Kent grad wins dress design contest

Brittany Moseley

Kate Spray makes her own dresses, but they never last long because her sister usually confiscates them. However, Kate’s most recent dress is one her sister can’t take.

Spray, a 2006 Kent State graduate with a degree in fashion design, is the winner of Be Discovered: Design A Dress Competition. The contest was sponsored by Glam Media and MSN. Spray was one of more than 450 designers who submitted designs.’s editorial team narrowed the designers down to 32 semi-finalists. Audiences voted on and on eight sketches featured on the Web sites each week, for four weeks. The top two from each group were the eight finalists. Spray then had three weeks to make her dress which was a bit of a time crunch.

“I had to still come into work and everything, and as soon I came home, I dropped everything and blocked off the kitchen and worked on my dress every night,” said Spray, a design assistant for the clothing company Anthropologie.

The winning dress was chosen by designers Monique Lhuillier and Adam Lippes; celebrity stylist and House of Deréon designer Tina Knowles; and Lord & Taylor merchandising manager, Vanessa Lefebvre.

“It’s always good to get feedback on your designs whether it be from somebody in the profession or from people because they’re the ones who are actually going to wear something if you ever mass produce it,” Spray said.

The design, a flirty cream-colored sundress with aquamarine accents, was inspired by a flower in the desert. Spray said she wanted to make something organic yet wearable. The dress will be sold on e-bay, and the proceeds will go to charity.

When Elaine Thomas, an instructor in the School of Fashion Design and merchandising, saw Spray’s design for the first time she thought it looked just “like Kate.”

“I loved the attention to ruching and embroidery,” Thomas said. “I thought her illustration really reflected her design.”

As winner of the competition, Spray will be an apprentice for a day at Lippes’ design studio in New York this summer. She will also receive a $500 gift certificate from Lord & Taylor.

Fabulous prizes, publicity and bragging rights aside, Spray entered this contest for one reason only: herself.

“I’ve been out of the whole designing, just being really creative about sewing for a while, since school,” she said. “I haven’t really done any sewing except for just myself. I kind of felt like I had to prove something to myself that I was still able to do something like that.”

Spray, who grew up in Newark, Ohio, always loved anything artistic, from jewelry making to pottery, but she didn’t start designing clothes until she started college.

After being out of school for two years, Spray can only think of one way to describe her four years here.

“Besides being hectic? Well there weren’t many other aspects to it,” she said laughing.

Still, Spray said it was a great experience, and she wouldn’t have made it through without her professors.

“She’s designer quality,” Thomas said. “She really tried to think about design in a different way. You’re not going to see any crewneck T-shirts in her collection.”

Although she isn’t designing now, Spray said she definitely sees herself ending up in design.

“I think it’s always a great opportunity to put yourself out there and see what you are really capable of.”

After winning a national contest and wowing professionals in her field with her design, it seems clear Spray is more than capable.

Contact room and board reporter Brittany Moseley at [email protected].