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Kansas State Students Embrace Cotton Class

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Most U.S. cotton producers are familiar with Cotton Incorporated’s State Support Program (SSP) that returns 7.5 percent of collected producer assessments (based on a state’s bale production) back to the state to fund many local research and/or cotton promotion projects.

Similar in theory and design, the Importer Support Program (ISP) is funded by the Cotton Board and conducted by Cotton Incorporated to benefit U.S. importers of cotton and cotton products. Each year, 7.5 percent of annual importer assessment collections are devoted to cotton importer-specific programs.

With these funds, the ISP is able to offer education workshops, sourcing summits, focus groups and economic meetings that benefit importers of cotton and cotton products. The program also offers college competitions and scholarships at some of the nation’s leading fashion and design schools.

Popular Project

One of the most all-encompassing educational projects funded in 2011 has been one entitled “Cotton: The Fabric of Our Future – Today,” which is being implemented at Kansas State University (KSU).

“The project is actually an elective course targeted towards junior or senior design students or teams,” says Dr. Joycelyn Burdett, PhD, assistant professor of apparel, textiles and interior design at KSU.

Burdett designed a “three-unit special topics class” around teaching students more about cotton – from the field all the way to the fabric they would select for their class project.

Earlier this year, Burdett traveled with 16 of the KSU students to Cary, N.C., to tour Cotton Incorporated’s world headquarters.

“The students were simply amazed and so energized to be working with cotton,” says Burdett.

A big part of the project was educating the students on what developments are happening with high-performance cotton fabrics and apparel.

Jenna Oschwald, manager of global supply chain marketing at Cotton Incorporated, manages the ISP and confirms, “These students could one day be in a position to influence what fabrics are chosen to make high volume retail apparel lines, and, if we can educate them on the versatility of cotton, that will go a long way toward increasing future cotton demand.”

Important Industry Support

The scope of the class was increased further after contacting the Kansas Cotton Association (KCA), Plains Cotton Cooperative Association (PCCA) and Lee Jeans, who all were eager to contribute to and be a part of the project.

KCA paid for Burdett’s class to travel and see PCCA’s American Cotton Growers’ mill in Littlefield, Texas, and also donated denim fabric for the students to use in a “Denim Runway Design” contest. Representatives from Lee Jeans traveled to KSU for the official launch of “Lee Jeans 125 Denim Challenge,” which honored 125 years of Lee Jeans’ heritage.

The entire project culminated with a fashion show highlighting the original cotton fashions the students designed and constructed during the semester. The garments were modeled during a live runway held on KSU campus. The winning designers then were recognized and awarded for their creative use of cotton.

“This is the kind of project specifically designed to have a positive, long-term influence on cotton demand, and through the educational efforts of KSU and support from PCCA, KCA and Cotton Incorporated, these students will continue to choose cotton fabric in their designs throughout their careers,” says Oschwald.

The Cotton Board, which administers Cotton Incorporated’s Research and Promotion Program, contributed information for this report.

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