By  on May 16, 2006

PHILADELPHIA — Chic Philadelphians and some New Yorkers, too, turned out Friday night at the home of arts patron Martha McGeary Snider to honor the first American winner of Paris' prestigious fashion contest, Concours International des Jeunes Createurs de Mode.

The grand prize of the juried competition was awarded in December to Megan Stein, a graduate student at Drexel University here. The event served both as a celebration and a benefit for the Gerry Sills Scholarship Fund of the fashion design program at Drexel. Sandra Blumberg, Rita Rome, Laura Lenet, Lisa Nappi, Marsha Rubin, Joan and Bernard Spain, Barbara Brown, Dean Taylor of Ralph Rucci, Denelle Green-Drake of Neiman Marcus, Allen Sabinson, dean of Drexel's Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design, Dana and Michael Spain-Smith and Iris and Carl Apfel were among the fashion supporters of the school.

Stein's creation of a postmodern paratrooper girl in a leather jacket, replete with gleaming stainless steel hardware atop a stylized bubble skirt of various coat-weight wools was the perfect response to the competition's theme of "Arts, Fashion and Industry."

"My initial aesthetic inspiration for the design was from helicopters," Stein said. "I wanted to make her [the paratrooper girl] feel safe and protected and because of the industrial theme of the competition, she also needed to be futuristic and powerful in that environment."

Stein's design was first awarded, along with nine others from a field of 70 young designers, during a national competition organized by the Arts of Fashion Foundation at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. Then it was on to France at the Carrousel du Louvre, where 150 students from 17 countries competed for the top honor at the 23rd annual contest.

The panel of judges in Paris, led by Pierre Cardin, awarded checks for the best design from each country and the grand prize of 3,000 euros or $3,844, a Pfaff embroidery and sewing machine, a roundtrip ticket from the U.S. to Paris on Air France and a yearlong scholarship at the Ecole de la Chambre Syndicale de la Couture. This international competition, founded in 1983 by Air France, is especially prestigious for promising young fashion designers. In addition to Stein's win, four other Drexel fashion students, Ann Burton, Jung Soo Lee, Lisa Hutchinson and Mia Murphy, were finalists.What started as a hopeful sketch more than one year ago has become an exciting fashion wish for Stein. She credited Drexel fashion department members Renee Chase, Kathi Martin and Emil De John for their support and direction.

"Megan will be on covers, I really mean that," De John said. "She works so hard and she is so special. She will really make it in the fashion world."

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