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Students Prepare for Their Own ‘Project Runway’

PULLMAN, Wash. — Move over Santino. Watch out, Daniel V. and Chloe. Fashion design students at Washington State University are deep in the throes of their own “Project Runway.”

Like the novice designers on the popular reality television show that has its season finale tonight, WSU fashion majors – mostly seniors – are designing their own four-to-six outfit clothing lines. Some 28 students will display their designs at 7:30 p.m., Friday, April 7, in Beasley Coliseum on the Pullman campus, a traditional part of WSU Moms Weekend.

Professor Carole Urquhart, who heads the classes involved with production of the fashion show, says the yearlong process of developing a clothing line helps the students “pull together everything they’ve learned and then some. They have never had to do that many garments with a drop-dead deadline and that level of quality. They are now frantically in the middle of it.” Professor KyeongSook Cho leads the apparel design courses that culminate with the production of the fashion show.

Urquhart said WSU’s Apparel, Merchandising, Design and Textiles program trains students from both a design perspective and a merchandising perspective. “They are trained to fit into both design and merchandising, which opens up their job opportunities.”

Demand for the degree is high. There are approximately 280 students majoring in the AMDT department, and the acceptance criteria are getting stiffer, Urquhart said. “There is definitely an interest in the field, and we have experienced phenomenal growth,” she said. “What most of the students come in knowing is that they’re fascinated with clothes. They’re delighted to find there is a huge industry where they can make a living doing what they love.”

WSU design and merchandising students take annual field trips to the heart of the fashion world in New York City over spring break. “You just don’t realize what a huge industry it really is until you’re there,” Urquhart said. “Students always come back renewed and excited about what they’re doing after being in New York.” Students also visit major clothing firms in Seattle every fall.

Shows such as Project Runway also help to generate excitement about the fashion industry. Urquhart says her students often refer to the program in class, and the instructor said she sees some similarities between beginning designers in Pullman and the beginning designers on national television.

“It’s not totally unreal,” she said. “The critiques of the judges are actually pretty good, and Tim, the mentor, runs into the same sort of things with the designers that I run into with my students.”

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