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Woodbury resident Anne Sorcic, back row, far left, along with four other students took second place in the international 2012 Safety Product Student Design Challenge with their emergency evacuation harness. The harness allows an able-bodied person to carry a disabled person away from danger. Sorcic is currently studying apparel, design and development at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

Woodbury student wins with functional fashion

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Clothing design is often only associated with fashion design and runway shows, but in reality it's much more than that.

Woodbury resident Anne Sorcic, a fourth-year apparel, design and development student at the University Wisconsin-Stout, recently showcased how diverse apparel design really can be.

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Sorcic, along with four other students, took second place in the international 2012 Safety Product Student Design Challenge with their emergency evacuation harness.

The harness allows an able-bodied person to carry a disabled person away from danger.

The harness was on display the week of Nov. 26 at the Industrial Fabrics Association International expo in Boston and featured in IFAI publications and on its website.

Emergency evacuation harness

Sorcic designed the emergency evacuation harness as part of one of her classes at UW-Stout.

The class was called "functional clothing design" and was held in the fall of 2011.

In the class, one of the assignments was to develop some sort of safety design garment for IFAI.

"They wanted us to design something that can fit into the actual real world," Sorcic said.

Sorcic said she and her group decided on an emergency harness because even though there are some evacuation devices currently available, they were often too rigid, included metal and weren't always stored in accessible places.

"We wanted to design a portable evacuation harness that you could put into your locker or on wheelchairs," she said. "It's really hard for a lot of people, especially if they are disabled and have to rely on other people, for them to feel safe and know that they physically have something to allow them to get from point A to point B safely in an emergency," Sorcic said.

The harness can also be used in the military.

"If someone was down, they would be able to carry them and take them with them," Sorcic said. "There's a lot of different uses for it that you wouldn't necessarily see - it can totally fit into a need."

The harness is made from heavy canvas and it includes a fabric seat, back support, leg enclosures, two shoulder straps and buckles.

Sorcic and her group spent about two months brainstorming designs, doing research and creating the prototype.

"We spent a lot of time troubleshooting different designs," she said.

As part of the assignment, students had to submit their designs to the 2012 Safety Product Student Design Challenge.

When Sorcic heard in late November that her group had won second place in the competition, she said she was very excited - especially since she had essentially forgotten about the harness.

"It had been so long since I'd done the project that I had already checked out and moved on," she said. "But then I got the email and was like 'this is wonderful, all of our work paid off' - it was really rewarding."

The group received a $1,500 cash prize and a trophy.

"I was more interested in the sense of accomplishment that came out of it," she said. "I never thought I'd be interested in functional clothing."

Since she completed the project, Sorcic has seen similar designs being used with the military.

"A lot of people get frustrated or upset if they see that something has been copied of theirs, but I actually feel flattered," she said. "I'm glad that people are aware that students are coming up with innovative ideas."

Sorcic said designing the emergency evacuation harness has taught her many skills that she can carry with her throughout her career in apparel design including carrying herself in a professional manner, working as a group and treating everyone with respect.

A future in design

Sorcic said she first wanted to go into clothing design when she was just 11 years old.

At that time, Sorcic said she was focused on high fashion, but has since turned her attention to more everyday styles.

"I have a calling to do something with women's wear," she said. "Maybe something like good professional wear that is flattering on women and makes them feel good.

"The feeling of knowing that you can design something that instantly gives a feeling of self-confidence and makes someone else feel good about themselves is indescribable."

Sorcic said she is also interested in sustainable clothing.

She said clothing design can have a negative stigma since most people think of it as high-end fashion and the fashions that can be found on the runways.

But in reality, fashion is just like everything else in that there are different aspects to it.

"There's a lot more to clothing design than people think; just like in other industries," she said, "You can design a really expensive car that nobody will be able to really buy or you can have something that is extremely functional and for a family.

"Everyone is able to wear clothes, so it's a matter of finding something that can make a difference and finding where you are called."

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
(651) 702-0976
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