Bibhu Mohapatra and Buxton Midyette (center) with Supima Design Competition finalists, from left: Alanna Lizun, Jessica Chang, Jessica Rubinstein, Paula Amaral, Bryn Lourié, Lili Shi and Genevieve Lake.

Supima, the marketing brand for American-grown Pima cotton, announced the finalists for its 11th annual Supima Design Competition, a selective contest that advocates top talent from U.S. design schools. Its runway show will be hosted on the first day of New York Fashion Week on Sept. 6 at Pier 59 in New York. Final collections will also be presented during Paris Fashion Week with the winning designer in attendance, the firm said.

The 2018 finalists include: Alanna Lizun, Kent State University; Bryn Lourié, Rhode Island School of Design; Genevieve Lake, Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising; Jessica Chang, Parsons School of Design; Jessica Rubinstein, Savannah College of Art and Design; Lili Shi, The Fashion Institute of Technology and Paula Amaral, Academy of Art University.

The panel of judges is composed of professionals from the fashion and media world that collectively select the winner. Judges for the 2018 competition will be announced prior to the show.

Buxton Midyette, the vice president of marketing and promotions at Supima, told WWD, “Every year I think I’ve seen the best presentation yet, but I get surprised continuously. The finalists we have from the school are amazing and they are bringing a whole new level of creativity to their collections, each one distinct, different, innovative. It’s going to be an incredible show in September.”

Each participating university selects one graduating senior to represent the school as a finalist to compete. At the completion of the show, the winner is announced and receives a $10,000 cash prize, as well as exposure to top fashion industry executives, fashion press and influencers. Each university assigns mentors who work with their finalists in addition to Supima’s design mentor, Bibhu Mohapatra, a CFDA Award-winning designer, who worked with the brand for the fourth consecutive year. Participants are required to create five looks for each type of Supima fabric: shirting, knit, velveteen, twill and denim. Finalists must design one evening wear look for each fabric, creating a five-look capsule collection.

Supima cotton on its way to the gin. 

“We’re really trying to create a very supported environment for these recent graduates where we transition them from their academic experience at these top schools into the industry,” Midyette continued. “The point really isn’t to have them compete against one another, the point is really to have them present their best competition possible. And so we have this incredible group of young women designers this year who you can see are already forming friendships and really supporting each other throughout this process.”

This year the organization linked up with talent recruitment firm 24Seven, which will market the Supima Design Competition finalists’ portfolios to fashion houses across North America and Europe, the firm said. Midyette added that its new European focus takes “this from being a national competition to really reaching out to Europe for more engagement with the European fashion industry, and giving more exposure to our designers from this program. It just keeps growing,” he said. And, Supima recently became the official partner of the Hyères Festival, a platform that promotes budding talent across fashion and photography, which supported finalists Rushemy Botter and Lisi Herrebrugh, Marie-Ève Lecavalier and Sarah Bruylant with fabric donations for their designs.

Contestant Alanna Lizun, from Kent State University, told WWD, “You’re all kind of in the same mind-set when you come here. You’re trying to create the best that you can do with the same material, so you come in already knowing who you are as a designer, but it’s interesting to talk to other people, who are their own person, using the same fabric. You connect on certain levels and then you can learn from other people through the fabric manipulations that they’re doing and the different textiles.”

She added, “[As a fashion design student], you have to push yourself to your absolute limit and then that’s where you figure out your peak creativity, which is really bizarre, because I don’t think you would do that with any other major. You see how far you can get past your comfort zone to achieve what you think is the ultimate best decision for the garments, and design in general.”

And contestant Bryn Lourié, from the Rhode Island School of Design, told WWD, “For me, [the desire to compete] really came from enjoying the challenge and a problem that I have to solve. I loved being given this fabric and told ‘OK, you need to make something out of [this],’” Lourié continued, “It was just superfun for me to play with this. It was like a science experiment to see what all the different fabrics do. Each one is so different and they each want to act in a certain way, so it is very fun to have [this experience].”

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