciting to wonder how next year’s winner will top this show.
An earlier version of this post mis-attributed a look to designer Jessica Chang. It has since been updated.