‘Product Runway’ competition culminates with 2 awards



Helen Turner, an instructor in UK’s interior design school and director of IDSA, described Product Runway as a “nationwide annual event, in which interior designers are given the opportunity to express their talents beyond the professional office environment.”

To participate, a firm is paired with a manufacturer of interior finish materials, Turner said.

“We formed a design team within the university,” Turner said. “Then they’re paired with a manufacturer and can only use the materials they provide.”

Turner said weeks of design and fabrication culminate with a fashion show of each team’s garment being modeled on a runway in front of a panel of judges. Apparently, that panel favored UK’s team.

“A Dress to Address Disaster” received the Da Vinci award, given to the team that best showcased its design concept, Turner said.

“The design is intended to communicate an individual’s physical and emotional response to a disaster,” Turner said of “A Dress to Address Disaster,” which was created by a team of nine UK interior design students and was sponsored by Teknion, a workstation manufacturer. Materials included laminates, acrylics, black mesh or Velcro and white leather.

“We were trying to show an initial destruction … kind of like a rubble pile,” said Sabrina Mason, a fifth year interior design major. “As it goes up the dress it shows the regrowth and passion. When she took off the Velcro collar and threw it down, it was symbolic of throwing off the psychological damage and moving on.”

Mason, who competed for the first time, said it was fun to actually see a product from concept to finish.

“As students, we never get to see a finished project, and so it was exciting that we could take all of these materials and ideas and see something tangible that we could use,” Mason said.

Olivia Steitz, who modeled the dress and worked on the destruction of the materials, said walking down the runway in the dress was difficult.

“During our practice walk-through … a zipper busted and they had to sew me into the dress,” Steitz said. “I couldn’t take it off and I couldn’t sit down. At the end of the competition they had to cut me out of the dress with scissors.”

Deborah Drury, of Deborah Drury Interior Design, and five UK interior design students whom she invited to work on the piece designed “Sleek Sophistication,” the dress that won first place.

“I decided I wanted to do something sleek … red carpet look,” Drury said. “We had to look at the materials first because they’re meant to be flat on the floor. Once I saw what the products could do, I came up with this design.”

“Sleek Sophistication,” which was sponsored by flooring manufacturer Johnsonite, was created with weld rods, sheet vinyl, vinyl tile, luxury vinyl tile, jute and vinyl cove base.

Turner said the experience the students gained during the competition was invaluable.

“They got to know manufacturers and a lot of people in the industry,” Turner said. “Not only do they get to become familiar with materials they will be working with on a daily basis, but they get to meet professionals and develop their creative process.”

Product Runway was a charity event, with all participants and models volunteering and all materials donated. All proceeds went to the Dress for Success charity.

The winning dresses will be on display in the Peace Gallery in room 103 Funkhouser until Nov. 10.