MSU Fashion Student wins Oscar Dress Competition

Here at Worn Through we frequently talk about the professors’ side of things, how to teach etc, but once in a while I thought we should focus on what a student is up to—particularly when something truly exciting happens. Also, I wanted to highlight a student accomplishment because it is in part be a reflection of positive classroom experiences. Those of us who are teaching can learn from their successes.

Jillian Granz with Suzy Amis Cameron and James Cameron at the unveiling of Amis Cameron's dress. Photo by Jim Peck

A friend of mine and fellow UMN grad, Theresa Winge, PhD who is an assistant professor at Michigan State University, hipped me to her award willing student Jillian Granz. Theresa said she couldn’t be more proud of Jillian’s recent win of a significant design competition.

Jillian designed a gown for Suzy Amis Cameron (James Cameron’s wife) to be worn to THE OSCARS!

Theresa recently started teaching at MSU, and as part of her role there she created a new course–Innovative Approaches to Apparel Design. In this class, students created a red carpet worthy gown that met the criteria of sustainability and submitted their designs to the Red Carpet Green Dress competition hosted by Suzy Amis Cameron.

Theresa said, “Since the competition was open to anyone in the world, I prepared the students for the unlikelihood of someone winning from class. We were in it for the experience. The students designed creative and thoughtful designs, ranging from a newspaper dress to no-waste patterning gown. Each submission was a design to be proud of.”

Low and behold one of the students in the class, Jillian Granz, did win and Suzy Amis Cameron would wear the gown it to the Oscars!

Jillian Granz-Photo by G. L. Kohuth

Here is the link to the story and short video clip from MSU.

Jillian works on Suzy's fitting-Photo by Jim Peck

I spoke with Jillian over email to get some details of her experiences with the competition, as well as some insight into her design process and thoughts on fashion education. Below is our conversation:

    Please fill us in on the basic info of the contest.
    The contest is called Red Carpet Green Dress and it was to raise money for a school that Suzy Amis and her sister Rebecca founded called Muse. The school is a green school and teaches students about sustainability so the dress had to be sustainable as well. I participated in the contest for my class Special Topics: Innovative Approaches to Apparel Design.
    Please tell us about your garment, inspirations, palette, fabric choices, etc./Why do you think your garment was selected as the winner?
    The dress was inspired by no-waste patterning. I had to do alot of research on sustainable fashion and after finding this technique I found that it was really appealing to my design aesthetic. The dress was also inspired by Suzy Amis, she was the client so i did follow some of the silhouettes that she typically wears and also some colors that she suggested she liked.
    What are some of your experiences with fashion design, particularly with formalwear?…Tell us about your fashion education at MSU–what year are you, what are your focus areas, favorite classes, etc.
    Michigan State has a really great Apparel and Textile Design program. It is my last year at MSU, and there are so many new classes being offered that I didn’t get to take that it makes me sad I am graduating in May and can’t take them! We really focus on women’s wear and I have just really started to design more formal wear than seperates/more casual looks.
    What are your carer plans after graduation?

    After graduating I am still not sure what I am going to be doing, or where exactly I want to go. Hopefully this competition will get my name out there and it will still be fresh in people’s minds when i am searching for a job.

    Do you follow pop culture, celebrity culture?–how meaningful was it for you to have this garment selected to be worn in the public eye?
    I do follow pop-culture and celebrities a little bit. I do like to keep an eye out for what they wear on the red carpet and things like that so it is really exciting that my dress will be worn on the red carpet, as scary as it is too.
    What role do you think your fashion education played in your preparedness to enter and win this competition?
    I really think that my education played a large role in winning the contest. If not for the class that i am in i wouldn’t have heard about the contest at all. I really think that us doing these more public contests is great and taking a class about innovative ideas in fashion is really great and the fact that we discussed sustainable design and no-waste patterning really helped in my design process.

Note-I grew up in Michigan, went to Michigan State for my first year of college, and later attended Wayne State Univ. for my B.S. an Eastern Michigan Univ. for my M.S. Michigan is an awesome place with a highly sophisticated, cool, unique, and edgy design sensibilities, as well as has its finger on the pulse of what is going on internationally. However, being a state so rocked by economic and social forces, long before the current meltdown, it is tough for an aspiring fashioninsta to get ahead and accomplish all of her goals. This has created a very DIY approach to fashion, which works parallel but not often intermingled necessarily with some of the more mainstream outlets for fashion such as bigger budget affairs and high end designing and retailing. Plus, although the world loves Detroit’s music scene, our fashion scene has struggled to get exposure. In this it is easy for someone with fashion interests to get mired in frustration and feelings of defeat due to lack of immediate opportunities.

My point is that for a fashion student to set a lofty goal achieve it gracefully, beating out national competitors, is a real coup, and speaks for the hidden gems around the country, such as in Michigan. Not everything is on the coasts, no offense to them. Applause to Jillian for reaching such heights and Theresa for empowering her students with the know-how to blast off!

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