Carhartt Looks to CCS Students to Uncover Design Opportunities Using Existing Materials

March 16, 2023

Graduate Color and Materials Design and Undergraduate Fashion Design students came together to discover design opportunities using materials from existing Carhartt designs in a sponsored studio course during the Fall 2022 semester.

Over 12 weeks, students were challenged to focus on innovative approaches in sustainable fashion design. Using materials that would have otherwise been discarded, students were tasked with creating one to three items for a different category of workforce. 

Split into four diversified groups, students from both practices claimed a different category of workforce — Farmers Only, Labor to Leisure, Re-Source, and Sequel Femme.

Farmers Only (Shannon Berr, Clay Barkholtz, Maureen Rossman, Anupam Bollaboina, Kya Shipman)

Creating one pair of pants and two pairs of shoes, the Farmers Only group used puffer jacket samples, face masks and scrap leather. These pieces were created with the functionality of daily work tasks that transition into city wear. 

Labor and Leisure (Andreas Caballero, Miles Barron, Hannu Viitala, Ruofan Sun, Jinju Park)

The Labor and Leisure group designed a bag, a jacket, and a vest, setting out to marry fashion and function between garments and factory workers. Students used decorative, bright zigzag stitches, natural dyes and optical fibers combined with Carhartt materials that aligned with modern fashion and provided practicality and safety for factory workers. 


Re-Source  (Mary James, Nassim Haghighi, Sofia Proen, Mikayla Hoak)

Using embellishment techniques, like laser perforation and embossing, students produced an apron, overalls, and a backpack. This collection solves frustrations creative workers face by providing functional garments that aid in their practice.

Sequel Femme (Andrea Wittner, Mahsa Khoshkbar Foroushan, Nikki Park, Steven Woznicki, Ana Bosnjakovski)

Prioritizing functionality for seamstresses and garment workers, students designed a pair of sneakers, a pair of boots, a jacket, and a skirt. Details were added to promote comfortability, for example, the elastic on the boot ankle and zippers on the sides of the skirt so seamstresses have a free range of motion when using a sewing machine. Students produced garments that were fashionable and addressed the needs of garment workers. 

“They took our products that had the landfill in their future, and they gave them a new life,” says Ben Hayden, Vice-President of Global Product Design at Carhartt. “They breathed functionality into them, and I think what impressed us the most was not only did they create things that were functional — they created things that were beautiful, too.”

Carhartt mentored students throughout the project, providing guidance and input — feeling inspired by working with the talent of a new generation.

“It was a great inspiration and a reminder to us to bring that beginner’s eye to the projects that we work on,” Hayden said. “It was interesting. You know, sometimes we have a hard time getting people to sign up for projects at work, but when we said, ‘hey, we’re working with CCS students,’ we actually had to turn people away. There were so many people who wanted to be involved.”

Carhartt and CCS both have an established history with the city of Detroit — so it was only fitting that Carhartt worked with designers in their backyard. 

“Why CCS? Well, it couldn’t have been anybody else,” said Hayden. “Carhartt was founded in 1889 in Detroit, and Hamilton Carhartt was an incredibly empathetic designer who worked with railroad workers at the time and built products for them to be able to do their job better. When you think of Detroit, when you think of CCS, you think of functional products. You think of industrial design. It was just a perfect fit for us.”

This educational partnership with Carhartt was part of a CCS initiative focusing on experiential learning, which assists with the preparation for life after graduation. It provides students with opportunities to gain practical skills through hands-on experiences with faculty, peers, industry, and community partners. Learn more about CCS’ experiential learning, here.