AMDT helps Cougars go pro


The competition-winning Coug gear designed by students Leah Schwallie, Jenny Chan and Kaisha Bauer was inspired by a Chanel jacket, as seen on Cheryl Hansen (above).

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When Noel Schulz became first lady of WSU, it was inevitable that she wanted to show her Cougar pride. However, she soon realized there was a lack of attire available for women and alumnae within her age demographic, so she chose to challenge WSU design students in the most rewarding way.

Schulz decided to mention this issue to a junior level ADMT 492: Computer Aided Design class.

Deborah Christel, assistant professor in Apparel Merchandising, Design & Textiles, facilitated the course and this project.

“I think incorporating industry-related projects into curriculum that directly addresses a need is critical to educating students and preparing them for the ‘real-world,’ ” Christel said. “This project enhances all the key skills that employers are looking for.”

The project focused on plus-size women, considering over half of all U.S. women wear clothing larger than a size 14. This broadens the student designers’ experience while simultaneously offering this demographic of women more essential options, Christel said.

“It is so important that everyone have clothing to show their Cougar pride,” Christel said. “It is my hope that universities will begin to understand the importance of teaching diversity in body shapes.”

Christel said she is amazed at the students’ ability to work through challenges on this scale and loves watching them make connections.

Leah Schwallie, junior and first place design winner, and her group members Jenny Chan and Kaisha Bauer gained much more than just a win in the professional spirit attire competition held in fall 2016.

“It taught us so many things,” Schwallie said. “It was analyzing data, solving problems and evaluating situations. It was also a great lesson for time management.”

Schwallie appreciated the opportunity WSU gave her. With a clear understanding of the challenge at hand, she and her group used all available resources to their full advantage.

“I see in her (Schulz’s) case it’s hard for her to go to conferences and other things at WSU because in the Bookie they mainly sell football game attire,” Schwallie said.

Schwallie believes working as a team gave the group so many different insights, allowing for expansion in innovation.

“We each had different attributes to bring to the table, so we made a great team,” Schwallie said. “Jenny was essential in our construction process, she’s an amazing seamstress so she put together our prototypes while Kaisha and I did a lot of the market research and the fittings.”

The team conducted research to inform themselves about their chosen demographic: women in their 50s. One of first inspirations came from the trendy Chanel jacket that came out when the target group was in their adolescence, Schwallie said.

“Just for one garment it took 3-4 months,” she said. “You can see the planning it takes to create an entire line as a designer or as a company to come out with a spring/summer collection which includes 50 items.”

Jenny Chan, a junior international student from Hong Kong and contest winner, said this competition brought her closer to her dream of starting her own clothing brand in Hong Kong.

“It means a lot that our work can be mass-produced,” Chan said. “It is an achievement of my lifetime, I believe. I will actually be able to see people wearing my creation.”