Motor City Adventure

 In Feature, Style

Inside Project:Design’s first-ever Chevy Design Challenge


For this year’s Project:Design! competition, presented by Brown Shoe Company, ALIVE partnered with Chevy to add an extra twist to the top six finalists’ road to Saint Louis Fashion Week. Each finalist was challenged to create one additional look for her collection, inspired by a visit to the GM Design Center in Detroit. Those who witnessed the show on opening night of Fashion Week saw first-hand the remarkable results.

The Trip

On Sept.19, just two and a half weeks before the Project:Design! show, the six finalists jetted to Detroit to meet up with some of the lead designers on the Chevrolet Color and Trim team. After touring the top-secret GM Design Center facility with Senior VP of Communications Kari Nattrass, the PD finalists viewed a dynamic presentation by Chevy designers Michelle Killem, Rebecca Waldmier and Brett Goliff in the high-tech VR room. Then, everyone adjourned in the Round Room—a circular studio space in the center of the facility where much of the collaborative design work happens—to compare notes on the similarities between fashion design and vehicle design.

Just like fashion designers, Killem, Waldmier and Goliff spend a lot of time figuring out who the person they are designing for is—how they dress, what they like, what motivates them and more. The things that customers choose to surround themselves with are perfect indicators of what they’re likely to want in a vehicle. The biggest difference? Vehicle designers have to look three to five years ahead to figure out what will be popular when their final product actually hits the market. So, when they draw inspiration from the high-fashion runways, they’re scouting future trends, not current ones. The life cycle of a trend, Waldmier says, is fashion first, then interior design, then vehicles. Therefore, when a trend from the runway turns up in technology or home furnishings, that’s a signal that it is here to stay.

After saying goodbye to the Chevy designers, our finalists headed to the GM Heritage Center, where decades of past GM vehicles are on display in a vast showroom. They spread out and spent some time snapping photos, taking notes and sketching before it was time to head back to the airport to go home.

The Results

Needless to say, our top six Project:Design! finalists left Detroit with plenty of ideas and inspiration to work with. Jessica Affsprung of I Am Sly was particularly struck by the creative use of piping and trim to make shapes look wider or narrower, and Michele Sansone of Sansone Design was similarly fascinated with the bold stitching used in sports cars like the Corvette and Camaro. Whitney Manney walked away with some patterning ideas based on vehicle interiors, while Ashley Ulicni of Ulicni was intrigued by the interiors in some of the more futuristic concept designs that the Chevy team shared. Lauren Bander of LB, who went on to win the grand prize in Project:Design!, learned that even the most subtle tweaks in a color’s tint or shade can do wonders to make a look feel more current.

Brett Goliff, lead creative designer of Chevrolet Color and Trim, served as one of the judges on the night of the show, looking specifically at the Chevy Design Challenge piece in each collection (pictured above). Designers were judged according to how well they conveyed the influences of vehicle design on fashion, whether the look complemented the rest of the collection and whether the vehicle design influence was evident in the entire look.

Golliff’s fellow judge, ALIVE Executive Editor Jennifer Dulin Wiley, was extremely impressed by the designers’ creative interpretations of the Chevy Design Challenge. “Each designer chose one or more Chevy vehicles as their muse for this challenge, and the judges received a booklet of snapshots of their chosen cars,” she says. “It was thrilling to see their Chevy looks walk the runway while gaining a glimpse into the interesting ways in which Chevy had inspired them. The Chevy looks were absolutely some of the boldest and most inspiring of the show.”



Sansone Design by Michele Sansone


Whitney Manney by Whitney Manney


Elise Lammert by Elise Lammert


I Am Sly by Jessica Affsprung


Ulicni by Ashley Ulicni


LB by Lauren Bander


Photo credit: Matt Kile & Timothy J. Schinsky

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