Auburn and Alabama fashion design students inspired by art museum collection to create garments

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The Huntsville Museum of Art Guild has created the Iron Bowl of Fashion, pitting fashion design students from Auburn University and the University of Alabama against each other in an art-inspired design contest.

Students were challenged to create a garment inspired by works of art from the museum's collection. Eight pieces – four from each school – can be viewed at Each will be on display in the Grisham Gallery of the museum, starting March 28.

The website includes multiple pictures of each garment, a brief biography of each designer and each student's explanation for how the chosen art piece inspired their garment's design and production.

Officially called "Fashion Fusion Face Off 2016," the contest leads into the debut of a new exhibit at the museum that also features couture garments inspired by art.

The museum hosts an opening reception on April 7 for "Folk Fusion: Where Fashion Meets Folk Art," an exhibit highlighting works from 13 established and emerging designers who were asked to create a fashion piece of original couture inspired by one or more works from the American Folk Art Museum's collection in New York City. Designers for the exhibit include French designer Catherine Malandrino, who recently launched a new clothing line exclusively for Kohl's, and Fabio Costa, a contestant of Project Runway and Project Runway All Stars, both reality design shows on the Bravo TV network.

The Huntsville museum is the first museum outside of New York to present this exhibit.

Pam Ulrich, the Under Armour Professor in the Department of Consumer and Design Sciences in Auburn's College of Human Sciences, said Auburn's participation in the contest started as an assignment for the class, Product Development: Apparel Design, taught by doctoral student Diane Barnard.

Since the junior-level course covers advanced technical pattern making, creative design and couture production, it was fitting for students enrolled in the fall semester to create garments inspired by works from the Huntsville museum's collection. Ulrich said department faculty juried the final products and selected four to compete against Alabama.

"We are always looking for ways to showcase the talents of our students and increase the visibility of our department," said Ulrich.

The students are set to gain much from the contest as well, including the chance at cash prizes. The student behind the design earning the most votes at will earn $500. The student with the best design according to a panel of industry judges will earn $1,000.

Both universities also can benefit from the contest. The museum guild paired each student designer with an alumni celebrity as a way to challenge the celebrities to collect donations to support the museum and their respective university. The museum plans to give a portion of the donated money to the apparel program at the university with the most donations.

Representing Auburn in the design challenge are seniors Caroline Collier of Birmingham, Alaundra Shealey of Opelika, Amanda Statum of Huntsville and Sarah Steles of Muscle Shoals.

Shealey and Statum were two of four finalists in last year's Student Design League contest. Shealey's design received the most online votes, earning her a summer internship at Robin Ruth in New York City. Her T-shirt is currently available online, but T-shirt designs from Statum and the two other finalists will be sold in retail stores this year.

The public is encouraged to vote daily for their favorite design at Voting will continue until the new exhibit's opening reception on April 7. Only one vote per device can be cast each day.

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