Hemline for Hearts Completes Sixth Year of Inspiring Wilson College Students
By Mary Giuffrida
On Saturday, Feb. 5, Wilson College of Textiles students put their creativity to the test for a great cause in the sixth annual Hemline for Hearts competition at Crabtree Valley Mall.
The six student designers had four hours to recreate a dress design with paper hearts that they had previously sewn from fabric.
The American Heart Association’s signature women’s initiative, Go Red for Women®, was the inspiration behind the student designs. The Go Red for Women movement encourages awareness of the issue of women and heart disease, and also action to save more lives. The movement is a passionate, emotional, social initiative designed to empower women to take charge of their heart health.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the No.1 killer of women. It claims more women’s lives than all forms of cancer combined.
Leading up to the event the student designers met with survivors of heart disease and listened to their stories, letting what they heard influence their designs for the competition.
“We heard stories from women in their 20s and the struggles they went through and how they got through it,” Nicole Shooman, a sophomore fashion and textile design (FTD) student, says.
Shooman went on to win both best paper dress and best paper and fabric dress. She says her design was motivated by female empowerment.
“I wanted it to be about women’s strength, women’s empowerment,” she explains. “I also put a heart at the top of the slit, and that represents how with each step we take our heart is the cause.”
Sophomore FTD student Natalia Barnack, who won best fabric dress, says her designs were a reflection of the way survivors of heart disease are able to start new journeys.
“For my design I was inspired by a new start to life,” Barnack says. “I wanted to symbolize new beginnings, a second chance, and how precious life is. I wanted my design to shed light on growth and prosperity. I envisioned clean lines and a classy, structured look to promote strength and protection for the future.”
The journey towards Hemline for Hearts began last semester in two different Wilson College courses. Fashion and textile management (FTM) students enrolled in Textile Brand Communications and Promotions, taught by Associate Professor Delisia Matthews. Fashion and textile design (FTD) students enrolled in Fashion Design 1, taught by Associate Professor Minyoung Suh.
Dr. Matthews explains the process her FTM students went through as they developed marketing campaigns for the Hemline for Hearts event.
“We have in our class usually about eight groups, and they have to develop an actual media and marketing plan,” she says. “This includes a social media approach for marketing Hemline for Hearts, a print ad, and then some sort of event.”
The students spend the semester hard at work preparing their campaigns, all hoping to be chosen to make their ideas a reality.
“We were learning how to do a full blown marketing campaign,” Grace Fontana, one of the members of the winning marketing team, says. “Then, midway through the semester we got chosen.”
While Matthews’ students were building their ideal marketing campaigns, Dr. Suh’s students had begun drafting what would end up being the fabric version of their paper heart designs.
“There are around fifteen students every year and for their final projects they come up with some sort of design and draft flat patterns to achieve that style,” Suh explains. “Those students selected have a chance to create the paper version of the dress garment.”
The event gives both groups of students the opportunity to put to work what they have spent the semester learning in a real world environment.
“This gives them a chance to truly apply the concepts in a way that allows them to give back to the community and really pour into a special cause,” Matthews says.
For the designers, it’s also an opportunity to work with unconventional materials and test the limits of what they are able to create with.
“It’s a fun and exciting experience handling the papers,” Suh says. “They are getting more insight about the importance of material in achieving their style and design.”
The students come away from the event with new skills and a growing awareness of how they can use their education outside of the classroom.
“It’s a great way to learn what actual companies are looking for,” Fontana says. “It’s made me more familiar with designing different campaigns, you’re trying to put yourself in the shoes of who’s going to be viewing it.”
“I loved hearing the judges’ feedback,” Shooman says. “We had representatives from a bunch of different stores like Michael Kors, Macy’s, Belk and Coach.”
“I felt like I learned the importance of generating inspiration and incorporating that into different aspects of my garment,” Barnack says. “I also learned about time management and how to work under pressure.”
While the students were excited to put what they had learned in class to work, the biggest takeaway from the event was the real-world impact of working with such an important cause.
“Fashion and designing is my absolute passion,” Shooman says. “So being able to do that for such a big cause felt great. I felt like all my designs had purpose.”