Feb 102009
Authors: Emily Johnson

Editor’s note: Check out the Web site below to watch a three-part video series that follows each of the five Project OR designer’s in their race for first place in the 2009 Outdoor Retailer’s Winter Market Project OR competition:


Last month, CSU senior design student Ron Rod had 48 hours to design a women’s outdoor jacket, and in that time, saw his lifelong passions of skiing and clothing design combine, providing him the opportunity to win a gold medal and turn his future career goal into a reality.

Rod was awarded first place for his women’s mid-weight jacket design, “The Rocker,” a combination of water-resistant, mid-weight and eco-friendly materials, Jan. 26 at the 2009 Outdoor Retailer Market’s design competition known as Project OR.

With 13 years of sewing experience and a personal longing to compete in Project OR since he heard about it last August, Rod said, “This is exactly what I want to do – work with outdoor gear.”

Rod was one of five students, chosen from top design schools around the country, to participate in Project OR, a biannual concept-to-prototype design competition.

Commissioned to make a women’s mid-weight jacket combining performance, technical materials and creativity, Rod relied on his personal outdoor experience as a skier and hiker to tailor his product to the end user.

Virtually on display for all convention-goers to see, contestants were provided individual stations – equipped with sewing machines, cutting tables, and tools – to conceptualize and produce their design ideas in 48 hours.

Rod said the contest time limit suited his personal design style and preference.

“I think I only slept for about 10 hours the whole time,” Rod said.

“I’m used to working 12 hours straight on a project. When I start something, I just want to finish it,” said Rod, who put in more total labor hours than the other contestants.

In addition to his use of hand warming pockets and bluesign-certified Swiss fabric produced by Schoeller, a company that makes products for NASA, Rod came to the competition table with a unique component installed in his jacket – an integrated sound system.

QIO, a company that specializes in wearable electronics, donated the sound system for Rod’s coat, which featured speakers in the hood and a glove-friendly six-button panel on the sleeve to control volume levels.

“I kind of had an idea of what to do,” Rod said, referring to his failed attempts to listen to music as an avid telemark skier. “For one, ear buds always fall out. But you also can’t hear what’s going on around you, like if your buddy hits a tree behind you for instance.”

Rod said by the second day, having produced more than his fellow contestants, his confidence was high and he had a feeling he would win.

“I had owners of corporations like REI coming up to me saying, ‘You got this!'” Rod said.

Designers from Westcomb Outerwear, Ground, prAna, Promostyl and JanSport evaluated the student designs.

Rod’s first place prize was an all expense paid trip to the next Project OR this summer in Salt Lake City where he will be featured at the event as the previous contest winner.

“The networking opportunities will be awesome,” Rod said.

Internship Coordinator for the Department of Design & Merchandising, Carol Engel-Enright, helped Rod prepare for the event.

“Because this competition is a huge step for the student in terms of resume and design portfolio, I worked with Ron to be prepared for the presentation to the industry judges. I specifically worked with him on quick fashion sketching and rendering because the time to prepare the first drawings is very limited,” Engel-Enright said.

Engel-Enright was not surprised that Rod won.

“Ron has a passion for an outdoor and lifestyle apparel that functions. He is an excellent problem solver and likes to take on a challenge. Ron was the ideal candidate for the competition because he builds jackets and works on design ideas in his free time.”

Engel-Enright followed the competition online and was overjoyed by Rod’s success.

“I was so proud of him; it is very hard to work and design in that type of competition.”

Engel-Enright said Rod’s accomplishment was heightened by the fact that he was educated by CSU’s Department of Design and Merchandising, as compared with a university geared specifically toward design.

“There’s a difference between design schools, where students are taught in full equipment laboratories often by industry professionals and a state university which is geared towards academic research and much broader academic courses,” she said.

As for Ron’s future, Engel-Enright said, “I expect that his name will reflect great design and innovation in active sportswear!”

Staff writer Emily Johnson can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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