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Aspiring designers showcase their talents at American Sewing Expo

Passion for Fashion was developed by the American Sewing Expo to illustrate the industry’s support for the young home sewer who aspires to design.

Suspense, excitement and anticipation were high as the American Sewing Expo held its newest competition, the Baby Lock Passion For Fashion sewing and design contest, September 28-29, at the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi, MI. After a national call for entries, the event provided 12 contestants from Washington, Ohio, Texas, Florida, Virginia and Michigan the chance to showcase their sewing and design skills. Friday morning started the competition with the announcement of the challenge scenario, followed by one hour and a $100 budget to purchase materials on the vendor floor. With no time to sketch out a design, the contestants hunted the vendor floor for fabric and embellishments. The designers had the option to take advantage of patterns supplied by Simplicity Pattern Co. or draft their own but most used a combination both.

The design challenge was to create a casually elegant garment for Leah Partridge, who plays the lead character in the Detroit world premier of the opera Cyrano, for Michigan Opera Theatre’s opening night Gala Supper that immediately follows the performance.

In a designated area equipped with Baby Lock Espire sewing machines, the designers had 12 hours and 30 minutes to complete their creations. In an open setting on the show floor, expo attendees had the opportunity to stop by frequently to observe the progress of the designers. After choosing their professional models and taking their measurements, the designers were required to meet a list of detailed criteria, including excellence and originality of design, technical skill, construction quality, color choices, responsiveness to theme, and how much detail went into the design.

Nationally known sewing and design educator, speaker and award winning designer, Kayla Kennington, served as the official mentor and worked closely with each contestant to encourage, support and guide her through the entire process. Unlike reality television shows, a unique sense of camaraderie and friendship developed between the contestants. Kayla commented that what impressed her most was their willingness to share and work as a team.

With time up and all scissors, pins and sewing machines down, celebrity judges Chloe Dao, designer and winner of Season 2, 2006 “Project Runway,” Judy Raymond, vice president of Simplicity Pattern Company, Jennifer Sauer, contributing editor of Threads Magazine, and Suzanne Hanna, costume director of the Michigan Opera Theatre, took a close look at the finished garments. Each of the models took her turn on the runway for the audience to see the designer’s final creations while the judges narrowed the field down to six finalists. In the end there could only be one winner. First place was awarded to Maria Carolina Torres of Farmington Hills, MI, for a red Thai Silk strapless cocktail dress selected for its classic structure with trendy detail. She received a prize package, including a Baby Lock Espire sewing machine, a trip to New York City during fashion week, and a private meeting with Simplicity pattern designers.

“If the contestant has any aspirations to design patterns, this could be a great opportunity,” said Janet Pray, president of the American Sewing Expo. Becky Fulgoni of Kalamazoo, MI, took second place for her floor length design paired with a Vietnamese silk shrug and received a Baby Lock Evolve serger. A deep plum floor length dress with draped neckline by Valerie Keiser of Hazel Park, MI, was awarded third place and a Baby Lock Decorator’s Choice sewing machine. In addition, each contestant received additional prizes from Islander Sewing Systems, Rowenta, Kai Scissors and Simplicity Patterns.

Passion For Fashion was developed by the American Sewing Expo to illustrate the industry’s support for the young home sewer who aspires to design. The American Sewing Expo is the largest independently owned consumer sewing expo in the country, held annually during the last weekend in September at the Rock Financial Showplace in Novi, MI.

Further information and pictures of the winning garments can be found online at www.americansewingexpo.com.

Reprinted from SQE Professional, December 2007