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Post  snowlin42 on Sat Nov 12, 2011 8:59 am

Cotton growers depend on fashion designers to produce cotton garments people want to buy, and fashion designers depend on cotton growers to produce quality cotton fiber. But the two groups rarely cross paths.
The Denim Runway Design contest at Kansas State University will bring these two groups together. Thanks to Cotton, Inc., the Kansas Cotton Association, and the Plains Cotton Cooperative Association, future fashion designers at K-State will be able to follow cotton from the field to the finished product.
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A similar project was offered at Texas Tech University the last two years. Emma Matkin, PCCA, said the major difference between the TTU and K-State contest is the length of time the contest runs. The TTU contest is spread out over a period of about six months. At K-State the contest was announced to the students in mid-August and they will have to complete their designs by the end of November.
The K-State project started when Joycelyn Burdett, assistant professor in the Department of Apparel, Textiles, and Interior design at K-State, received a grant from Cotton Inc. Cotton Inc., supported by checkoff funds from growers, offers grants to educators to teach future fashion professionals more about cotton.
"I came up with this idea and submitted a proposal for a grant and it was accepted, " Burdett said.
"I really wanted the students to be able to personally see all of the support industries that can be so invisible to designers and yet they are so important because they directly related to how the fabric performs in the finished garment, " Burdett said. "I want students to understand all of the different cotton fabrics that are available and understand the background of the industry. "
Students who are enrolled in the special topics class will have the opportunity to participate in field trips that will include traveling to North carolina to see Cotton Inc., headquarters, southern Kansas to see cotton harvest, Anthony, Kan., to visit the cotton gin, and Littlefield, Texas, to tour the grower owned mill. The students will have a rare opportunity to take their denim creations to the wet and dry destruction lab at the Texas facility where they can do the textile distressing that turns their creations into high-fashion jeans. JUMP HERE
The field to fabric experience will help students improve their design skills, strengthen their speaking skills by presenting their designs to the judges, and give them a better understanding of the overall cotton industry.
"The opportunity to see the field to fabric cotton production and to work in the textile finishing labs at ACG is rare, " Burdett said. "No amount of classroom lecture can be as meaningful as an actual experience such as this. "
Helping to provide the grower and industry side of the cotton business for the students are Dick Cooper, director of business development for Kansas and northern Oklahoma for PCCA, and Gary Feist, manager of the Southern Kansas Cotton Growers gin in Anthony, Kan. Cooper said nearly all of the growers that gin their cotton in Anthony participate in the mill option, which means they own part of the American Cotton Growers mill in Littlefield, Texas, and the Denimatrix denim factory in Ciudad de Guatemala.
"This is a real live chance for our producers to see how this checkoff money is being used and how their cotton ends up as a finished product, " said Cooper. "This really brings it home to our growers. "
The contest at K-State will have nine categories. The PCCA Fashion Jean category is limited only to students who are enrolled in the special topics class. All students can participate in the Casual and Cotton Trend Board categories. The Casual category will give students a chance to create products out of denim other than jeans. Students in the Cotton Trend Board category will research trends for cotton fiber and apparel then makes presentations to the judges. Burdett is sponsoring an open cotton design challenge as well.
PCCA provided the students with denim for the contest and consulted with the students about the type and weight of denim needed for their designs. Cooper said companies that make blue jeans are looking for a certain blend of cotton.
"Think of it like a feed ration for livestock--they are looking for a least-cost blend with minimum standards, " Cooper said. "They might look at 100, 000 bales of cotton to find the 500 they want. "
The mill at Littlefield uses about 150, 000 bales of cotton and produces two kinds of yarn and more than 40 different denim fabric styles. Cooper said the mill producers open-end yarn used for commodity type denim to make more durable jeans and ring-spun yarn used for high-end jeans that have texture and color. Those high-end jeans cost more because in addition to higher labor costs it takes higher quality cotton to achieve the designers desired looks.
"You create value through fashion, " Cooper said.
Contest judging begins the last week of November and the results will be announced at the departments "Cotton, the Fabric of our Future: Today" fashion show on Dec. 1 at K-State. The fashion show is open to the public and begins at 7 p. m. Winners in each category will receive cash prizes and recognition plaques from PCCA.
In the end the students in Burdett's class are going to be the people who will be making fabric purchases at fashion companies for the rest of their careers. They will know about cotton production from the field to the runway.
"Our mandate is to promote cotton products through promotion and education and this project absolutely fulfills both of those objectives, " Cooper said. "We are investing in these students because we know it will make a difference in their purchasing decisions in the future. "
Doug Rich can be reached by phone at 785-749-5304 or by e-mail at
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"You create value through fashion, " Dick Cooper said.


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