KCAD Fashion Studies Student Wins First Prize in Prestigious AATCC Design Competition

Posted September 21, 2022 in Fashion Studies, Student

What do you get when you create an entire clothing line out of oranges? A surprisingly a-peel-ing way to address societal issues like sustainability and accessibility while delivering the style and versatility that people crave. 

That was the vision of KCAD Fashion Studies student Mali Jean Borisch, who won first place in the 2022 Concept 2 Consumer Student Design Competition from the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC) for her “Seasons of Citrus” design. This year’s contest asked students to design a sustainable travel wear line that incorporates recycled materials, sustainable manufacturing, and antibacterial and/or odor-control properties. 

A woman wearing a flowery shirt and smiling into the cmaeraMali Jean Borisch

Borisch’s concept was chosen from a field of undergraduate and graduate students worldwide. She describes her concept as “a sustainable, reversible, multi-season travel line made from fruit." The collection was inspired by the traditional medieval tunic, creating versatile garments that fit a variety of female or non-binary body types and can adapt to many cultures and climates.  

The main textile, manufactured by Orange Fiber, uses the cellulose from citrus juice processing to create a 100% recycled and biodegradable fabric that also diverts tons of material from the waste stream. Borisch says, “It’s breathable, comfortable, sophisticated, and sustainable, along with having high anti-odor and antimicrobial properties, wrinkle resistance, antitoxin properties, and mosquito-repellant features, which is convenient for travelers.”

An illustration of a fashion design

The color palette is sourced and mixed from yellow onion skin, beets, red cabbage, and avocado skin, using 100% waterless digital printing. Every apparel item and accessory is designed to be reversible with a print on one side and one of four solid colors on the other. “This allows for twice as many options without using more material,” Borisch explains. Garments are accented by sheer chiffon panels made from 100% recycled polyester PET bottles by Vivify Textiles and buckles made of natural biodegradable materials.

Not only is the fabric sustainable and designed to reduce waste—the rectangular patterning system Borisch employed enables zero-waste garment construction as well. She consciously focused on flowing lines, saying, “The lack of forming to the body means patterns have very few natural curves and angles, allowing for no-waste patterning.” Even the excess material from patterns is used to create the pockets and handbags for the line. 

The emphasis on zero-waste design was fueled by Fashion Studies Program Chair Lori Faulkner. Faulkner, who lectures broadly about her own zero-waste design process and recently earned a finalist nod in the worldwide Four Elements Challenge fashion design competition with a zero-waste design, weaves sustainable fashion principles throughout the program’s curriculum.

“The KCAD Fashion Studies Program is infused with real world collaborations and opportunities for students to be introduced to local, national and worldwide companies and organizations,” Faulkner says, “It’s important for students to apply what they have learned in class to projects outside the classroom. Mali was interested in my suggestion to enter the competition and we created an independent study to focus on sustainable fabrics, textile testing, functional fashion, and responsible design practices. She researched this project thoroughly creating an innovative collection, and I am thrilled that she has been recognized on the national level.”

When it comes to functionality, Borisch again pushed the envelope by making it accessible to people with disabilities, designing in features that make the clothes easy for everyone to put on, wear, and enjoy, such as elastic waistbands, no-tie pull strings with cord locks, and one-hand clip buckles. “After research on designing for disabilities, I decided to create garments that have the option to be loose and flowy or pulled tight. This way people with physical disabilities will be able to dress more easily, and have quicker access to checking or adjusting prosthetics,” she explains. This adjustable style also allows each garment to fit three sizes, as opposed to the typical numerical sized patternmaking.

A fashion illustration

She also reached out to Special Olympics Michigan to learn about specific apparel challenges faced by their athletes. “Based on our conversation, I selected buckles and pull ties for the garments, testing to be sure that the closures and pulls could be used with fewer fingers or only one hand, and adjusted comfortably,” she says. “I opted for these instead of magnetic clasps so they could be used by individuals with pacemakers.” 

In lieu of tags, the collection features a small line of clear beads along the back neckline seam. “The beads provide a physical marker for people with visual impairments, so their clothes are never on the wrong way, and any washing information is separate from the garment on a Braille packing slip,” she says.

While Borisch herself does not have experience with disabilities, “Designing for adaptability is a big thing,” she explains. “A lot of people make one-offs, but creating things that could be used more and more often within a single garment is a big deal for me. It was really important that as many people as possible could use this.”

Faulkner says, “I was delighted with the thoughtfulness and creativity of this collection. Mali put her talent and interests in research together with our class studies on sustainable fibers, design methods, and textile testing to create an incredible winning submission. This is a huge competition, and for KCAD to be represented on this stage is unprecedented.”

As first prize winner, Borisch received $1,000, a Pantone Cotton Passport and Color of the Year mug, a $300 gift certificate and DIY Book Bundle from Spoonflower, a $200 Jacquard inkjet fabric systems gift certificate, a Datacolor ColorReader PRO, and a free AATCC Student Membership for a year.

While winning was exciting, even more so are the new possibilities the win has sparked for Borisch and her career. 

“I’ve always been interested in unconventional materials and sustainability in design, but this experience makes me want to explore textiles and material studies more,” she says. “It was my first time going into this much depth in research and realizing how important it could be in creating fashion designs. Growing up, science and creativity were often presented as separate, but now I see this overlap that’s been so fun to explore. Once I dug into the science of the materials, a whole new side of design and fashion opened up.”