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Textiles & Fashion Design students continue winning streak in retail competition

Finley Peterson poses in front of her gallery exhibition in the photo on the left. Ian Vailliencourt poses in some cardboard boxes in the photo on the right.

Story by Sofia More x’26, UW–Madison student studying Community & Nonprofit Leadership.

The Fashion Scholarship Fund (FSF) is one of the oldest fashion-oriented education and workforce development nonprofits in the country — raising millions of dollars every year from individual and corporate sponsors. In 2020, Virgil Abloh, a UW–Madison alum, announced the creation of the Virgil Abloh™ “Post-Modern” Scholarship Fund through FSF, raising $1 million to support the next generation of Black fashion industry leaders.

This year, two UW–Madison School of Human Ecology students won FSF scholarships in collaboration with Kohl’s, winning $10,000 each.

Students who entered the FSF competition approached a retail challenge based on a prompt. This year’s prompt directed students to bring an existing brand into the future by incorporating sustainable practices. Applicants created case studies to showcase their research, sketches, storyboards and marketing plans. For UW–Madison students, entering is voluntary. Their work — often 100 hours or more per entry — is done outside of class.

Ian Vailliencourt leans against a wall, wearing a purple cardigan over a black shirt.
Ian Vailliencourt, Textiles & Fashion Design x’24

Textiles & Fashion Design (TFD) student Ian Vailliencourt x’24, focused his case study on a new collection from Lee Denim, called “Undying”. He pulled iconic styles from Lee’s heritage and gave them no dye treatment. This leads to 60 percent less water waste in the denim process, and a cool ivory shade that wears well over time. In addition, Ian designed complementary products like T-shirts, crewnecks and hoodies made with organic and sustainable materials. See Ian Vailliencourt’s case study on dropbox.

Finley Peterson is standing in front of a white wall, wearing a black turtleneck with large-framed glasses and pearl-drop earrings.
Finley Peterson, Textiles & Fashion Design x’25

Finley Peterson x’25, another TFD student, took a digital route for her case study submission — creating an ESG-focused business strategy pitch. She proposed an app that would give Bode, a luxury fashion brand, a unique edge. The app, named Bode Storyteller, is a transparency and consumer-engagement tool developed to convey a garment’s history and prolong its lifespan. By being transparent with where their garments come from and how they’re made, Bode will share more about their sustainability efforts and hold responsibility for garments continuously. See Finley Peterson’s case study on dropbox.

Vailliencourt and Peterson shared more about their winning case studies in the following Q&A:

How has the School of Human Ecology (SoHE) prepared you to apply for the FSF scholarship?

Vailliencourt: SoHE prepared me through the Design Studies course on case studies that I took with associate lecturer Holly Easland. There were times in my other classes that also focused on FSF and encouraged us to apply. Other than direct assistance, useful skills from SoHE that helped me in my case study were fashion illustration and submission format in general. The FSF case study resembles a typical project in many design classes as it requires mood boards, research, sketches and flats.

Peterson: Even though my winning case study submission was in the business strategy discipline, my background in design thinking and all that I’ve learned about product success/sales was helpful to my application process. Being familiar with a company’s product, market and retail channels makes all the difference in both product development or business strategy, and SoHE classes always encourage us to consider those criteria when designing anything for any brand. Having a professor who believes in you can make all the difference in inspiring you to tough it out and turn in a final product.

Three drawings made by Ian Valliencourt to showcase his ideas for "Undying".
Three drawings made by Vailliencourt to showcase his vision for “Undying”.

Why are you passionate about the School of Human Ecology?

Vailliencourt: I chose to study Textiles and Fashion Design at the School of Human Ecology due to its high-quality design program at a high level of accessibility. Because of the personal feel that SoHE embodies and the level of care my professors have shown, I feel like I am now on an even playing field with students who attend schools like Parsons School of Design or Central St. Martins thanks to my education.

Peterson: SoHE’s Textile & Fashion Design program is such an encouraging and welcoming learning environment. I’ve always felt like the professors really believe in their students and push us to be the best that we can be — and my classmates feel like family. There are endless opportunities that SoHE presents to its students, and I feel lucky to have been able to take advantage of so many throughout my college career.

A mock-up Finley Peterson made to showcase her proposed app, Bode Storyteller.
Peterson made multiple mock-ups to showcase her proposed app, Bode Storyteller.

UW–Madison students have been awarded FSF scholarships more than 70 times since 2007, winning more than $400k to date.