On Thursday evening in New York, the retailer chose the winner of its “A Design Affair” program, a student contest done in conjunction with New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology. As part of the a six-week contest, five FIT students were paired up with brands Mark Fisher, Nine West, Chinese Laundry, Vince Camuto and Highline United to design shoes and present their work to DSW executives.
“Sometimes in life you have great talent, but it’s not always recognized,” said Debbie Ferree, DSW Inc. vice chairman and chief merchandising officer. “With this contest, we give these students the opportunity to meet with our vendor partners to talk to them about how to bring their designs to life.”
The winner of the contest, FIT senior accessories design student Sunjeong Kang, was partnered with Highline United and will have one her shoe designs put into production for fall. The footwear will be sold at select DSW stores and DSW.com by this fall – depending on production, Ferree said.
“I graduate next month and I was really doubting if I could get a job,” Kang, who came from Korea to attend FIT, said. “I was really debating if I had the talent or if it was a wrong decision to come to [the U.S.], but this contest really opened up a lot of opportunity for me.”
Besides having her shoe made by United Nude, she also receives an internship with the brand and a $1,500 cash prize. The other four finalists will have the samples of their designs produced, which will be on display at DSW’s latest Manhattan store.
Ferree said the contest was not only a way of fostering young talent, but also a means of getting more involved with the New York market. “We just opened up our 34th street store and we wanted to integrate ourselves into the community,” She said. “FIT was the logical partner because they’re a fashion school and we’re a fashion business.”
The DSW executive added that talks of a sequel to the contest for next year are already underway, as she plans to meet with FIT accessories design department chair Vasilios Christofilakos sometime in the coming weeks. “Obviously this was our first entrée into this and it was wildly successful,” Ferree said.
Christofilakos is also optimistic about a second iteration of the program. “We’ve gotten great feedback from Debbie, so that’s a positive sign,” he said. “I hope we can do it again.”