Consider it "Project Runway" - West Texas style.
Millions follow Heidi Klum and the popular Lifetime reality series of rising designer hopefuls vying for a spot in the winner's circle - and a healthy designer's contract.
Now, 26 students in Texas Tech University's Department of Apparel, Design and Manufacturing this month are vying for the winning design for the best new men's jean and women's jean, which will go into commercial production later this summer. The competition has been dubbed "Denim Runway."
That decision will be made April 19 and officially announced at the department's annual fashion show, April 24.
The month-long competition is a partnership between Texas Tech and Plains Cotton Cooperative Association (PCCA), a farmer-owned, cotton marketing, warehousing, denim manufacturing and jeans production cooperative headquartered in Lubbock.
"We are the world's largest supplier of Texas-style cotton," said John Johnson, PCCA's director of public and legislative affairs. "And, our textile and apparel division is a major denim and jeans manufacturer renowned for innovative, high-fashion denim fabrics and products."
In fact, PCCA owns and operates a denim mill in Littlefield, just 34 miles from Lubbock. All students in the competition are using denim from the mill to develop their one-of-a-kind creations. And, just like the popular reality show, students will be judged by a panel of experts who will decide the winning designs.
"The winner or winners of this competition will then go on to our jeans facility in Guatemala later this summer not only to see their jeans designs go into mass production, but also to have the opportunity to rub elbows with other high-end designers in the denim business," Johnson said.
And, the competition has already caught the eye of Cotton USA, a program of Cotton Council International, who recently agreed to help sponsor the event. Cotton USA will sponsor the winning designers on a trip to the Colombiamoda trade show in Medellin, Colombia, July 27-29 to promote their U.S. cotton-rich jeans and give them a comprehensive view of the industry, from fiber to processing to brand to retail. The Cotton USA stand at this important apparel trade show highlights U.S. cotton yarns and fabrics from Cotton USA Sourcing Program member mills. Attendance at Colombiamoda will give the winning student designers the opportunity to learn about the U.S. cotton textile industry and garment manufacturing companies throughout the Western Hemisphere
"We are so excited to partner with PCCA on this project," said Cherif Amor, Ph.D., Texas Tech chairman of the Department of Design. "We have such talented students in our department, and this competition gives them opportunities beyond their wildest dreams. This opens doors to them they may never have thought possible."