An MTSU alumna’s career just got a big boost with a second-place finish in a national contest.
Ayana Ife placed second in the 16th season of “Project Runway,” a fashion reality program that airs on the Lifetime television network. The 27-year-old Salt Lake City, Utah, native impressed the judges with her determination that fashions for modest women need not be dowdy or cumbersome.
Ife graduated magna cum laude from MTSU with a bachelor’s degree in textiles, merchandising and design in May 2015. Her focus was apparel design.
Her final collection, titled “Evolution,” was intended to chronicle her personal journey. It featured shimmering tops and slacks as well as long gowns, head coverings and a cream-colored wedding gown with gold accents and a matching headdress and veil.
“I’m so proud of everything,” Ife said in the season finale episode Thursday, Nov. 16.
“I said I was going to do it, and I did it, and I’m just so happy that I was given this opportunity.”
While the judges consistently lavished high praise on Ife, the top prize went to Kentaro Kameyama, whose Japanese heritage informed his fashion aesthetic.
Ife and the 15 other competitors were obligated to design for models ranging in size from 0 to 22, challenging them to create fashions for a variety of body shapes.
Her shimmering silver gown was a talked-about highlight of the season premiere, and during the Aug. 24 episode, when contestants created fashions from recycled materials, Ife won top honors for her newspaper-fabric dress with vinyl fringe and bottle-cap buttons. It, and she, were featured in the October 2017 issue of Marie-Claire magazine.
Her second challenge win also used unconventional materials: safety items from a Lexus car, which Ife turned into a gown with bright reflective netting.
Lauren Rudd, an assistant professor in MTSU’s Textiles, Merchandising and Design Program in the Department of Human Sciences, said Ife’s designs are uniquely well-suited to that challenge.
“Her clothing is always wearable and functional, with an edge of creativity and style which speaks to a wide variety of women,” Rudd said of Ife’s work.
“Ayana was a wonderful student during her time at MTSU,” said Dr. Rick Cottle, an assistant professor of textiles, merchandising and design. “Students and faculty both recognized her talent, work ethic and integrity.”
Ife’s website, www.ayanaife.com, shows photos of various fashions that cover the entire body. Some of the outfits include head coverings, making them practical and beautiful for women whose religions encourage headdresses as well as women who enjoy wearing scarves.
“While using contemporary design elements, we resolve the number one concern of our modest sisters, which is unnecessary layering of clothing and sizing up to cover specific body parts,” the website states.
The “Project Runway” website, www.mylifetime.com/shows/project-runway, notes that Ife applied four times and auditioned twice in hopes of being selected for the program.
For more information about MTSU’s Textiles, Merchandising and Design Program, go to www.mtsu.edu/programs/apparel-design.
— Gina K. Logue (firstname.lastname@example.org)