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MSU students design dress that could get red-carpet treatment
Dec '09
Some Michigan State University apparel and textile design students will combine sustainability and style for a chance to earn red-carpet praise at one of Hollywood's largest film award celebrations.

Students enrolled in MSU's spring semester class, “Special Topics: Innovative Approaches in Apparel Design,” will participate in “Red Carpet, Green Dress,” a worldwide dress and gown design competition that promotes sustainable design.

The contest is being sponsored by Suzy Amis Cameron, the wife of Academy Award-winning film director and producer James Cameron, whose newest film, “Avatar,” debuts.

Amis Cameron will choose a design for a dress or gown that she will wear to the March red-carpet event. Academy Award-winning designer Deb Scott will make the garment. The requirement: Dresses or gowns must only be made of sustainable material, such as natural, organic or recycled fabric.

The contest is also a fundraiser for MUSE, the California elementary school Amis Cameron co-founded with her sister,Rebecca Amis. Contest organizers said MSU was one of only three Michigan universities they contacted when first gauging interest in participation. About 200 colleges, institutes and schools were contacted overall.

“The 'Red Carpet, Green Dress' competition is an excellent opportunity to revisit sustainable design and explore current options and opportunities in apparel design,” said Theresa Winge, assistant professor in the Department of Art and Art History, who will teach the new class. “This competition is also an exceptional way to motivate students to think about design in ways that challenge the status quo and consider the bigger picture.

“This project may have lasting significance for some of our apparel and textile design students who may contribute to the paradigm shift needed for the fashion industry to limit – and eliminate – its negative impact on the environment.”

The class will focus on four special design projects, the first of which will be to design a dress for the competition. As part of the design process, students will research the differences among sustainable, green, environmentally and eco-friendly design. In addition, they will explore ways of tracking their individual carbon footprint, such as computer software and manual measurements.

Winge said students will create three-dimensional apparel designs from illustrations, so they fully understand the complexities of creating sustainable design, from the difficulties of sourcing materials to the carbon emissions during construction. Students will upload designs to the contest Web site. The winning design will be announced Jan. 29. The winner will later meet the Camerons and receive a personal tour of MUSE.

“We were excited to have MSU's apparel and textile design program invited early on to take part in Mrs. Cameron's 'Red Carpet,Green Dress' competition,” said Karin Wurst, College of Arts and Letters dean.

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