Wesley Nault, left, and Daniel Field, finalists in Season 5 of “Project Runway,” tell how much they like the first-place winner of the fashion competition Friday at the Illinois Family, Career and Community Leaders of America leadership conference. it’s a kimono made from used ties by Gabby Davis of Dwight Township High School. David Spencer/The State Journal Register
Fourteen-year-old Gabby Davis had some qualms about her decision to use unwanted men’s silk ties to create a Japanese kimono for a contest at this year’s Illinois Family, Career and Community Leaders of America leadership conference.
“I thought people would be like, ‘Ew, it’s made out of old men’s ties,’” the freshman at Dwight Township High School said after the conference’s kickoff Friday morning at the Prairie Capital Convention Center.
Gabby entered the unusual garment in the FCCLA’s Runway Project Competition, which challenged member high school students to spend no more than $50 to design a garment from recycled fabrics.
The contest was inspired by the popular televised fashion design competition “Project Runway.” Two of its contestants from Season 5, designers Daniel Feld and Wesley Nault, were on hand to give out awards and talk to students and their teachers.
Gabby’s kimono wound up with a first-place award and plenty of praise from Feld and Nault, who called it “beautiful” and said the ties looked like a textile.
A surprised Gabby was grateful for the recognition.
“It’s cool that people that do that (fashion design) for a living like it,” she gushed.
The runway competition was the brainchild of Galesburg Sewing Centers owner Dave Gillett, who sells and services sewing machines for family and consumer science classes at more than 100 schools across the state.
“I wanted to get young people involved in garment construction, and what better place to start than with the FCCLA, so I came up with an idea to do this based on ‘Project Runway,’” Gillett said.
The FCCLA, formerly the Future Homemakers of America, allows students to explore careers in fields including fashion and interior design, culinary arts, dietetics and nutrition and early childhood education.
“Last year was the first year, and it just got off the ground with 30 to 34 entries altogether. This year, the numbers are about the same, but I got to tell you, the quality of the garments is phenomenal,” he said.
This was the first year contestants from the TV show were able to be a part of the awards.
Gillett is a Brother International Corp. dealer, and the company is the official sewing and embroidery licensee of “Project Runway.” Gillett worked with Brother to bring Feld and Nault to Springfield.
Season 4 finalist Jillian Lewis was originally scheduled to attend but had to cancel.
Feld, 26, and Nault, 24, are both New York City-based designers who met on “Project Runway.”
They recently designed uniforms for the luxury boxes in the new Yankee Stadium, which opened Thursday, and will be showing their first collection together in September.
The pair encouraged students to keep up their interest in fashion and shared experiences of when the fashion bug first bit them.
“I got into sewing originally in high school when it was really trendy to have the widest pair of pants you could imagine, and it was my goal to get the biggest circumference on the bottom. Once I did, people wanted them,” Feld said. “Being artistic, I decided to go with fashion. Fashion is something you can always interpret from anything that you enjoy.”
Nault said he started making his own clothing in eighth grade.
“I came from a small town in Massachusetts where we didn’t have much options for clothing, especially for the men, so I would do all my own stuff and then everyone in high school started to ask me to do stuff and it just snowballed from there and I started a career.”
Both said they saw potential in the FCCLA’s runway project entries. The garments were sent to the Galesburg Sewing Centers and were displayed so the public could vote on their favorites.
As the winner, Gabby and her school each received a Brother “Project Runway” computerized sewing and embroidery machine.
Amanda Reavy can be reached at 788-1525.
Illinois FCCLA Runway Project Competition winners
Here are the Illinois FCCLA Runway Project Competition’s winners:
First place: Gabby Davis, 14 and a freshman at Dwight Township High School
Design: A Japanese kimono made entirely of unwanted men’s silk ties
Inspiration: “My grandpa was talking ‘bout how many ties he’s never going to use again since he’s retired, so I decided on a tie kimono.”
How she gathered materials: “My grandpa had a lot of ties, and my mom and dad are both teachers and they sent out an e-mail saying, ‘If anybody has any ugly ties that they’re never going to use again and don’t think anybody wants, bring them over.’ We got bags full of ugly ties, and they look pretty good now.”
Cost to construct: $6.91
Time spent on the design: “All put together, about 24 hours. Those things (ties) are so slippery so it took the longest time to pin together, but the sewing was easy.”
Reaction to winning: “It makes me want to freak out because it’s so awesome.”
Second place: Tori Hohgrefe, 18, a senior at Trico High School in Campbell
Design: a denim hooded-jacket made from 10 pairs of recycled blue jeans, including the top portion of a pair of jeans that served as the front zipper.
Inspiration: Her FCCLA adviser, Charlotte Goetz, had seen blankets comprised of squares from old blue jeans and suggested the idea
How she gathered the materials: “We put it in the announcements and asked if students and teachers would donate jeans”
Cost to construct: nothing, Goetz had the pattern for the jacket, the school provided the thread, and the jeans were all donated
Time spent on the design: “About a week all together.”
Reaction to winning: “It’s very exciting. I almost felt like crying (while on stage).”
By AMANDA REAVY
THE STATE JOURNAL-REGISTER