Fashion Bytes — Design Awards & Creativity

The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum announced the winners of the “Design Ignites Change Awards” yesterday.  The competition, which is an initiative of Worldstudio,  “promotes and encourages talented high-school and college students across the country to use design thinking and innovation to develop actual projects that will benefit their own communities while giving them a voice on important social issues.”

The winning projects were fascinating; ranging from a portable shower that makes it possible for children and families living in slums in South America to have a hot shower everyday, to a ‘halal hotdog stand’. I found myself wondering if any fashion or textiles-related projects had been submitted, and what they could be. With the advent of eTextiles, such as tee shirts which can either detect wifi connections or pollution levels, or the problem of clothing recycling as a side effect of fast fashion, surely there are projects in existence, or fashion students and professionals who would be inspired to meet the “Design Ignites Change” challenge.

One of the questions raised in the comments was how you can judge a competition like this. Similar to Monica’s teaching post on grading creativity, the questioner was genuinely curious as to how you could assess the success and impact of one particular project. Fashion Bytes has previously examined the New York grant to help budding designers get on their feet, but how those designers were chosen was never discussed, and I could not help but wonder what the methodology for choosing winners of the grants — or design competitions — should be. What parameters and rubrics should be set? How can you determine the overall impact of a particular project, or should the inspiration to do good be of more merit?

Do these competitions inspire creativity and humanitarian efforts? Do people simply submit projects they already have underway? Or is it a bit of both? Do you think that competitions like this benefit new classes and projects, validating them and ensuring their continuance? What fashion projects do you think would meet the “Design Ignites Change” criteria? Until now the eTextiles have seemed largely attributed to the IT and computer professionals, but is this accurate or fair? Should more opportunities for experimenting with tech and fashion be made available either through curricula or grants, or is the field still too “young”?

Please share your thoughts.

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