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Supima Design Competition Unearths Newness in Cotton Design

A new champion of Supima cotton has been crowned.

On the opening day of New York Fashion Week Thursday, Supima held its 11th annual Design Competition, where emerging designers are tasked with creating fresh designs crafted from fabrics made with Supima cotton.

Lili Shi, a fashion design-fine arts graduate of New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, was this year’s winner.

The theme for Shi’s collection was “Inter-Connection,” and was inspired by Daoism’s philosophy: “Dao begets one, one begets two, two begets three, three begets all things.”

New textures and shapes, Shi’s eveningwear designs were laced with originality and innovative construction.

Shi’s collection was chosen by a panel of industry judges in a competition that included Paula Amaral of San Francisco’s Academy of Art University, Genevieve Lake form the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles, Kent State University’s Alanna Lizun, Jessica Chang of Parsons School of Design, Bryn Lourie from the Rhode Island School of Design and Jessica Rubinstein from the Savannah College of Art and Design.

Shiu received a $10,000 check from Supima to kick-start her design career, and she will also present her collection during Paris Fashion Week later this month.

The collective runway show of the participating designers, held at Pier 59 Studio at Chelsea Piers, featured capsule collections of women’s eveningwear made exclusively with donated Supima cotton fabrics. For the first time this year, Supima linked up with talent recruitment firm 24Seven to market the Supima Design Competition finalists’ portfolios to fashion houses across North America and Europe.

Returning for the fourth year, fashion designer Bibhu Mohapatra served as mentor to the seven finalists, providing invaluable feedback and insight throughout the process. Speaking in a video prior to the show, Mohapatra said, “The design competition is really more like a mentorship” where all the participants benefit.

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Buxton Midyette, vice president of marketing and promotion at Supima, noted that the annual Supima Design Competition, which began in 2008, was modeled on the legendary 1954 Wool Secretariat competition that launched the careers of the then-teenaged Yves St. Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld. Since its start, former Supima Design Competition winners have gone on to launch their own labels, show at New York Fashion Week, and secure jobs with top international labels including Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren and Phillip Lim, some of whom were in attendance at Thursday’s show.

“Each year it gets better and now that we’re entering a second decade, it’s great to look back and see how far we’ve come,” Midyette said. “The involvement and mentorship of Bibhu Mohapatra the last four years ha truly lifted the students’ designs and their interpretation of what eveningwear can be.”

Fabrics supplied by Supima’s brand partners–Albini, Brooks Brothers, Colorich, Nice Dyeing, Olah Inc., Olimpias, Ranbow and Uniqloare are normally used to create high-end woven shirting, jersey for tops and lingerie, and denim, velveteen and twill for jeans and sportswear, Midyette noted, which made the eveningwear capsule a new take for the fabrics.