THE ASSIGNMENT:  Create a denim brand

THE RESULT: Real-world learning with industry greats

Every spring for the past ten years, eighth-semester Textile Development and Marketing students have gone through the entire process of dev-
eloping a line of jeans, except actually producing it. They create a consumer profile and brand identity, select fibers and trims, order fabric samples and prototypes, and devise a sales and marketing plan.
“I was sick of talking about how denim is made, and I thought, why not actually make it?” Professor Jeffrey Silberman, chair of the department, recalls. He brought in Andrew Olah, one of the world’s leading experts in denim development and marketing, and Amy Leonard, vice president of global sourcing for Banana Republic, to spearhead the course and mentor students. Ten years later, they’re
still doing it.
This year’s students learned from 19 experts—at Cotton Incorporated, Nexgen Packaging, and Google—about topics ranging from fabric selection to social media marketing. After making every decision necessary for producing their lines—conventional or organic cotton? Raw or washed denim? Sold in department stores or in branded boutiques? Ads on Facebook or in fashion magazines?—the four teams presented their samples and strategy to a packed house of faculty, alumni, and students, as well as to the advisors to the denim project.

As part of the Textile Development and Marketing denim project,  students toured Cotton Incorporated headquarters in Cary, NC.

As part of the Textile Development and Marketing denim project,
students toured Cotton Incorporated headquarters in Cary, NC.

The program was also given an interdisciplinary boost. Eight third-year Fashion Design students, curious about how fabric is developed, took the course, sketching by hand and creating “technical flats” in Adobe Illustrator to send to the patternmaker. For Arris denim, a line of sleek black jeans meant to double as dress pants, Fashion Design students Katherine Taylor and Alessandra DiBernardo preserved a clean silhouette by using only double-welt pockets, the type that usually appears on the rear of dress pants.
Classes in other majors were brought in as well, some to improve the jeans, others to extend each denim brand:

•    Technical Design students improved the fit of the
jeans—specifying, for example, a U-shaped, not V-shaped crotch.
•    Production Management students calculated detailed costing, down to the price of a yard of cotton/spandex fabric ($12) and the time it takes to sew an eyelet buttonhole (nine seconds).
•    Working from a design brief and customer profile, Home Products Development students designed denim-inspired bedding, draperies, rugs, and desk accessories.
•    Textile/Surface Design students crafted bib aprons and pot holders that reflected the character and mood ofthe jeans.
•    Cosmetics and Fragrance Marketing students mixed brand-inspired scents. For Stand denim, a sustainable brand, they chose natural ingredients and a refillable bottle. For Arris, students blended fresh, light notes such as lemon, jasmine, and grass, and designed an architecturally striking bottle.

As the semester ticked to a close, the students struggled to meet the non-negotiable deadline. But all four teams showed off wearable jeans and compelling marketing images and videos in their presentations.
“We had to stay organized and motivated, even when the fabric we ordered wasn’t finished properly or when the sample didn’t fit our model,” says Amanda Johnston, team leader for Arida, a stylish, waterproof denim line. “We couldn’t treat it like just another school project, because it wasn’t just another school project.”
The project is funded by the Importer Support Program of The Cotton Board and managed by Cotton Incorporated.