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Supima Cotton Design Competition Winner Celebrates the Beauty of Aging

A panel of fashion insiders crowned Yuki Xu, a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, the winner of the 14th annual Supima Cotton Design Competition Thursday.

The contest tasked students from top design universities across the country with designing eveningwear capsule collections using Supima’s American-grown cotton. Xu and five other finalists showcased their submissions at a live show during New York Fashion Week Thursday. The event, hosted by the Fifth Avenue Association, was held before an in-person audience at Manhattan’s 608 Fifth Avenue and streamed online via Supima’s website and Instagram Live.

Before the finalists’ models walked the runway, they each offered insight into the inspiration behind their designs in a pre-recorded video. In hers, Xu framed her ruffle- and laser cut-heavy collection as an ode to natural aging.

Supima announced the finalists for its Design Competition, where students showcase eveningwear collections created with Supima cotton.
Sketches from Yuki Xu from the Rhode Island School of Design. Courtesy

“This is actually inspired by my grandparents,” Xu said. “They have wrinkles all over their bodies and I think they’re really beautiful. I want my designs to make my audience more comfortable and also empower them—make them a better version of themselves.”

Xu, who plans on continuing her haute couture studies in Paris or London and to eventually launch her own line in womenswear, said the award means a lot to her.

“It is a big reward after months of intense making and encourages me to keep on designing in my own vision, that my designs are worthy and ‘approved,” Xu told Sourcing Journal. “It also means that I could have a career in fashion since I’m the first and only one in my family studying fashion design.”

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Also presenting their collections Thursday were the Supima Cotton Design Competition’s five other finalists: Cat Pfingst from Philadelphia’s Drexel University, Jiarui Cai of Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, Yitao Li from New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, Alana Tolliver of Ohio’s Kent State University and Bora Kim of the School of Art Institute of Chicago.

CFDA Award-winning eveningwear designer Bibhu Mohapatra acted as a mentor to the finalists, providing insight, support and advice to each contestant. This year marked the seventh time he has taken up the mantle.

The event’s host—stylist and image architect Law Roach—joined a panel of fashion insiders, tastemakers, designers and editors to pick this year’s winner. As victor, Xu will receive a $10,000 cash prize.

Supima is a non-profit organization that promotes the use of American-grown Pima cotton around the world. Founded in 1954, the Supima brand, short for “Superior Pima,” designates an elite variety of Pima cotton sustainably grown only in the West and the Southwestern U.S.