Auburn student designer, alumnus triumphant in art-inspired design contest, fundraiser

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In the first Iron Bowl of Fashion, Auburn University claimed victory over the University of Alabama.

The Huntsville Museum of Art Guild pitted fashion students from Auburn and Alabama against each other in an art-inspired design contest. Officially called Fashion Fusion Face Off 2016, the contest led to the debut of a new exhibit at the museum featuring couture garments inspired by art.

Sarah Steles, a senior in the Apparel Merchandising, Design and Production Management program in Auburn's College of Human Sciences, had the best design according to a panel of industry judges. The victory earned the Muscle Shoals native a $1,000 prize.

Steles finished second in online voting for the best design; Amanda Chiogioji, a recent Alabama graduate, earned the most votes among the designers and a $500 prize.

Auburn's participation in the contest was the result of an assignment for a class taught by doctoral candidate Diane Barnard, in the Department of Consumer and Design Sciences. The entire class made designs and four were selected by department faculty for the competition.

Barnard said she told the students to think of the design challenge as a chance "to step off the runway, to think outside the box."

Eight students – four from each campus – were tasked with creating garments inspired by works of art from the museum's collection.

Barnard said Steles' interpretation of a ratty, old couch – featured in Nick Gruenberg's "Yellow Sofa" print – translated into an artistic garment.

"You see the story of that couch in the art and in her dress," Barnard said. "Sarah used a variety of fabrics and textures to capture the elements of the art in the dress."

Auburn also bested Alabama in donation collection. 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 challenge resulted in raising $28,238, a portion of which will be awarded to Auburn's apparel program for collecting the most donations.

Auburn alumni celebrities collected 53.2 percent of the total. Bob Broadway, a two-time Auburn alumnus, collected more donations than any of the other seven celebrities.

Also representing Auburn in the challenge were seniors Caroline Collier of Birmingham, Alaundra Shealey of Opelika and Amanda Statum of Huntsville.

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