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OPEN CALL: Elements, a Design Competition & Runway Show

This April, as the ice shrouding Minnesota thaws, WAM will host its third annual design competition, in collaboration with University of Minnesota’s College of Design. Participating designers are asked to create a ready-for-the-runway garment inspired by the Weisman’s exhibition of Siberia: Imagined and Reimagined, a collection of photographs that offers glimpses into Russia’s far eastern territories from the late nineteenth century up to present. Garments must include non-traditional materials, innovative textures, and/or structural shaping with an emphasis on sustainable best practices.

Siberia is as much a mythic construct—associated with vastness, remoteness, and coldness—as it is a physical place that occupies more than 12 percent of the land on earth. Its rich natural resources have sustained indigenous populations for hundreds of thousands of years, but have come under threat over the course of imperial colonization, Soviet industrialization, and post-Soviet development. These political, social, and economic processes inaugurated rail construction, fur trapping, forest logging, mineral and precious metal prospecting, and oil and gas drilling, which have made Siberia famous for large-scale environmental damage.

The depth, range, and accomplishment of Siberian photography is impressive. Siberia: Imagined and Reimagined presents the work of fifty Russian photographers over a span of 130 years and is a geographical portrait that has the potential to alter stereotypes and challenge the simplicity of long held beliefs. Pictures covering rural and urban scenes and landscapes, native peoples, agriculture and industry, Russian frontier settlements, the Gulag, religion, and just plain everyday life will allow for a wide range of interpretations by University of Minnesota student designers. Interested students are encouraged to view the exhibition at the Weisman Art Museum, beginning at the show’s preview party on Friday, January 31 at 7:00pm.

Think you’ve got what it takes? The most effective and compelling designs will draw upon the landscapes, materials, textures, and traditions of Siberia, while also responding to the environmental questions the region raises. Over the course of their design process, contestants should consider questions such as: What is sustainable design? What environmental, ecological, and laboring support structures have enabled my garment’s production? How might garment producers rely upon such systems of support without exploiting or depleting them? What elements, both ecological and emotional, can influence sustainable design?

Submission Guidelines: The competition is open to all full-time U of M undergraduate students. In keeping with the student budget, designers are encouraged to reuse and upcycle materials with a focus on sustainable practices and materials. Along with four sketches, or photographs, that visually communicate the design and a list of proposed materials, applicants are required to submit a written statement that describes the sustainable practices used and adds psychological context to their work (500 words maximum); and a short biography (100 words maximum). Fifteen finalists will be chosen for the competition and their submissions will be judged not just on aesthetic merit, but on a more comprehensive and holistic approach to design. The applicant’s design concept must be original in its rendering and must be exclusively his or her own work. Only one entry is permitted per person. Submissions are due by Friday, February 28, 2014 at 12:00 PM to Please submit materials together in a PDF format if possible.

 Important Dates:

Call for submissions opens Tuesday January 21, 2014

Siberia: Imagined & Reimagined opens at WAM, Friday, January 31, 2014 7:00 PM. FREE

Submissions are due Friday, February 28, 2014 at 12:00 PM to

Finalists will be announced Friday, March 7, 2014

The runway show and competition will be held on Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Questions? Contact WAM Collective at or Katie Covey at