Design-a-thon logo

New Era Cap Teams with Buffalo State Fashion Students for Design Competition


Eighteen Buffalo State University Fashion and Textile Technology (FTT) students will be applying learned skills this weekend as part of an exclusive opportunity being offered in partnership with New Era Cap. The inaugural Design-a-thon, a three-day event hosted by Buffalo State and Buffalo-based New Era Cap, will task participants with creating a brand-new piece of art over a short time. The challenge not only offers an immersive creative experience but also prompts valuable skill-building and networking.

Each member of the winning team will be awarded a cash prize, New Era Cap goody bags, and, most significantly, a paid summer internship with New Era Cap.

“New Era Cap is a global company,” said FTT lecturer and Runway director Erin Habes. “When they post a job, they get tons of applicants. Sometimes our students are overlooked; they’re fighting with students across the globe. The fact that New Era Cap has carved out three positions for Buffalo State students specifically is huge.”

Buffalo State’s relationship with New Era Cap has blossomed through the company’s sponsorship and judging for Runway, FTT’s annual student-produced fashion show. New Era Cap is actively engaged in supporting Buffalo State and the Buffalo community, Habes said. “They really see our students and want to build a bridge from Buffalo State to the corporate fashion world.”

At RUNWAY 2022, from left: Edreys Wajed, '97, of Eat Off Art; Shawn Penrod, New Era Cap director of product development; and Rashaad Holley, past FTT student, Buffalo AKG community arts coordinator and owner of Ruth L. Holley Design Studio. (Photo by Cheryl Gorski)

Judges for Buffalo State University’s Runway 2022, from left: Edreys Wajed, ’97, of Eat Off Art; Shawn Penrod, New Era Cap director of product development; and Rashaad Holley, former FTT student, Buffalo AKG community arts coordinator, and owner of Ruth L. Holley Design Studio.

Madeline McDaniel, ’22, a graduate student in the creativity and change leadership program, spent last summer interning at New Era Cap and devising the Design-a-thon with the New Era Cap team. McDaniel’s participation continues through the event as she serves on a team of mentors comprising fellow former FTT students Billie Essco, ’16, also known as Uptown Chase, who currently partners with New Era Cap to sell his Cafe Czen products; Rashaad Holley, founder of Ruth L. Holley Design Studio; and Vanessa Miller,  ’11, ’20, assistant technical designer for New Era Cap. Mentors float during the design phase of the event to guide students as they transform sample products donated by New Era Cap into avant-garde creations.

“Each sample is a licensed product,” Habes said. “It must become a piece of art.”

Participants are encouraged to focus on creativity, innovation, and sustainability.

At a kickoff party at New Era Cap on Friday, March 8, students will be divided into six teams of three. Half of the event’s 36 applicants were selected for participation; all are juniors or seniors studying either fashion design or merchandising.

“We wanted that mix,” Habes said. “In the business of fashion, designers create the clothing and merchandisers align that product with consumer demand and sales strategies. It’s a good real-world experience.”

Teams will spend most of Saturday in Buffalo State’s Technology Building, creating pieces that not only need to be visually appealing but also have a story and selling points. On Sunday, participants will return to polish their products before presenting them to a panel of judges at noon. After all teams have pitched to the panel and shown mannequins with their new art, the panel will choose a winner.

Beyond the winning prize package, all participants benefit from the Design-a-thon. In addition to the experience and industry networking, all six mannequins will be displayed at New Era Cap. Participants will enjoy a New Era–branded and catered closing party at 3:00 p.m. Sunday in the Technology Building.

The goal is to make Design-a-thon an annual event, Habes said. She is committed to comprehensive applied learning opportunities for students to create, collaborate, and form connections. “Fashion is business,” she said. “For students, this is a step into the global fashion industry.”

Photo by Cheryl Gorski.